COVID-19 has changed the way that we all work, possibly forever, with teams which would never have worked from home under normal circumstances now forced to do so. The nature of IT means sometimes it's not the best use of time to be in the office. Here are my thoughts on how best to manage your team who are fresh to this way of working, based on my experience managing a partially remote team.
The first big challenge (which will be amplified during periods of local lockdown, self-isolation or quarantine), is loneliness; humans are social animals and taking away the chat from the office has an impact, particularly on those who live alone.
The first step to take is to have regular one-to-one calls with your team, preferably using video conferencing so that you can read body language, gauge reactions and generally get a feel for how people are feeling.
Obviously the one-to-one is an ideal time to talk through work items, but use it for a wider chat too; ask about family and downtime things.
Hold team meetings and talk about anything except work. 5 or 6 people, again using videoconferencing, just chatting about life, funny things, and whatever they would normally talk about around the water cooler. This does wonders for staff morale.
Both of these can be achieved using a tool such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and we can help get you set up with either.
How can you ensure that your team are being as productive as usual? It's a challenge for sure!
The biggest message I would say is that you know your team, so have faith in your instincts. Hopefully you can trust them to work properly, but review the output of their work and make sure its up to scratch.
Sometimes it can help to keep a track of ongoing work by using software such as the planner built into the Office365 stack.
One thing we would say is don't start looking for reports of logon times and emails sent. If you are doing this for the team you either have trust issues or your team is not really a team and you need to work on that. These reports should only be used for gathering evidence around know problems, not to find problems.
Burnout is real and very easy to fall into without realising. When working from home it's all too easy to start working as soon as you get up and before you know it, suddenly it's 8pm! Without realising it, your normal 7.5 hour day has accidentally become a 12 hour day. Initially this can feel great; getting loads done, but sooner or later it will take it's toll on you. This is something to be mindful of for both yourself and the rest of your team.
To keep this in check, ensure that breaks are a key part of the working day. Set up a routine and make sure that you stick to it. This can be a simple 8am start, 12:30 lunch (and do take an actual lunch break, not just eating at your desk whilst working) and 5PM finish, through to a much more varied plan depending on what works for you. Just make sure some form of plan does exist.
For your team talk to them about the same. Ask them what their routine is and make sure its in the front of their mind
Your team now is able to be in the office 5 minutes after waking up if they choose, or pop back in at 10PM for 30 minutes. Use this flexibility to ensure that your team are working to the best of their ability. Allow people time to do the washing, go shopping, go for a walk with the dog or look after their children, just make sure that you are communicating around when people are working and track their output. The key take away is to watch people's output, not stricly monitor their time sat at the desk.
Hopefully you were in a position to work from home already, but if not then you may have had to make some compromises in the technology used. Ideally you need to ensure that all of your team have the right equipment to be productive - a laptop, mouse, webcam, second monitor, headset for meetings etc. This is key for everyone to feel valued and to enable them to be the best they can.
Whilst setting people up for remote working, you need to take ownership of security too. It's fine to be at the foot of a steep learning curve, but there are threat actors out there looking to take advantage, so ensure that you keep all of your security fully up to date and in place and don't deviate from policies just to 'get stuff done'.
How Freethought can help?
Here at Freethought we are used to the challenges of working from home and can help you and your team get the best out of the systems you have or we can implement additional services if needed.
We are offering a free 30 minute consultation for any business to help remediate any nagging issues you have since the move to work from home. This can be something simple like a printer not working through to looking at ensuring all your staff have the appropriate licenses automatically deployed to keep everyone working at full speed.