Chances are, you and your employees have been impacted by some aspect of the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether from an illness in the family, changing working conditions, or stress from the entire situation, you are likely working through a bunch of adjustments you never thought you’d have to deal with as a manager. It certainly isn’t easy, but when is management not filled with hurdles to surpass?
If you are one of the millions of managers who have had to transition their team to a work-from-home environment, you and your employees are dealing with a lot. This whole pandemic has drastically changed and will continue to change the way that the American workforce operates. From working from home with children to technical difficulties to emotional support needs, there are a plethora of challenges to overcome for you and your team to be successful.
It is your job to do your best to support your employees in whatever situation they are going through. This may mean that you are adjusting your expectations and even your role in this new and difficult environment. Here are some ways that you, as a manager, can help make a difference for employees as they transition into a work-from-home life.
In today’s difficult times, remember this: Your employees are not working from home during a national crisis; they are dealing with a national crisis and still trying to work while at home.
This means a lot of different things to different people. Your employees could be dealing with a large variety of difficulties, the least of which is keeping up with work. These are not normal times and expecting the same levels of productivity is unreasonable.
Take, for example, employees who are now balancing childcare with their normal job. With daycares and schools closed, employees with children are having to babysit and act as homeschool teachers throughout the day. Even with a spouse at home, it is impossible for them to meet the demands of their day-to-day work while caring for a child part of the time.
This is the time to cut your employees some slack. Try to be empathetic to their situations and find creative ways to help them achieve their work tasks and balance their home life. You could allow them to complete work outside of normal hours or do what you can to extend project deadlines to help them remain successful within their new, unchosen reality.
Dive into Tech
Once you’ve adjusted your expectations to be a bit more reasonable during the current situation, do everything you can to make the work that gets done be as productive as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure everyone is connected with the right technology. Make sure they have the basic tools they need to get work done from home and to connect with fellow employees. This is a basic building block of successfully working from home.
Technology can do a lot to make you feel like you are still in a real workspace and be productive there. Tools such as Teams, Slack, or Zoom enable thousands of companies to have regular business meetings in a remote setting. In addition, cloud-based data storage allows employees to access information from anywhere, which goes a long way towards keeping everyone on the same page and productivity as high as possible. Using these tools to check-in and to build a regular routine can help everyone adapt more quickly.
Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population has already worked from home in some capacity. This means there is a good amount of advice about how to be successful at leading your team through a transition to teleworking. Aside from diving deep into technology other suggestions include the following:
- Maintain a clear team structure by defining roles and responsibilities
- Actively work to resolve communication issues
- Take time to make personal calls to check in on employees and build relationships
- Over-communicate tasks and new ideas to make sure everyone stays in the loop
Maintain Company Culture
During this strange time of social isolation, it is valuable to understand the role that socialness and regular interaction plays in the mental health and productivity of employees. One of the hardest things for many during this work transition is the inability to communicate face-to-face and feeling alone working towards insurmountable goals. Taking the time to connect with employees individually through phone calls can play a major role in keeping them engaged and focused on work.
We all know how important company culture is to the productivity, happiness, and ultimate success of employees and the company they work for. A remote workforce can put a strain on the culture and make it harder to maintain, but doing so is an important responsibility. It will keep morale high, employees communicating, and the work flowing. Find ways to do team-building exercises online and encourage collaboration where you can.
Another aspect of keeping company culture alive is to try to maintain a sense of normalcy and opportunity. If there are important training sessions that employees are having to miss, try to reschedule or provide an online opportunity if possible. Employees’ knowing that the work they are doing is appreciated and their time is valued is important in maintaining engagement.
Make no mistake, the workforce is changing as a result of COVID-19. As a manager, some of the best things you can do to help transition your employees to remote work are for you to adjust your expectations, to embrace technology, and to maintain a positive company culture.
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.