Learning to work from home

We are all into at the very least week four of lockdown and the initial shock, chaos, upheaval and even novelty of working from home and staying home have probably worn off for most. This is now the new norm and the new way for the foreseeable future.

So, how do we keep our teams and people engaged, motivated and well during these unprecedented times? 

A few ideas below that may help.

Connect, connect, connect. Sounds really obvious right, but easily overlooked as the minutes and hours slip by each day. Arrange a regular time to talk to each individual once a day or at least every other day. Don’t be tempted to give in to a quick email or whats app – “hope you are OK?”, “yep, fine thanks”. That is NOT connecting. Pick up the phone and have a conversation, be present, be genuine, be kind and caring. 
Fine – is not an acceptable response.  You have not checked in properly if you have only received the great all-time default response “fine thanks”. Fine is a cover-up, get out of gaol, hiding, lazy kind of response and tells you nothing about how a person is feeling. You know your people and should know what floats their boat. Use those lovely open-ended questions to get people talking, “tell me how your day went yesterday?”, “how are your children/partner/parents/boyfriend…… coping?”, “any thoughts on the recent team Zoom meeting?”, “what does your day look like today?”. Anything that encourages people to say more than “I’m fine thanks!”, and therefore enables you to understand how they are feeling and therefore better able to provide the right support.

Listen for anxiety – some people are very scared and anxious about the pandemic and will be internalising these fears, worried that if they articulate them they will appear unable to cope and seem weak. Probe gently and if you are getting a zero response you could talk about your concerns and worries (without going overboard and creating heightened anxiety) – this can encourage them to open up and in doing so lessen their load. “It’s good to talk”!

Practical support – offer tangible tips and guidance to help your people manage their day. Examples could be:
– Stick to a routine, don’t be tempted to stay up late and then be in a rush to start work due to sleeping over.
– Treat each working day as a normal working day, be at your desk ready to work based on your normal schedule.
– Calendar blocking, allocating chunks of time and non-working time. 9-10 checking emails, 10-10.30 coffee, 10.30-12.30 working, 12.30-13.30 exercise and lunch and so on
– Eat and drink as you normally would at work – have a glass of water on your desk etc
– Switch off news-feeds and social media alerts, to many distractions are – well distracting, and we are all distracted enough as it is!
– Those with school-age children at home need to know that they can work in a flexible and agile way and have your full support to make reasonable adjustments to their working day. They may need to spend chunks of time homeschooling or just being there as a parent. Help them to manage their expectations and of course manage yours. 
– Encourage your people to move regularly, even if it’s just going and making a coffee or sorting the laundry out. Keep the oxygen and therefore energy circulating.

Patience is a virtue – and much needed to cope with new ways of communicating, slow home broadband, interruptions from family members, house mates and the list goes on. Expect things and stuff to take longer, it’s inevitable.

Be creative and have some light-hearted moments – goodness only knows we all need a bit of that right now. Your team will have a ton of ideas on how to do this, but to get you going here are a few:
– Weekly photo challenge – “show us your home working space”, everyone gets to vote for the most inspiring/funniest/tidiest etc
– Hat day – for your next zoom meeting pick a hat and wear it for the first five minutes of the meeting
– Virtual quizzes and or drinks, coffee and cake
– Home bake-off challenge (if you can find flour), everyone bakes a cake and shares a photo
– Share feel-good news items and then create your own
– Trust your team – they will have already worked all the above out and more. So ask them as a team or individually:
– How can we support each other through this?
– What is your top working from home tips?
– What do you need from me?
– What’s the best way for us to communicate as a team?
– How shall we socialise?
– How can we make each other smile and even laugh?

You’ve got this guys! Am sure you are doing all of the above and more, feel free to share any other ideas, we would love to hear them.