19th May 2020
Working From Home – Tips and Tricks For Leaders
With all the uncertainty created by the pandemic, one thing that seems to be set in concrete is that working from home more regularly (if not all the time) will be a reality for large parts of our workforces.
To support leaders so they can continue to have a positive impact on their teams and organisations in this new context, we’ve put together a list of practical reminders to help them navigate the new world.
Leaders need to adapt, continually
Leaders will be tested constantly over the next 12 – 18 months and most of these circumstances will be outside of their control. With the goal posts moving regularly, leaders will have to grapple with finding a way through this complexity, whilst ensuring they are comfortable with the ongoing ambiguity.
Rather than having a dogmatic fixed mindset, leaders need to constantly scan their world. This will include assessing what they are seeing, testing their hypotheses on what is working and why, and being nimble enough to change tact to take another path if required.
Simon Sinek refers to this as ‘practising existential flexibility’ which is part of his infinite mindset concept. You can read more about his approach here.
Decreased line of sight
When you’re physically working in the same space with a team, you can see their body language and how they are reacting to the natural flow of a day. This allows you to get a sense of how your people are tracking. Not being able to ‘read’ people is something leaders need to come to grips with by finding meaningful ways of connecting in an authentic manner.
Yes, booking times for 1:1’s and team catch ups in diaries is important. But, taking the time to actually find out how people are feeling and what they’re thinking in a way that resonates with your style is the way to go.
To help you with this, think about adding some of these questions to your repertoire:
- How are you today?
- What’s changed for you?
- What do you need?
- How can I help you?
- What’s working really well for you at the moment? What’s not?
Not everyone wants to work from home, or in the office!
As a leader it is likely your team will be physically dispersed, at least some of the time. Whether working arrangements have been decreed by your organisation, left up to individual choice, or a rota system has been put in place, it is highly likely that not everyone will be happy with their working arrangements.
Understanding this will be critical in your success as a leader. Some leaders have commented to us that they see working from home just like being on a project team with people from different offices, locations and functions. Whilst there is some truth in this, it does fail to acknowledge the complexity of the situation. It doesn’t take into account that people have developed preferences for how and where they work.
Seeking to understand what the optimal outcome is for your people and working as hard as you can to find an outcome that works for them and the business is key.
Where you can’t find an exact fit, make sure you continue to have conversations about how they are feeling and how their working arrangement is working for them, as things are likely to change over time. This will go a long way to helping relieve any ongoing stress or issues that arise based on where people are completing their work.
Also, consider how you can leave your door open when leading remotely.
Work and personal life are one in the same
Clear, discrete barriers between work and personal life may have evaporated for those working remotely and these mindsets will continue to prevail.
As remote workers begin filtering in and out of the office, we suggest you keep this front of mind as they have probably become quite accustomed to the increase in autonomy associated with working from home.
Asking people to change their ways of working (assuming they are productive) and limiting flexibility and freedom when they are in the office will only serve to disrupt their rhythm and destroy any engagement you’ve fostered during these trying times.
Aim to provide as much autonomy as possible regardless of where your people are working.
Health and safety
Managing the ongoing health and safety of your people will be critical. Yes, the spectre of COVID-19 will be over our shoulders for some time yet, however there are some other elements to be considered:
- Are your people’s home work stations set up properly?
- Have you got the appropriate social distancing protocols in place?
- Are your people stressed, anxious or worried about the future?
- Have you asked them if they know how to get support if required? e.g. accessing your EAP services
- Are your policies on social distancing and COVID-19 easily accessible and communicated regularly?
Being aware of how people are feeling is harder for a leader when working remotely. Stay on top of this and keep it front of mind as the situation undoubtedly changes over time.
Managing through technology
Although most organisations probably had access to video conferencing technology prior to the pandemic, very few people would have regularly used Zoom or Teams during the course of any normal day. These are now go-to apps that get used as much as Outlook and do an amazing job of allowing us to stay in contact with one another.
That said, leaders do need to remember that not everyone is comfortable communicating in group settings or in the artificially created video conference environment. This can lead to people on calls nodding yes and agreeing with the consensus of the group without buying in or even understanding what they are required to deliver and by when.
To avoid this, make sure you’re following the same steps you would for any ‘normal’ in person meeting:
- Set an agenda – ideally before the meeting
- Seek input
- Encourage different views to be shared
- Agree on the way forward
- Clearly assign tasks and check for understanding
- Follow up with an email outlining what was agreed, timelines and responsibilities
This becomes even more important when meetings are split between physical and digital realms. Ensuring you pay as much attention to your virtual attendees as you do to those you can see ‘in the flesh’, will be critical to getting good outcomes.
There is a huge amount of content available about the impact of working remotely available, however this article was written to be a reminder to leaders as to what some of the basics should be as they continue to operate in this forever changing world.
Good luck out there!