Still Working From Home? Give Me a Break!
Many of us have been working from home for some time now, so it seems like the right moment to review whether, as a manager, you’re successfully balancing your desire to get stuff done with taking care of your team’s emotional needs.
Staff who find themselves working from home for such a prolonged length of time, when their entire working life has previously revolved around spending core time at the workplace (whether office, warehouse, site or shop floor) are likely still feeling shell-shocked about how to handle the changes in their working environment and work patterns.
Some may have put on a brave face when they initially began the WFH phase, but now, four months on, even the most independently-minded individuals may be really missing the camaraderie of being around ‘real’ people! Much as we complain about the routine of work and commute, we are creatures of habit – and the ongoing about-face in our working arrangements is leaving many people feeling in limbo.
Becoming fully remote is NOT the same as occasionally working from home. We all enjoy the flexibility and productivity of an occasional WFH day, but suddenly having isolation forced upon you in your working life, can take some getting used to.
Companies may have equipped staff with the necessary laptops and resources to carry out their roles, but merely having social platforms such as Skype, Zoom and Web-Ex doesn’t necessarily mean we are making the most of them.
Technology gives us connections, not relationships – so we need to be purposeful in developing and maintaining our working relationships with colleagues during these continuing strange working times.
There are countless online meetings to discuss ongoing projects, how teams are handling customer service, sales processes, following up enquiries etc. But if the standard question being asked by managers is ‘What have you done today?’, this can put added pressure on individuals to justify their existence, when they are already feeling the pressure to remain as productive as usual, stay motivated, retain company loyalty, and maintain time management and self-discipline – as well as balancing caring responsibilities!
Yes, of course there’s a place for checking on productivity – but most staff want to do their best…they’re just trying to get used to a new normal.
As managers, we can help that transition.
Ensure you have a communication plan – a simple one might involve a Start of the Week Meeting – reviewing how we did last week, what we learned, how we can help each other this week, our plans and goals for the next five days, new areas we can focus on such as problem solving/service-improvement ideas/stretch assignments to get our teeth into.
Next, diarise 1 to 1 catch ups with every team member – to help their motivation, keep them organised and on track, clarify any queries or concerns.
Finally, scheduling an End of the Week Meeting to review progress, how we coped with issues faced, how we’re all feeling as we reach the end of that working week, finishing with something positive and fun.
Remember to ask how people are feeling, not just what they’re doing; consciously include things to actually develop and grow team spirit: social chit chat, music quizzes, guess the baby photos – let the team come up with ideas if you can’t!
Remember, we’re not all just working from home…we’re still in a crisis, at home, trying to work!