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10 ways to keep your remote team engaged

Most of us had never had to work from home on a regular basis. Although it has been a business trend for a while because of its benefits, working from home has never been the standard practice. Until now.

The recent Coronavirus pandemic has forced us to stay inside and changed the way we live and work. Millions of people in Australia and around the globe must now change their entire routine for the sake of staying indoors. Working from home (or WFH), what was previously seen as a privilege or part of a flexible way of living, has now become an utmost necessity.

Less commute time, more job satisfaction and more creativity are only a few of the many benefits observed by those who have adopted the WFH way of living before the pandemic.  But for everybody to adapt and feel those same benefits, some measures need to be taken so people can get used to this new way of working without falling behind. It is the job of the leader to adapt his leadership style as to ensure a smooth transition.

Here we’ve assembled 10 tips to help you successfully lead your team during this time.

1. Start by setting some basic ground rules and a routine

In times of uncertainty, establishing ground rules and a routine can offer that much needed stability and predictability. By not having the same atmosphere and routine at home than they have in the office, employees might feel lost at first.

Talk to your team about the importance of ground rules and ask them for suggestions on what would make them work more effectively. Their insight will give you information on what they truly need from you as well as from each other.

2. Communicate your expectations clearly

In the first stages of working from home, your team might get caught up with distractions and underperform. To prevent this, make your expectations clear.

There should be no doubt regarding your priorities, the expected performance outcomes and how to measure them, what are the milestones in each project, etc.

3. Make sure everyone has the required tools

If anything can break your team’s WFH routine is not having the appropriate tools. They need to have access to all programs and databases used while working in the office in order to be able to fully function at home.

Make sure your team has access to all of those as well as good Wi-Fi for connection.

4. Establish communication guidelines

During this time away from the office, what does your team need to communicate with each other? How will that be done? What programs are needed? How often will that communication happen?

Those are some of the topics you need to think about when establishing your communication guidelines.

5. Be available

The daily routine of working in an office can make employees used to daily contact. By not being able to have a quick chat by the water cooler or while in the kitchen, some might feel isolated. However, as some workers might feel isolated, others might not mind the situation and be perfectly comfortable.

It is important to keep in mind the personality and communication style of each employee and reach out to them accordingly.

6. Focus on outcomes rather than daily tasks

When managing a remote team, leaders can get caught up on monitoring what each employee has done each day. This usually happens when leaders want to make sure their employees are focusing on work instead of being distracted doing other things.

But that behaviour takes a lot of energy from the leader and it is very time consuming for both parties. Instead, focusing on outcomes and activities can be much more productive, not to mention that it would stimulate trust within your team, which we will talk about later.

So as long as the projects and activities are finished on time, at the usual standard, and if the customer is happy, there should be nothing to worry about.

7. Form supportive structures

While leaders might sometimes be worried some of their employees aren’t working as hard as they should, some others might be working too hard. It is not uncommon for employees to overwork themselves while working at home since there is no more separation between their home and the office.

To prevent exhaustion within your team, make sure to set clear boundaries as to when they should and should not be working. Also, keep an eye out for erratic behaviours, emails sent at odd times and a drop in work quality as those can be indicators of overworking.

8. Keep traditions

Having scheduled tasks and clear guidelines will keep your employees on track but nurturing traditions even while working from home will keep them motivated. Rituals and traditions build a sense of community and belonging among your employees. This feeling can make them more committed to performing well and willing to collaborate with each other more.

If your team is used to having a daily meeting before work to update everyone on what is going on, make sure that that also happens when they no longer go to the office. Whatever ritual and tradition your company has, move them to the virtual world so your employees still feel connected to the culture and value of your organization and see the benefits unfold.

9. Build trust

Having trust within your team is not only important for interpersonal relationships. Studies show that trust triggers engagement and productivity within the team as members rely on each other more and feel like they are part of something important.

To achieve this, try documenting why your business is doing what it is doing. Workers often want to feel like their time is appreciated and being used for something worthwhile. Furthermore, encouraging collaboration will help your team bond and ultimately build trust as they rely on each other more.

10. Positive feedback

Something that can motivate your team and show them how much their work is important to you is giving them positive reinforcement. In this stressful time, employees might be uncertain and asking themselves whether they’re performing well or not.

Good leaders should provide good performers with positive feedback so they can thrive from it. This positive reinforcement demonstrates how much you appreciate their work and effort during this time.

Workers who are underperforming shouldn’t be forgotten either. Make sure to check up on them to understand the problem and coach them in the right direction. Your guidance might be what they needed to perform better.

The Coronavirus pandemic has indeed forced us to change our work dynamics, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make the best out of it. Although working from home might be a new concept for some organisations, with proper planning and the right leadership, there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t be enjoying the benefits that come with it.

Prepare yourself to be surprised with what comes and make sure to motivate your team to be surprised too. Together, we can make it work.