Structuring your day for you and your team

July 13, 2021

[This is a guest blog by the fantastic Holly Fawcett from SocialTalent.]

In the past, working from home meant that you had the house to yourself as the kids were at school, most likely your partner was in the office that day, working from home was a dream, a super productive day where we had no interruptions. 

But alas, this is not the same. So in this blog , we will address three of the core issues with working from home during this crisis for you as a manager

  1. communication
  2. structure and expectations
  3. compassion.

#1 Communication

So number one, communication. Under normal circumstances, loneliness is one of the biggest struggles of remote workers. This is one of the biggest challenges for remote workers.

When we work in the office, the feeling of being in the physical proximity of your colleagues who you know brings an immense sense of wellbeing. And as a manager, it's your job to keep open communication as much as you can. 

There are three specific actions that you must take.

Action One is to start each workday with your whole team. In an all-hands call, make this video call with webcams on and set your display the gallery view. So you can see everyone at the same time, kind of like a Brady Bunch screen.

If having cameras on is not the norm at your company, change the rules.

These are extraordinary times. And we must stay connected. Use this time not just to set out today's actions and tasks and maybe check up on yesterday's progress. But also to get a free form conversation going about how each of your team members is feeling. 

And speaking about easy routine,...

Action Two is to then follow up with each team member individually.

Your job is to make sure that no one in your team feels isolated and has an opportunity to speak. You ask questions, let them do most of the talking. Schedule these check-in calls for about 20 minutes with an agenda to just talk about stuff that you'd normally talk about while you're out getting a coffee together. 

Action Three. Let your team know when you're available, which really should be the vast majority of the time. This is when your team needs you the most. So let them know if you're unavailable because maybe you're on another call or you need to do personal stuff.

#2 Structure and expectations

Okay, part two, structure, process, and expectations. 

Likely, any pre-planned activities, projects, and routines from the past are subject to change. It is highly likely that ‘the way we do things around here’ does not apply in some cases anymore. The structure of knowing what we're doing and how to do it was comforting and offers stability to people. But now this might be gone. 

So you must re-establish structure. I recommend that you use open collaborative tools for the entire team regardless of whether they are office-based, remote, or hybrid. This will offer transparency across your team as to who's doing what, and identify where there are dependencies. You can use agile tools like Trello, Monday, or other Kanban boards, where it's clear who's doing what, what's still to be done. And what's complete. 

These are transparent for everyone to check in on and know what all of the team members are doing. You can easily set up a simple process whereby people account for what work they're doing by keeping the Kanban board up to date. 

During this time getting tasks done can also be complicated. Because let's face it, most of our team members will have something extra going on. 

Some of your team members may have very young children crawling around and demanding to play on our laptops. Some may have to juggle the school runs with their partner’s schedule, and let’s face it, the housework and shopping aren’t going to do themselves. This is hardly the most productivity-inspiring environment we'd imagined that working from home would be. 

Therefore, as a manager, you have to account for this and factor it into your expectations around work. My advice is to lead with trust - you employ adults, they will get their work done. 

It just might be at a different cadence that you're used to seeing from your team. 

Parents might get their work done very early in the morning, or while their kids are engaged in something for an hour or two without them. But for this transparency to be real, it means shifting from a focus on input to focus on output. 

A great way to set the tone is to be accountable and honest with your team. 

When you say you're going to do something, then do it. While you probably can't communicate every single project you're working on with your team. If you can talk about maybe obstacles that you have, or how your projects are progressing in an honest way, your team is likely to follow suit.

#3 Leading with compassion

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, is leading with compassion. 

This can be really tough and sometimes emotional. But, we just need to keep communicating this through both words and actions. 

As we get used to this new normal of working remotely or in the hybrid model, we mustn’t lose sight of what we each see as personal fulfillment. So find a way to celebrate successes virtually with your team, continue to have individual development plan conversations with your team, and enable them to seek out learning opportunities and ways to stretch themselves. 

When you're on all-hands calls with your fellow managers, speak to those managers about opportunities and projects their teams are working on, and relate those to your team if they could lend a hand or join that team on a project basis. 

But more than anything, look after the emotional wellbeing of your team and respect the constraints that they are under. 

If their one-year-old is on their lap while they're on a conference call - instead of think thinking that that's unprofessional, maybe just say ‘hi’. 

If a team member had a set routine in their home that between 0900 and 1200 is homeschooling time and they're not going to be online then so be it. Showing compassion as a manager will get the most from your team. 

For further resources and helpful guides for managers on everything from video conferencing tools, you can use to task management software, and even health and wellbeing classes. 

Go to the resources section of our website where we'll keep everything in one place for easy reach a completely free to access. 

Thanks for reading.

Holly.

[If you'd like to read more about Leading Remote Teams just click this link]


Holly Fawcett
Director of Content @SocialTalent
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