There’s no doubt about it: We’re living in a work-from-home (WFH) world, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. While the benefits of remote work are plentiful – more time with family, less time commuting, freedom to choose your work location daily, greater flexibility to address small personal issues as they arise – that doesn’t mean the transition to WFH has been easy.
In past blogs, we’ve talked about creating systems to help you navigate WFH distractions and clear out the stuff getting in your way. We like to think that streamlined systems can solve just about any problem. But when it comes to systemizing WFH, a looming question remains: What about the people? How have we been impacted by this global shift away from the office? How are individuals and teams making it work… from home?
A recent article on the shift in team power dynamics suggested several specific WFH team challenges, including the tendency of team hierarchy to “flatten” on screen. No longer in the same physical space as their boss, some teammates have become more willing to chime in and speak up, adding value to the team, but others have become overly comfortable, forgetting the respect their managers are due. Still other teammates may be unsure how to contribute effectively and, as a result, may have pulled back because they struggle to “read the room” remotely.
Team leaders and managers are still learning the remote work world, too. With mental health challenges like isolation, loneliness, and feelings of disconnection at all-time highs, team leaders now have an even greater responsibility to ensure their employees are engaged and part of the group dynamic.
Fortunately, there are specific things we can do to address these kinds of people problems, even remotely. It’s not a system per se, but we’ve compiled 12 ways to boost your productivity, support your remote team, and achieve your WFH goals.
Build Your Confidence
- Dress the part. Would you feel confident pitching a new idea or presenting to your boss in sweatpants or a t-shirt if you were in person? Probably not. Approach online meetings the same way you would in the office. Cultivate an executive presence that matches the outcomes you are aiming to achieve. Our strategic partner, Makeup By Holly Beauty Partners, can help in this department!
- Practice your online persona. Onscreen, your facial expressions and the way you speak are more on display than in an open conference room. Feeling comfortable in this new manner may take some practice. If you’re not sure you’re coming across the way you want to, ask a friend or trusted colleague to give you feedback. Knowing you’re doing the right things can help you engage in video conversations with greater confidence.
- Take advantage of the distance. On the flip side, if you tend to be more timid or reserved during in-person meetings, you may feel more comfortable speaking up from behind a computer screen. Once you get in the habit of chiming in during video meetings, you may find it boosts your in-person confidence, too.
Read the Virtual Room
- Look for the distracted and disengaged. As a team leader, watch out for anyone who appears to be zoning out. If you notice teammates whose gaze seems to be elsewhere, who lack any facial expression, or who rarely volunteer during video meetings, try to gently bring them back to the conversation. We are all aware of how hard it is to work productively at home, but we still need to stay focused. A kind, empathetic approach will help keep your team engaged and feeling supported.
- Encourage collaboration. Before attending several online meetings a day became the norm, many of us only used online platforms as a way to absorb information (YouTube videos, blogs, social media scrolling). We were not expected to participate in the exchange of ideas. Now, in our WFH world, the opposite is true. If you’re a team leader, give some attention to the remote environment you’re creating. Are you inviting collaboration? If not, look for ways to encourage sharing and participation.
- Help a co-worker out. For teams to work, everyone must support everyone else (not just managers and direct reports). Whether or not you’re a team leader, if you notice a co-worker who seems distracted, unfocused, or otherwise appears to be struggling, consider sending them a kind direct message or text to check in on them. Likewise, if you notice a colleague who is not speaking up, try offering something like, “I know Jane and I have been busy working on project X. Jane has had some great contributions. Jane, do you want to give us your updates?” Pointing out others’ contributions and inviting them to join in the conversation can build team rapport and help everyone work together more effectively.
- Write it out. Whether you prefer a notebook that sits on your desk or an electronic calendar, plan out your days. Have a clear list of what you want to accomplish each day and when it will get done. Then, block out time for each task. When everything has a designated time slot, you’ll never waste time thinking about what to do.
- Clear goals. Knowing why you are working an individual task can improve motivation. Usually, this why can be tied back to your team’s goals. Connect mundane or tedious tasks back to the bigger picture by visibly displaying your goals in your workspace. That way, you can see them when motivation starts to wane. For a quick and easy solution, write your team goals on a post-it or white board.
- Set yourself up for success. Use what you know about yourself to ensure you are as productive as possible. Do you need total silence to focus? If so, focus your WFH efforts on creating as quiet a workspace as possible. Or, maybe you need companionship and would benefit from “co-working” over Zoom. Consider what makes you most effective, and take steps to support yourself in those specific ways.
Increase Leadership Support
- Check in often. In a remote teaming environment, teammates face different and often greater stressors than in the office. Without water cooler chit chat and unplanned conversations in the hallway, how can leaders effectively keep their fingers on the pulse? With a system for checking in more frequently and intentionally, of course (we had to give you at least one system in this post!). This may mean scheduling one-on-one meetings on a weekly or bi-weekly basis specifically to check in on the individual’s well-being, productivity, and current feelings towards team life (leave the talk of deadlines and project updates for another time).
- Provide resources. Asking employees to find their own support while trying to stay productive in a new WFH world is asking too much. Instead, offer your team helpful and motivating resources. A weekly roundup of articles or videos on topics facing today’s workforce with a mix of levity can help connect and uplift your team. Or you might offer mentorships and coaching on topics that are WFH-specific, such as online presence, work-life balance, and handling distractions.
- Show appreciation, often. Workers continue to navigate the remote landscape, doing their best to produce quality results that show management they are engaged. Making sure your employees feel recognized and appreciated can go a long way. Your gestures don’t have to be huge: a thoughtful email from a manager or sending something meaningful to an employee’s home can lift spirits just as effectively as big, company-wide gifting. Either way, your efforts are a welcome reminder that they are cared for and their hard work is not overlooked.
With self-awareness, self-management tactics, and the support of our team leaders and work peers, we can all thrive working from home and teaming remotely.
If you’re WFH, what’s working for you?
Tell us in the comments your best tip for working from home effectively!