Effectively leading a team working from home

While working from home seems like a bonus, it’s not for everyone. Many people who’ve set out on that path because they want more flexibility, go back to an office because the isolation is stifling. Right now, the ability to work from home means you still have a job. Others aren’t so fortunate.

It’s still not what works best for everyone. On one end, workers can feel isolated and adrift. At the other end workers may feel overwhelmed because the entire family is in the same space 24/7.

These are unprecedented times and not knowing how long it will last has people on edge. It will take time to get into a groove. Leaders who embrace this new normal and start now to shift thinking and ways of doing business, will experience faster, less stressful transitions.

Here are some basic tips for leading a team working from home. What you need to take from here will depend largely on how you operated when you were working alongside one another. The idea is to maintain mental collaboration while being physically apart and to look after the individual needs of your people.

  • Keep meetings on the same schedule and make video an option. Some people may want the human interaction. Others may have hard time finding a place in the house where video works – given that everyone in the family is home. There could be some chaos they don’t necessarily want co-workers or managers to see.
  • Encourage using the phone and getting on video chats rather than solely relying on email or texting. You still saw people around the office when email and text were the most common ways to communicate. But now that the visual connection isn’t there, relying only on email just adds to the sense of being marooned on an island.
  • If cc-ing emails was rampant (and annoying) before, it’s bound to get worse in a remote situation. Create guidelines about who gets copied, in what situations and how those people are expected to respond. Bonus? You build some good practices now and they can be taken back to the office when this is all over.
  • Check in with your team rather than checking on them. If performance levels take a hit, there are a myriad of reasons why that may be happening. Fears about finances or health, concern about job security, the challenge of having children at home while trying to get work done, relaxed home habits filtering into work time, using personal tasks as a viable procrastination technique to avoid “unpleasant” work tasks, etc.
    Address what challenges they may face up front and keep the lines of communication open so that as time goes on, they know they can reach out to you to work through any focus challenges they may be having.
    You’re not trying to catch them goofing off on company time. Your job is to help them be as productive as they always were, but in a new, odd, situation.
  • Know how individual team members prefer to be led. Does one need a quick daily conversation while another is good with keeping you up to date via email and having a one-on-one once a week? Leading isn’t one-size-fits-all. The more you tailor your approach to the individual, the more successful your leading will be.

Managing remotely means leaders have to be even more proactive and observant. Based on how your team worked together, you have to anticipate what might make working from home challenging and address those situations before they create problems.

You lead more effectively when you know what drives each member of your team. Right? Not sure how to get that insight? Start here.

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