How To Work Remotely and Lead Teams Effectively

Laurie Riihimaki

The world is an uncomfortable place right now. A global umbrella of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety has opened up above us. However, life must go on. It may not be our everyday normal, but it’s important that we try to make it as normal as possible as we all hunker-down together, but separate.

One of the biggest challenges for individuals during this time is in staying productive. It’s common in situations such as these to let the fear of the unknown slow workflow, shake up structure, and fill our minds. But, there are ways to combat these interferences.

If you are the leader of a team, you must try your best to keep the schedule as structured as possible. This will not only help you, but it will also help your team. Though at this time, you may not physically be allowed near your team, as they perform their work from home, it is still essential that you let them know that you’re available.

Likewise, if you are an employee working on a team, it is vital that you are accountable for organizing, structuring, normalizing (as much as possible), and adhering to your workflow and productivity.

What Makes Working From Home So Different?

Although, it may just be temporary working at home can have a lot of negative effects on the efficiency and satisfaction of your work. In the beginning, you may be tempted to sleep in, negate responsibilities, and throw yourself a little party. But, don’t! Halting production and eliminating your structure will only lead to depression, anxiety, and make it harder to get back into the swing of things once your party ends or self-isolation is no longer mandatory.

It is mission-critical to hold on to as much structure as possible during this time. That means, getting to bed on time, waking up early, showering, and getting dressed as if you are going to the office. You don’t have to wear exactly what you would wear to the office, especially if it’s a pair of heels and a dress, but at least change out of your pajamas and be ready for a video meeting at any time. The switch from relaxation clothes, such as pajamas or sweatpants, to real everyday clothes, such as pants and a blouse, will send a signal to your brain that you are ready to work. Your clothes will literally put you in the right mindset to get work accomplished.

According to a study done in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, the research found that people performed better on their tasks when their clothes held symbolic meaning. Or in other words, if you wear pajamas to “work” while you’re temporarily working from home, all you’ll want to do is sleep. However, if you wear regular clothes, you will be more apt to get work tasks done.

Working from your couch or bed may also seem like an excitingly cushy idea, but again, don’t do it! This will make it harder for you to turn your work brain ‘off’ for the day. And, nobody wants to be stuck in work-mode! By performing your daily work in a more neutral space in your home, such as on a desk or even a kitchen table, productivity will be encouraged. Many individuals do not have the luxury of a home office, and that’s ok. You can easily set up a small area with all your work essentials in order to encourage productivity and normalize your routine as much as possible.

How Much Socialization Is Necessary Without Harming Workflow?

Another aspect of your work-life that you must keep intact is the social ingredient. Of course, communication is important to continue effective processes when it comes to daily tasks and duties, but socialization beyond that is also vital to your mental and emotional health. After a few days at home, you may be surprised at how much you miss having your team around you. The collaborative energy that surges from a group of hardworking individuals is hard to match and it can make working from home a challenge. You may feel less motivated to perform your tasks and you will certainly miss simple, even if brief, conversations you have with the other people in the office.

But, working at home doesn’t have to completely compromise the social aspect of the workplace. You don’t have to feel isolated and alone. There are many resources you can utilize that will give you the social closeness that you need without harming productivity. Starting Slack message threads or group messages with your fellow team members to create a feeling of closeness during this strange and unfamiliar time will ultimately increase the satisfaction of your workday and help you ‘keep going.’

Of course, you don’t want to interfere with your daily tasks by chatting on Slack all day, which is why virtual co-lunching is also encouraged. Whether you opt to FaceTime or use Google Hangouts, taking an hour break for lunch with your coworkers, as if all is normal, will help to beat the blues of being isolated, while also further reinforcing a normalized structure. Then, when the lunch is over, go back to work as usual and continue communicating via slack, conference calls, or in whatever ways you work best together, but separate.

Socialization is necessary, but make sure you are not being distracted by the people in your physical space. It is important to set boundaries with family and roommates when you are actively working so that your productivity is not compromised. If there are distractions that you cannot easily escape from, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones to limit the sounds around you to help you stay focused on the task at hand.

How to Manage A Team Remotely

If you are leading a team during the pandemic, you may feel the pressure of keeping your team together when you cannot all physically be at the same place. But, there is no need to worry. There are a great many ways to encourage and aid in a team’s productivity without being physically present.

A vital part of this is communication. Consistent communication throughout the day to all team members is what will create normalcy throughout this time of separation. Team members should, of course, be accountable for their tasks and duties, but they should never feel alone while doing so. As a leader, it is your job to remind them that you are there for support, questions, encouragement, and whatever else they may need.

If it is not counter-productive to your processes, a team check-in at the beginning of the workday with everyone on the call may help to set the tone of efficiency for the day. A check-in with all individuals involved will also remind team members that they are all in this together and though their environment has changed, they are still at work.

An early morning check-in ritual will also help to communicate the priorities of the day so that every team member is essentially on the same page. This will ensure effective work cadence.

The Importance Of Breaks

Whether you are a leader or a team member, it is vital to your workday to take breaks. In the office, we take breaks more often than we realize, even if it’s just participating in thirty seconds of silly banter with a coworker. One of the curses of working from home is that we forget to take breaks. And breaks are absolutely essential for focus and productivity.

Scheduling in breaks is important to keep your brain fresh. Consider taking a stretch break or coffee break between big tasks. Or, take a break to make a personal call or to read a book for a few minutes. Breaking up your day with breaks will help you to set your mind at ease and make work seem less overwhelming.

Research has found that the ideal work and break ratio is 52-minute sprints followed by a 17-minute break. Similarly, the Pomodoro Technique is quite popular and shows high success rates for many. This involves 25-minute sprints of work followed by 5-minute breaks in between, with an additional 15-minute break at least once every two hours. That may sound like a lot of downtime, but science shows it’s effective!

The Power Of Positivity

The most critical point to remember at this time is that we are all in this together. No matter what, we must strive to create normalcy and encourage peace of mind. The time frame of this ‘new normal’ is uncertain, which is why we must do our best to accept it and flourish in it.

Routine and structure aid not only with effective workflow, but it also aids in keeping your mind from wondering about uncertainties. Accept what is happening, come to peace with it, and keep being your hardworking self with the support of your team.

FAQ:

  • What Makes Working From Home So Different?

The biggest difference in working from home is that your structure and routine is shaken. Your work environment is also different. Both of these factors can make being productive harder than normal.

  • How Can We Improve Our Productivity While Working From Home?

There are a few simple ways to improve productivity while working from home such as keeping a normal routine by waking up at the same time as you normally would and getting dressed and ready for the day. It is also important to set up a workspace away from the space you normally would use to relax.

  • How Much Socialization Is Necessary Without Harming Workflow?

It’s important to keep in contact with your co-workers during the day, however make sure you let the people in your space know when it is appropriate to converse with you and when you need to actively be working.

  • How Can You Manage A Team Remotely?

The biggest action you must take when managing a team remotely is to communicate. Communication should happen at the beginning of the day with all employees and throughout the day so that they know they are not alone.

  • Why Is It Important To Take Breaks?

Taking breaks is important for mental health and productivity. People who take breaks throughout their busy days end up getting more accomplished.

  • Why Is It Important To Stay Positive?

Positivity is important during any transition. Mindset is everything. During this time, know you are not alone. Accept the circumstances and learn to adapt to them and flourish in them.

 

 

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