Times are changing, and so is the average work environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to allow work from home. There was a push for digitizing long before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has greatly expedited the transition for many companies from having employees in an office space to having them work remotely.
The transition into the digital workplace was sudden for many, and many remote workers are still adjusting after being sent home in the wake of the pandemic.
For business owners, it can be difficult to know how to best manage employees when you are unable to meet with each one face-to-face. It becomes difficult to lead by example when employees are only able to see how dedicated their superiors are during digital meetings and are unable to witness a manager's hard work and effort firsthand.
If you want to create a culture of excellence and integrity in your business but are feeling hindered by the pandemic, the tips in this post can be a huge help. Let’s talk about practical methods for facilitating a highly efficient team even when your employees are working from home.
Expectations are the lifeline of work-from-home and digital workspaces. Creating and maintaining standards for your digital workspace ensures that everyone is on the same page and knows what is required of them. Well-established standards and expectations help every employee to know their role in the company at large.
Setting clear, consistent expectations allows workers to work around their own personal schedules without compromising their integrity or the quality of their work. As the head of a company, promoting strong communication and standard-setting allows team members many freedoms, and gives each team member a sense of autonomy and responsibility. When these freedoms are managed well by the members of your team, you can maintain a healthy, motivated team that does excellent work.
If you have not done so already, set up a digital meeting with your team that is dedicated to defining your company’s standards and your expectations as a team leader. Give your employees an opportunity to ask any questions they might have about your expectations of them. A meeting where standards and expectations are explicitly discussed can make a major difference in your employees’ levels of clarity regarding what is expected of them as members of your team.
Well-established standards and expectations help every employee to know their role in the company at large.
Check in with employees
In an era when many people no longer work in the same physical space as each other, it is easy for members of a team to feel isolated and disconnected. This sense of isolation can worsen when team members are actively quarantining from one another to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the midst of mandatory isolation, it is more important than ever to check in with the members of your team to make sure everyone is holding up.
These times are difficult for everyone. Communicating with empathy and caring toward your employees will increase their satisfaction with their jobs. For your team members, it is an incredibly meaningful gesture when you go the extra mile to let them know that they matter to you and that you care about how they are doing outside of work.
Checking in with your team also presents opportunities for feedback and coaching if it is needed. For your team members, receiving quick and actionable feedback is vital as they work in a digital environment. It can be extremely helpful to establish a standing check-in appointment with each member of your team at a fixed time weekly or biweekly. Scheduled check-ins can help maintain team morale and promote accountability and improvement.
Seek employee input to increase engagement
Being told exactly what to do all day every day can lead employees to disengagement from work and your team members to becoming apathetic and going through the motions, feeling like they are simply clocking in, grinding for hours, and clocking out each day.
Seeking employees’ input in terms of company strategies and important decisions will give your team the sense that they are contributing to the success and growth of the company. Asking for input also increases your team members’ sense of competency, making them feel more satisfied with their jobs in the long run.
You can seek to include employees in team decisions by cultivating an environment where each team member feels welcome to share thoughts and opinions in meetings and discussions. Your team members may be holding back on sharing valuable thoughts and insights simply because they do not feel that their opinions are welcome. Sometimes, your employees will not share their opinions with you unless you explicitly ask for their input.
Seeking input from team members can help to boost your team’s overall morale and reduce feelings of apathy and disengagement that might be worsened by the remote work environment. When your employees feel included and involved, they will likely put in more personal investment into the company. Look for opportunities to recognize each team member as important and to get opinions and input from your employees.
Lead by example
For many, one of the biggest challenges of working from home is the loss of the sense of work-to-life balance. Working in the same place where you live causes a bleed-through of working time into relaxation time. Creating a work-life balance is crucial to ensure that your employees do not burn out.
To promote work-life balance when your team is working from home, you can lead by example by logging off entirely at the end of the workday. This communicates to your team that the hours set for work are solely for work and that the rest of the day is free for other aspects of life. When you lead by example, you give yourself the credibility to set an expectation that your employees do the same as you.
As a team leader, it is up to you to create the culture that you want to see among your team members. If you stay consistent with checking in with your employees, communicating expectations well, and practicing maintaining a good work-life balance, you can have a positive impact on your team.
Tracking progress is an important way to keep tabs on your team members and ensure that they are sticking to the established standards of work at your company. Progress tracking also allows you to see when particular employees are working especially hard, giving you an opportunity to give praise to specific employees for specific examples of their dedication to their work.
Knowing that you and your team are steadily progressing toward completing a project is especially important in a digital work environment because it gives employees and managers the feeling that they are hitting milestones and working toward a tangible goal.
Progress tracking also gives the members of your team a sense of accountability. When your employees know that their work is monitored, they are more likely to give their best effort even when they do not necessarily feel like working as hard as they should. Even the most diligent workers sometimes feel inclined to slack off a bit, and progress tracking ensures that your team members are meeting their daily goals by the time a workday is over.
Even the most diligent workers sometimes feel inclined to slack off a bit, and progress tracking ensures that your team members are meeting their daily goals by the time a workday is over.
Some of the best ways to monitor progress are setting daily goals and deadlines and requiring a progress report at the end of the day from each employee. Your methods of monitoring individual team members’ progress may vary depending on the dynamic in your company and the type of work you do. However, no matter what type of company you run, you can find creative ways to implement progress tracking into your work strategy without micromanaging.
Maintain morale and work ethic amidst a pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has made balancing work and life difficult for many. Being sent home to work in a space that is separate from coworkers and teammates can feel like forced isolation, which can be a source of discouragement for remote workers. However, there are aspects of remote work that can be beneficial to you and your team.
Remote work eliminates the need for a commute, allowing for more true work time in a day. In addition, working from home gives employees more opportunities to see their family, who they would otherwise have to spend the day away from in the office.
Remote work also provides you and your team with a unique chance to optimize individual work ethic apart from external motivators. When you work alone, you have to be your own primary source of motivation. This type of work can help you boost your discipline, focus, and self-control.
Working from home may sometimes feel like being sentenced to isolation with only your laptop to keep you company, but it does not need to be that way. There are numerous ways to keep yourself and your team encouraged and working hard together, even while separated.