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Visit our Working from Home Hub to check out content we have put together to support remote workers and Managers now working from home - blogs, video content, training modules, podcasts and other resources. The hub has lots of great info and supports for: Working form home, Managing staff remotely, Wellness at Home Talent Summit Series on working in this new normal Access to free online courses to upskill Netflix recommendations Check it out at https://www.workingfromhomehub.com
In light of COVID-19, many companies have unexpectedly asked a large cohort of their employees to work from home. Without time to prepare for this, leaders, whose teams normally share an office and who now have been thrown into working from home, have been presented with a host of new challenges. How can one lead effectively when employees are greeting each other with instant messages than face to face interactions? When meetings are held via Microsoft Teams rather than in-person? Read on for our advice for managing a remote workforce. Clarity of goals, expectations, guidelines First and foremost, leaders need to prioritise the setting of clear boundaries and guidelines. At its most basic this involves setting clear expectations for work hours, availability, communication methods, meetings, key projects and deadlines, and responding to emails. For example, “We use video conferencing for our daily check-in meetings, but we use instant messenger/chat when something is urgent”. After this you need to convey what is success. Don’t worry so much about what is being done, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If we are meeting goals, great! If not, then we need to look further into what is being done. Everyone has a different idea of what doing something “quickly” or “well” means. Whether showing examples of what you expect to be done, an overview of how you schedule your day etc. make sure you set clear expectations from those you work with. And finally, use this time as an opportunity to re-clarify the basics in order to ensure everyone understands their role and how each person contributes to team objectives. Clarifying and re-clarifying goals will help people understand what is expected of them. Over communicate While communication is always essential for leaders, it becomes even more essential when your team is working remotely. A challenge experienced by many when transitioning from in-office work to remote work is the feeling of disconnection and isolation which hinders an employee’s engagement and productivity. Given the current environment and people’s anxiety surrounding COVID-19, this feeling of disconnect and loneliness is probably heightened. Therefore, it is important that you over-communicate with your employees. Your staff members are probably used to talking to you every day so make sure you regularly check-in. This could be a daily series of one-on-one video calls if your employees work more independently of each other or a team video call if their work is collaborative, or a mix of both. The important aspect is that these calls are a regular feature and that employees know that they have an opportunity to discuss any concerns or ask questions. Embrace video conferencing and have regular team meetings and continue to foster team morale by taking the time at the start of each meeting for general chat such as asking about people’s weekends, how they are feeling etc. Trust Being thrust into a remote working environment, as a manger it can be tempting to micromanage. However, doing so will only make your employees feel like you don’t trust them and impact their engagement and productivity. After you have set clear expectations, you must have faith in the employee that they will get the job done. Being trusted to get things done is a big motivator for people. Finally, as it’s been an abrupt shift to remote work for many, it is important for managers to acknowledge that this transition might be difficult for employees. Listen to your employees’ anxieties and concerns and offer them encouragement and support.
With the majority of our teams now working remotely, the challenges of creating and maintaining company culture are evident. Technology can’t replace what the workplace provides: community, camaraderie and shared purpose. Now, more than ever, maintaining culture matters. Here are some ideas on instilling company culture across remote employees: 1. Connect Back to Your Values & Purpose For many of our staff currently, working remotely has been unexpected and in the face of a global health crisis, many are at a loss for what to do. For some work may feel insignificant now, so as their manager this is your time to help employees find meaning and reconnect back to your company’s values and purpose. While you may not be a company at the frontline, you still have a positive impact on people’s lives. Remind your employees of how their contributions add up to something much bigger and that we are all in this together! 2. Communication is Key Communication within divisions, one to one, social gatherings, company updates, all need to be consistent. This maintains relationships and promotes inclusivity. Create an open and transparent communication policy. This allows people to be themselves and feel comfortable reaching out via online chat platforms. Set expectations on communication methods. Where do meetings take place? What tool is for social sharing? Finally, you need to put an emphasis on positivity in your written communication. With the absence of face to face interactions in virtual conversations, it is easy for tone to be interpreted negatively so you need to be extra careful to be positive. 3. Mimic the Water Cooler Effect As mentioned, many of our staff are currently missing the day-to-day work interactions they have with their colleagues. Therefore, assign a platform where team members can live chat, share files, post photos and collaborate throughout the day to mimic everyday office life. This can be where some of the best ideas and knowledge can be shared yet at the same time promotes inclusivity and the sense of “team”. 4. Trust In a remote team, there aren't any silly rules about being in your seat during certain hours of the day. This means at the end of the week you either have something to show for your week or not. This means you trust that your teammates are getting something done. But also, that your teammates trust you. To earn that trust you want to make sure you have something to show for your work each week. 5. Focus on Health & Wellbeing In the midst of a global pandemic, now is not the time to forget about your wellness programme when stress and anxiety is elevated. Make sure to check in with remote employees that they are taking breaks, finishing on time, and are maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Make online workouts available to your employees allowing them to take part in physical activity. Perhaps set a company challenge such as a step challenge to get employees engaged in physical activity and as a plus networking with colleagues. For those struggling with sleep or anxiety, provide access to meditation or breathing courses. And to look after financial wellbeing consider organising webinars on topics such as managing a household budget, how your pension works, setting financial goals etc. 6. Rituals and Traditions Creating traditions with your team members, regardless of how often they happen, helps keep teams cohesive and encourages open communication and trust. Before you were thrown into the digital remote working world, undoubtedly you had traditions in place for how promotions, achievements and even birthdays were recognised. To keep spirits up, it’s crucial you keep celebrating these milestones. 7. Ask for Feedback Finally, the introduction to remote working has been unprecedented for many of us. Therefore, ask employees for honest feedback and suggestions. Use a pulse survey to get real data on this. "You don’t need everyone physically together to create a strong culture. The best cultures derive from actions people actually take.” Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, Authors of Remote
