Working from home is not a new concept, and most modern companies allow and even encourage it at times. Covid-19 is forcing companies that do not normally have a work-from-home culture to adopt one on the fly.
Over the last decade, we have built a company of almost 90 employees using an exclusively work-from-home model. I want to share some of the lessons we learned and the best practices for managers.
First, if you are a manager who is working from home, managing a team that is working from home, it’s important that you lead by example. Trust your staff. Do not automatically assume that your employees will take advantage of you. Employees that are dedicated and hard-working are dedicated and hard-working, regardless of where they happen to be sitting.
Communication is really important when you are working remotely, so I would always advise you immediately switch your calls to video calls. You will know who is focused and who is not. It’s easy to take a conference call while on mute, washing the dishes. It’s very hard to do that when video is required.
In order to simulate office communications, you should create accidental collisions. When you run into someone in the office, conversation usually ensues. ‘What are you working on?’…‘Oh, did you know about…?’ Those conversations do not happen unless you create an environment that fosters them. Hold daily ‘open office hours’ in which everyone participates in a video conference but does their own work. Let natural conversations flow. Establish informal chat groups or channels with products such as Microsoft Teams (which is free now).
Without these accidental collisions, meetings are often created for no other reason than to force people to interact. Instead of meetings, encourage open conversations on open chat forums that include everyone. Create spontaneous conference calls at the moment they are needed. Directly phone a person to get an answer to a question, just as you might pop your head in their office, or ask them in the break room. These practices go counter to what many managers will instinctively gravitate towards, but they have a very real downstream effect on engagement.
Lastly, encourage mental breaks. Tell your employees to set aside 30 minutes at the start and end of their day and designate that time as their virtual commute. Go for a walk, listen to a podcast, drive out and get a coffee – whatever makes sense. This short period of time is vital to make the mental transition from home to work and back.
Corey Hynes is CEO at Learn on Demand Systems
This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issues delivered directly to your inbox.
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