COVID-19 has had a massive impact on the way we work, with a quarter of all UK employees working from home since the start of the pandemic. These circumstances have forced businesses to rethink how they work remotely, and consider more effective ways of operating, meaning that managers need to make sure their teams are adapting to the new environment.
However, it’s likely you’ve never led a team through a global health crisis before, and may feel unequipped to do so. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can gain insight from leadership experts who know their industry well enough to help others through the current crisis and rise of remote working. Companies like MTD Training, for example, provide a range of courses for managers at all different levels, helping to equip them with the tools and techniques necessary for leading a team while working remotely. However, there are also some more practical tips leaders can follow to wend their way through the current crisis, which we’ve outlined here.
1. Be flexible and understanding
During these unprecedented times, working remotely is different. As we find ourselves subject to national lockdowns, leaders need to understand each employee’s individual circumstances — some may be juggling childcare, while others may not have a suitable work environment where they live. These changes can have a significant impact on an individual’s morale, motivation and performance, so being understanding about their situation is vital.
A greater level of flexibility is also needed. For instance, you could allow your staff to work the hours that suit them best, as long as they do what is expected of them. This may help to reduce stress, as well as increase employee satisfaction and improve your team’s overall wellbeing.
2. Keep connected
As we’re no longer working in an office environment, staying in contact is more important than ever, which heightens the importance of having effective communication systems in place for your team. This is helpful for facilitating cross-team collaboration and social interaction, as well as helping you stay up to date with your employees, and keeping tabs on how everyone’s getting on with projects.
Scheduling a daily video check-in is a great idea, even if it’s just for 15 minutes with free video call software like Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams making this easier than ever to do. As Karissa Sachs, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Talent Acquisition at KForce told The Muse “having your webcam enabled allows you to maintain that face-to-face connectivity even if it’s through a computer.” Sachs also notes that being able to see people’s facial expressions is critical for successful remote working, as you can see how they’re feeling, whether they’re nodding in agreement, or raising an eyebrow. Meanwhile, an instant messaging tool like Slack will further help keep your team connected, giving everyone the ability to have a real-time conversation whenever they like.
3. Provide feedback
Normally, feedback and praise will happen naturally in the office, as your team works and collaborates face-to-face. However, working remotely puts a stop to this, making it difficult for good work to be given the recognition it deserves. But feedback is vital for your employees’ career progression and job engagement, so it’s important to continue giving them this during the pandemic. In fact, research by Gallup revealed that managers who gave their team members weekly feedback were 2.7 times more likely to be engaged at work. You could even set up an online system for employees to shout out each other’s good work, which can help get the ball rolling.
4. Focus on the wellbeing of your employees
Your team’s mental health may be suffering due to the pandemic, with one study identifying as many as 72% of workers currently feeling burned out. This could result in heightened levels of stress and anxiety, which could impact how your business runs. However, by focusing on their wellbeing and checking in on how they’re doing, you can help them get through hard times, as well as prevent issues such as poor performance and burnout. One-to-ones are ideal, as your employees may feel more comfortable sharing problems with you, rather than the whole team. See if there’s anything you can do to help to make them feel better about their situation, which could be as simple as offering to chat whenever they need it.
One issue your staff might be facing is loneliness, with 76% of young people reporting these feelings during lockdown, and 36% stating that has been the result of losing contact with their colleagues. This can negatively impact sleep, stress levels and even self esteem, which can then significantly affect someone’s performance at work. As such, encourage your team to do things to overcome loneliness, like organising regular calls with colleagues to check in and talk.