As many of us have been plunged into working from home for the first time without warning, we may be struggling with where to start. Our normal routine has changed entirely leaving a lot of us wondering how you keep yourself motivated and productive. Read on for our top tips on making the most of working from home. 1. Working Space When it comes to setting up your working from home environment there is no one size fits all approach. While some people prefer one dedicated desk area that resembles an office work station, others prefer to change their environment throughout the day whether it be to sit at a desk space/their kitchen table for work that requires focus and concentration, their patio area for business calls/team meetings or their couch for catching up on emails. This is one of the key benefits of working from home - you get to decide on your ideal office set-up. However, while it can be tempting to lie in bed on your laptop all day, you are likely to tire of this and hurt your neck or back. What you want is a dedicated space that allows you to work productively with minimum distraction. Having a dedicated space also signals to your brain that you’re “at work” and puts you in the mind-frame of being productive. If working from home is a temporary measure for coronavirus, you probably don’t have that much equipment beyond a laptop. Laptops have bad ergonomics so it might be an idea to rise it on a pile of books and get a USB keyboard and mouse and treat it as a desktop. Or if you are enjoying working from home and see yourself continuing to work from home beyond coronavirus perhaps invest in a docking station and a second monitor. Stand-up desks are another popular option. A bar table or even a wide and tall surface in your home may be suitable for a couple hours a day. Switching your desk may energise you and increase your productivity for certain tasks. Finally, don’t forget to check your tech! Ensuring good connectivity at all times is fairly important for most online workers. Be prepared for an outage by having a back-up such as a mobile plan with extra data or a mobile router. After that make sure you have all the technology and tools you need to work effectively. From email and video conference software to collaboration tools - some of these may be new to you so take the time to get to grips with the basics. 2. Routine As mentioned, our normal routine has been changed, we’re no longer commuting, grabbing a coffee at the café around the corner from the office, chatting to colleagues in the canteen, attending meetings, visiting clients etc. Therefore, you will need to make a new routine to work from home. Triggers It’s important to identify “triggers” for yourself that signal to your brain that you are in work mode. Every article you read will tell you to make sure you get up and get dressed, while it is tempting to stay in your pyjamas for an hour, that hour can easily slip into a full day. After this incorporate the parts of your old routine that you benefitted from. Perhaps you enjoyed walking to work in the morning as it woke you up, if so, get outside for a walk first thing. Have a coffee in your garden/on your balcony to replace the one you had in your local café. Do an at home workout if you used to go to the gym in the morning. Set reminders to get away from your desk for five minutes every so often to mimic the breaks you took in the office to grab a coffee in the kitchen. Structure You are your own personal manager when working from home. Without things like in-person meetings to break your day, it can be easy to lose focus. Also your motivation naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day, so set yourself a schedule. List what you’ll do and then block times on your calendar as to when you will work on them. For me personally I like to block the first 2 hours of every morning for writing tasks as I find that’s when I am at my most creative. I then try to schedule video calls and meetings for the afternoon when I find my productivity is waning. Make sure to set fixed working hours for yourself. It can be tempting to stay logged on long past when you said you will finish but it is best to set up a consistent schedule with yourself so that you can make a clean break between “work” and “home”. Kill distractions Working from home and particularly at the moment it can be easy to let yourself be consumed by the news and social media. To counteract this, remove social networks from your internet browser bookmarks and log out of every account. Or create a work bookmark list and a personal bookmark list. Your work bookmark list will only consist of the bookmarks you need for your job and the personal list can include your social networks. You can hide your personal bookmark list during your working day to remove the impulse to click into social networks. 3. Stay Connected Naturally, given the anxiety surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and being unexpectedly thrown into working from home, it is natural to feel isolated. Instant messaging and video conferencing tools can make it easy to check in with your colleagues so make sure to schedule in some “non-work” related chats with your colleagues. Here in Sigmar, we schedule virtual coffee breaks with our colleagues, a ten-minute call to check in with each other and to have a chit-chat. This helps maintain team bonds and provides some light relief throughout your day. 4. Give Yourself a Break Being thrown into working from home, employees can often be harder on themselves about their productivity levels as they forget about the amount of distractions that come with working in an office environment. You might not have scheduled your coffee breaks when you worked in the office but regular breaks are important for maintaining focus and productivity so don’t be afraid to include them in your schedule. It could be a simple 10-minute break for a coffee or a snack or a few minutes to read an interesting article. Ideally, you should try to get some outdoor time during your lunch break too, so you don’t go stir crazy. Ultimately, what works best will vary from person to person so don’t be afraid to try things out over the next few weeks until you find your ideal set-up and structure. The most important thing is to find what helps you stay focused, while maintain a work life balance.
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