Your still the manager you have always been.

Managing a Work from Home Team – A guide for managers in this new paradigm

COVID 19 has my team working all over the place!  Some at home, some in an office others in remote offices!  I can’t deal with this!!!  Is this a conversation you have heard or had yourself?   Take a deep breath, relax and be the leader that you are.   In reality, the only thing that has changed is that your team may not be working in their normal places.  So maintain the routine of your team as much as practicable.

Firstly, what level of trust do you have in your team member?   Has their place of work changed that level of trust?  Of course not.  They are still the same person you manage day to day.  So continue to have that trust relationship with them.  

Lead your team.   Same things apply.  Your team need you to lead and support them with guidance and instruction as required.   This hasn’t changed either.  Leadership is probably more important when you team is working distributed.   We will come back to leadership.

Measure performance the same way you would in the office.   Don’t fall into the trap of setting “new” at home measures.  It will cost time and create unnecessary stresses in an already stressful situation.

Start and finish times and the hours worked each day.  Do they stay the same or can they change?  How flexible are you?  Monitor your team within the bounds of your level of trust.   Chances are they will be doing more work than normal without realising it.   Unless your team is time critical where you provide a service in certain predetermined hours, be a bit more flexible.   Discuss with each team member the hours they are working while remote.

Make sure you have your team meetings and your one to ones as normal.   With the technology available to us, these can be a video conference, teleconference or chat session.   Use whatever works for your team.  Just make sure you do have the meetings.   There will have to be a few new “rules” or behaviour expectations as technology tends to amplify different behaviours.   As an example, everyone will see a team member roll their eyes at the tedious elements of a meeting that we have to have.  It’s just that on a video conference every person’s face is on screen.  Everyone will see your and team members reactions.  Or it’s the little snort or giggle that is usually quiet enough no one hears it, will be pick up by all.  You can’t hide from technology!  The key is to not react at the time, address it with the individuals concerned directly after the meeting.

Leadership!   Now more than ever you need to be a leader.   Your team are in a foreign work environment and will have a range of new issues and problems.  Acknowledge them and work through them together to find resolution.   And it is ok to have the same issue and concerns.  Just because you lead a team doesn’t make you immune!  Just make sure you discuss them with your leader.   Every day needs to be an R U OK day.   Ask your team members daily, are you ok.   And do the same things you would do if you were in the office.  Maybe your practice is to walk around each team members desk and say “g’day” every morning.  Have the “water cooler” conversations as you normally do on a daily basis.  Nothing is stopping you doing the same thing now.  Just use technology to send an email, text or private message to each team member.   Keep those private conversations and contacts happening.

You will pick up fairly quickly if a working from home situation is not working out.  So have a plan “B, C, D, …”.   Chances are there will be dedicated workspaces in your organisation to accommodate those who have circumstances mean that working from home won’t work. 

Things will happen, people will have accidents.   Don’t assume they will increase because your team members are working in a foreign working environment.  Do have the conversation about being more vigilant.  Have a discussion with your organisation’s workplace safety team about the strategies you can use in this abnormal working environment.  Ask them to have a conversation at your team meeting about the common accidents that happen in these working environments and the extra things your team should think about while working from home.  When an accident happens, avoid the knee jerk reactions.  Manage it the same way you would any other incident.  It has happened.  Nothing will change the situation.   Manage it and move on.

The key to all of these suggestions is maintain the norm, as much as possible.   Humans are creatures of habit.  We don’t like change!   So keep the change to a minimum.  Just be normal.

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