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With the Covid pandemic showing few signs of abating, many teams are now working part from home and part in the office.
This can be challenging for any manager. You want everyone on your team to feel engaged, motivated and set up for success. Here are some handy tips.
Spend time agreeing with each person what outcomes you want from their work. What would ideal results look like? Discuss measurable and intangible goals. How much communication is needed? How often should they update you on progress or issues? Be clear in your expectations but give them freedom as to how to do their job.
Show empathy for their situation. Some employees might be working from home because of childcare issues. Be sure to ask how they are doing, actively listen to any issues they have, and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
People working from home can easily feel out of the loop on what is going on. They miss out on the casual conversations and scuttlebutt which shape office politics and culture. Give everyone at home a buddy in the office. The two should have an informal chat most days to keep up to speed.
There is a temptation to have meetings on Zoom or Teams which are too long, too many or too rambling. People sitting at home lose interest and start reading emails. You do need regular meetings for everyone but keep them short, businesslike and focussed on key issues. Other meetings invite only those people who absolutely need to attend. See a brief summary of results to other people who might be interested but did not need to attend.
Business meetings should be businesslike but occasionally you should have a Zoom team meeting which is deliberately more relaxed and informal. Maybe you celebrate some success or share some funny stories. Creativity can suffer when people are working alone and remotely so try having a Zoom brainstorm. Maybe bring in an external facilitator and use some icebreakers and lateral methods to get people to dream up fresh ideas.
Your senior people are probably quite happy to work unsupervised. Junior staff and new starters (especially) need more support and help. Spend more time with them and assist them in their challenges. It is hard for someone new to absorb company culture if they are working from home. So keep them involved.
Once in a while consider going on a road trip to meet people who are working remotely. Arrange to meet them at their homes or at a nearby coffee shop or hotel lobby. It is important to have a face to face chat and most people will appreciate the effort that you have made.
Ask people about their concerns. Be flexible, e.g. consider how those commuting in each day might want to leave the office earlier so they don’t feel cheated out of family time. Be open to suggestions on working arrangements but insist on high standards of work.
Paul is a professional keynote conference speaker and expert facilitator on innovation and lateral thinking. He helps companies improve idea generation and creative leadership. His workshops transform innovation leadership skills and generate great ideas for business issues. His recent clients include Airbus, Microsoft, Unilever, Nike, Novartis and Swarovski. He has published 30 books on lateral thinking puzzles, innovation, leadership and problem solving (with over 2 million copies sold). He also acts as link presenter at conferences and facilitator at high level meetings such as a corporate advisory board. He has acted as host or MC at Awards Dinners. Previously, he was CEO of Monactive, VP International of MathSoft and UK MD of Ashton-Tate. He recently launched a series of podcast interviews entitled Insights from Successful People.
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