This is part of a series of articles in which we share some of the trends Talent Solutions TAPFIN is seeing in the market, along with insights about what organizations can do to mitigate risks and disruptions as we work our way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The other day, I wrote about what companies can do to scale up IT infrastructure to maintain productivity as millions of workers transition to remote workplaces. Technology is only one challenge. Maximizing engagement and productivity while working and managing remotely takes some practice.
As someone who manages an organization of more than 500 people who work in different settings across the country, I’ve learned some strategies for making it work, along with a few things to avoid.
1. Be Clear About Expectations
Establish ground rules regarding things like accepted use of shared platforms, scheduling, and response times on emails and phone messages. Working too many hours is as big a risk as working too few, so be clear about what’s expected. Just because work is now at home, don’t expect responses at 9 p.m. unless you’ve agreed on more flexible hours based on preferences, work styles and new caregiving responsibilities. Set boundaries and respect boundaries. And be patient. Accept that everything may not go smoothly all the time. It doesn’t work that way in the office, so don’t expect it to now.
2. Use Technology to Your Advantage
Encourage the use of out of office notifications and setting availability or status messages in collaboration tools. You can see when someone’s in a meeting, away from their desk, or presenting virtually. As people get used to using these tools, you’ll find it’s the equivalent of stopping by someone’s cubicle. Videoconferencing can also be a great substitute for face-to-face interaction. Just remember, not everyone is comfortable on camera and some people might be shy about having their coworkers see their home offices/living spaces. (Pro tip: There’s a background blurring function in Microsoft Teams.)
3. Keep Cybersecurity Top of Mind
Soon, we’ll be sharing some specific advice on how to augment IT and security teams to deal with expanded vulnerabilities (basically, everyone’s house and home Wi-Fi). In the meantime, managers can encourage best practices, such as staying off of public Wi-Fi networks, making sure their encryption software is up-to-date and securing at-home networks. Share these easy-to-follow cybersecurity tips that were just released by the FTC.
4. Provide Encouragement and Support
This is an increased time of stress, and some people may be struggling with the transition to remote working along with caring for family members and friends. Check in with people. Remind them that they can reach out. Encourage them to stand up and move around every hour—working from home is not an excuse for an activity tracker reading 800 steps at four in the afternoon. The vast majority of managers I know care deeply about their teams’ health and well-being. As a leader, it will go a long way if you make sure your team knows it too.
It’s hard to know what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, but leaders are in a position to minimize business disruption and give their people everything they need to succeed.
If you’ve got more tips, I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment below.
Senior Vice President at Talent Solutions TAPFIN North America
In this article, I share some observations about the sudden changes in the way we work, the unprecedented strain on IT infrastructure and what companies can do now to minimize disruption. (Also, if you’ve had trouble with collaboration tools or lost your network connection recently, this explains why).