For you and your team, there are some personal management actions that can help with productivity and focus while working from home.
- Avoid multi-tasking. Video conferences are better than teleconference for this. When at work, focus on work and at the end of your day, shut down your work and disconnect.
- Take breaks. It can be easy to fall into the routine of working non-stop at home, including eating lunch at your desk. However, breaks can help with productivity and focus.
- Set a schedule for yourself. Be flexible if you need to adjust but having a set routine can be helpful. Setting this schedule can also help you and others in your home manage different priorities and needs such as shared child care or office space.
- Be compassionate with yourself and others. Above everything else, right now we all need kindness and support. This includes making time to ask others how they are doing and being understanding when challenges arise.
Under normal circumstances, isolation is one challenge of remote work. During these times, it is even more of a challenge. Opportunities for social connection are limited in all areas of our lives, not just work. The importance of creating social connection with your team should not be overlooked.
Social connection and relationships are important at the best of times, but right now they are critical. Virtual work environments tend to have less opportunity for this because of the absence of informal water cooler conversations and spontaneous collaboration that occur when teams are physically together. Isolation leads to disengagement and lower job performance. This change in connection is happening at a time when distraction is high.
The advantage you and your team have is that you already know each other and have developed a level of trust and connection. As a leader, your task is to lead the way with new team norms that encourage collaboration and socializing. Ways to put this into action include:
- Use video conferencing as the norm, if possible. Face to face can make a big difference in terms of increasing engagement and participation.
- As much as possible, ensure that your team has adequate tools to support team collaboration, including video conferencing, chat, and screen/document sharing.
- Allocate time at the beginning or end of team meetings for socialization.
- Use ice breakers at team meetings. This can be as simple as coming up with more interesting questions than the usual “how was your weekend?” There are lots of ideas online if you are struggling to find appropriate questions or ice breaker ideas.
- Set up a social area in your online chat tool to allow team members to share things such as virtual office photos, GIFs, and anything else that provides a positive break for a few minutes.
- Ask your team for ideas on what they would like to do to remain connected.
- Model the way by actively participating and engaging in these actions.
Unprecedented is perhaps an understated word to use when describing the situation we are facing right now, including the new challenge of leading remote teams amidst the uncertainty and constant change all around us. Our teams need us, as leaders, to provide a face of compassion and hope, leading the way forward. For those who can do this effectively to support their teams collectively and as individuals, the benefits will endure beyond the current crisis we face. Finally, make sure your team members are aware of the different resources and programs available to them for support. Your Human Resources team should be able to help with the details and communication of this information.
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