In these difficult times, being forced to work from home can seem a little daunting. The immediate stop to physical connection with colleagues, management, clients and customers as well as the inability to attend networking events presents new challenges and uncertainties.

But, this feeling of uncertainty is short term and while it may be difficult to see where all this is heading, I’d like to share some useful tips and strategies on how to help you overcome this challenge and offer ways to cope during this period of uncertainty.

I have been working remotely for 7 years after moving to the UK from Australia.  There was definitely a period of uncertainty; a new place, a new country, a new home, a new life and not to mention everything was different.  However, once I overcame all my technological challenges of working from home, I was able to develop a new routine and learnt how to manage my time, prioritise my day and focus on my work with my team in Australia.

Over the years, I continued to work remotely where I became a tech entrepreneur in the UK to now being a consultant where I now manage and work remotely with individuals and teams all over the world.

Here are my useful tips to help you manage your team remotely and navigate through these challenges yourself:

Set clear expectations for your team

Setting clear expectations will help your team understand how they can adapt to working in their new environment. Establishing a routine such as scheduling daily morning meetings and individual catch up meetings will help keep communication lines open. Give your team access to your diary or let them know when you are available during the day if they need to ask questions are possible ways to help your team feel supported by you.  If you operate an open door policy in the office, this is more difficult when working remotely so replacing that with clear communication with the team when your “door” is open will help your team feel connected with you. Make it clear that these are “checking in” meetings instead of “checking on” meetings.

Time Management

Ask your team to plan the day and week ahead helps with focussing on work and deadlines.  Suggesting a to do list on a pad or a whiteboard, an excel spreadsheet and time boxing each task and mark them with colours when tasks are completed may help them focus on and finish tasks. Asking them to keeping track of times for meetings and tasks will help them manage their time. Some employees prefer to show outcomes and productivity instead of time spent so gauge this before deciding how they could manage their time.

Meetings

Working from home means that meetings are now online and may be in video too. Encourage your team to continue to attend meetings and set expectations about work attire when on video calls.  Sometimes there are technical issues so reminding them to be prepared 5 minutes before the meeting to check that everything is working as it should be. If they are leading the online meeting, reminding them to be extra prepared, keep track of time and think about recording the meeting for those that cannot make it and if all participants consent.  While online meetings can be more challenging, preparation for them helps overcome those challenges. Going through a test run the day before will help prevent any technical issues and be flexible with team members who have children or pets in the home.

Take regular breaks

In an office setting, it is easy to walk to the communal kitchen and make a coffee or tea and bump into colleagues for a chat.  Working from home doesn’t afford these impromptu opportunities so it is important to remind your team to take regular breaks, go outside for fresh air, stand up and stretch, check the post or water the pot plants!  If you or your team need that connection with colleagues, introduce a buddy system to allow team members to set up a call or agree to message each other at certain times of the day where they need motivation or accountability to keep them going.  

Distractions

it is easy for your team to be distracted at home with their kids, partners, pets, xbox, games, neighbours, housework, tv or the phone.  In your individual catch up sessions with your team, work out when they are the most productive and ask them to be strict with blocking out this time, whether it be one or two hours. This time, every day can make the biggest difference in helping them achieve their goals each day and each week.  Suggest that they set up a space in their home that allows them to do their best work will help relieve those distractions.  Keeping their work and personal space separate could also help them establish those clear boundaries at home. Time management, meetings, taking regular breaks and establishing routines helps reduce the distractions at home.

Keep their mental health in check

Working from home can be isolating so it is important to help your team establish different ways to help them cope with their new work environment.  Asking them to reach out to different support networks, colleagues, yourself, any counselling services offered by the company, join an online community who can support them during these challenging times. A life coach, business coach or executive coach can help you or your team navigate these new changes and uncertain times.  

Change can be scary, but change can also be a blessing in disguise.  One thing that is certain is you have control of how you manage and cope during these times.  Asking for help is the first step.

If you would like to have a chat about working remotely and how you can establish and implement new ways of leading a team from home, or how you can work more effectively yourself, send me an email and I’ll be happy to support you further.

This blog was written by Michelle Hua, Consultant, tech entrepreneur and former solicitor. Michelle coaches and manages individuals and teams remotely to help them set and achieve their goals. Email: [email protected]