Working from home is very different from working in the office, and it can be especially challenging if you're responsible for managing a division, department, or an entire company. While working from home, challenges like keeping your team together, maintaining productivity and boosting morale can become more difficult.
With some consistent effort, you can address these issues and maintain momentum. At Summus Industries, this is what we're doing to make working from home work for us.
Provide (and Follow!) Regular Work From Home Tips
Working exclusively from home isn't the norm for most of us. We have collected our best recommendations and looked at what other experts recommend to provide these helpful work from home tips. Even if you've been at home for a few months now, it's not too late to:
- Set up a space for work, ideally in a separate room from others. No room for a home office? Use portable screens to create a private space where you can get work done.
- Keep your work area well-lit with lamps, overhead lighting and/or natural light.
- Set boundaries with other people in your household, if you're trying to work in the presence of others. Have agreed-upon signals (like a sign on the door or a hand signal) that mean you're unavailable to chat with those who are in your home with you.
- Set up the same technology at home that you require at the office. This is important for long-term work from home setups. It reduces frustration and increases productivity. If you need help with figuring out what your company needs, let us know. We can help.
- Take periodic breaks, maybe with a walk around the block or a rest on the patio, to keep your mind fresh and avoid burn out. It gets easy to sit down and stay sitting when you're at home.
It's also important to follow this advise yourself as the manager of a company or division.
Set Expectations for Your Team
It's just as important to set expectations when people are working from home as it is to set expectations in the office. In fact, it may even be more important. Keep up with regular one-on-one meetings with staff, and follow up with emails about things you've discussed. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page.
You may find that miscommunications can happen more easily when everyone is working from home, especially in the weeks and months when you're adjusting to the new normal. Email communication gives you something to refer to when you're trying set the record straight, or trace the source of a miscommunication.
Set deadlines for projects, and establish who on the team will be responsible for which aspects of each project. Don't forget about regular performance reviews, and documenting performance problems. Now more than ever, it's important to keep everyone on your team working on the same page.
Connect Face to Face Online
Face-to-face communication is important, even when most or all of your team is working remotely. At Summus Industries, we're using Microsoft Teams for meetings. This software also allows us to chat online and place calls between team members. Using technology such as this or other video conference, it can be easier to get in touch with your team mates, and creates a personal connection because can see each other on the screen. You'd be amazed how much you can glean from face-to-face communication. Personal expressions mean a lot, so don't lose sight of each other just because you're not in the same room anymore.
Take Time for Casual Conversation
Productivity is important. But so is water cooler talk. Time spent making small talk in the hallway or at a staff person's cubicle can be productive in subtle, but important, ways. This kind of conversation builds camaraderie and trust, and often leads to an exchange of ideas. Water cooler talk can be lost when people start working remotely, but you can get that back.
Periodically call your team members to see how things are going.
Start work conversations with small talk, just like you would if you had walked to their desk to see how they're doing. Let the conversation flow naturally. You may find yourselves talking about work, personal things, or a mixture of the two. You may be surprised what you find out about your employees and it can help you improve any issues they might be frustrated with that are work related.
Setup a periodic team web meeting, using your video conferencing software of choice. Spend 15 minutes NOT talking about work to get a pulse for how people are feeling. It'll change from day to day and as news stories break. Let them talk about how they're feeling, but don't let it turn into an inappropriate soapbox or place for debate.
These more casual interactions help to remind team members that you care and are interested.
Arrange for "Happy Lunches"
Working from home can leave your team feeling disconnected from their peers and coworkers. Show appreciation to your employees and promote team-building through events like "happy lunches." How does this work? Buy lunch and have it delivered to the home of some employees, then eat your lunches together through an online meeting service. This is best when done a few people at a time so you're not talking over one another as much. Of course it depends on the size of your office too!
Not interested in a team meeting lunch? Arrange to have virtual coffee with staff on a routine basis. These online drink-coffee-and-chat sessions can be half social hour and half brainstorming about big projects.
Take Care of Yourself
With your home office just steps away from your living room, kitchen and bedroom, the temptation to work all the time may become overwhelming. If you allow this to happen, you risk burning out. Take care of yourself by taking vacation days as needed and by setting a hard, fast rule about not working after a certain hour. That means not even checking emails late at night. It can wait till the next morning.
You can't manage a department or take care of a company if you can't take care of yourself, so watch your stress levels. That's easier said than done given all that is going on in the world today. Be sure you do things that make you happy and relieve stress.
We know that working from home is not likely to last forever, but there will definitely be a standard for a while and more common as we go forward. You'll find a groove, just make sure it's one that has a positive impact on your employees and your company's bottom line.