Communication is one of the key pillars of any successful business. If team members are working remotely, it becomes even more important. Here are some tips to ensure that productivity and personal well-being do not suffer if your team is working in a distributed environment:
Keep the lines of communication open.
Determine the most effective and efficient channels of communication. This could be a group chat on platforms like WhatsApp, Slack, or even old-fashioned email. If real-time voice communication needs to take place, then Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts are popular options. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, using a variety of communication methods can relieve monotony.
Once team leaders have identified what platform will be used, ensure everyone is maintaining the necessary levels of communication and using each platform for its intended purpose. This may take some adjustment in the beginning since people are more accustomed to in-person communication. But in times like these, it’s important everyone becomes more familiar with written, voice, and video communication platforms.
While communication is vital to maintain workflow and productivity, transparency and honesty are also important in distributed work environments. Research from Gallup shows that transparency builds stability and trust with remote workers particularly. Leaders, therefore, need to be open and honest about any key developments—both good and bad—that might affect the company and its employees moving forward.
Additionally, both leaders and team members should be communicating with each other to ensure their personal well-being. Working remotely and self-isolation can be challenging. In fact, Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2019 found that 19 percent of remote workers struggle with loneliness. Checking in on each other is important on both a business and personal level. Encourage self-care practices such as meditation.
Develop efficient routines.
Working from home is a shock to the system for people who, psychologically, typically separate their homes from their work spaces. In fact, according to clinical psychologist and executive director of Innovation 360 Kevin Gilliland, transitioning to a work from home environment is even more challenging than it may seem on the surface.
Researchers at Duke University found that approximately 40 percent of our behavior is habitual. As a result, Maurya Glaude, PhD, an assistant professor at Tulane University’s School of Social Work, believes it is beneficial for employees to continue the routines they had when preparing to work from the office.
This might include waking up at the same time, having their morning coffee at the same time, and sticking to the same getting-ready routine. The Owl Labs 2019 State of Remote Work Report found that there was no difference between employees working in an office and remote workers in terms of showering and dressing for the day.
Also, if there are set routines that are adhered to in the office, ensure they are continued during remote working. According to Flexjobs, if your team meets every week on a certain day and time when in the office, then that practice should continue, albeit via conference call or video chat. Continuity is important to maintain efficiency while working remotely and to ensure workers can adjust to their home office setups.
Foster company culture.
This can be tricky when people are not in close proximity, but is perhaps even more important when your team is working remotely. According to Fast Company, happy employees are 12 percent more productive. If your company uses incentives and rewards to motivate employees, keep them going even if the rewards need to change.
For example, if you can no longer provide free lunch incentives because restaurants are closed, see if they are offering gifts cards to be used at a later date. This idea not only keeps the incentives going for your team but can help support local businesses that are likely going through tough times. (Indeed, gift cards in general are practical incentives during this time with so many shops and entertainment venues closed)
Additionally, think of other things that your team might appreciate to remind them that they can still have some fun during work hours. Share a quiz and see who comes out on top; circulate funny jokes, memes, and videos; or set some fun challenges. Just because everyone is working remotely, does not mean they can’t still enjoy a few light-hearted breaks during the day.
Encourage innovation and creativity.
For most businesses and industries, the coronavirus has caused major disruption. Innovation and creativity are important during calmer times, but at present are more vital than ever. However, research from Owl Labs suggests that brainstorming is one of the most challenging aspects of work to foster from afar.
Encourage your team members to come up with new innovations and creative ideas. These could be measures to improve workflow efficiency, new product or content ideas, cost-cutting measures, or any other things that could be implemented now or in the future. Creativity could be one of the things you choose to incentivize using the strategies mentioned above. Additionally, you may want to encourage employees to incorporate ambient noise into their work environments, which research has shown improves creativity at levels of about 70 decibels.
Lead from the front.
This should go without saying, but as a team leader, it is vitally important to lead from the front to ensure the team stays strong—on both professional and personal levels— during this time. This means maintaining communication to ensure productivity and employee well-being; upholding and encouraging the routines that help workers adjust to remote work; keeping the company culture strong; and providing a platform to encourage innovation and creativity.