I have a confession to make: I was never fully comfortable with people working from home more than one day a week. There, I said it.
I have a high-touch, highly-collaborative leadership style. I like real, human interaction — the kind that relies on facial expression and body language to gain a full perspective of an issue, idea, project, or feedback. Plus, I like the constant hum of conversation and friendly banter. And I live for a good burst of contagious laughter.
It always worked out just fine to have individuals work remotely for a day or two a week. We’ve been doing it for years. However, now that our new reality is EVERYONE working from home ALL THE TIME, I have some pivoting to do. Maybe you do, too.
If taking your company or your department from an on-site, face-to-face work environment to being completely remote was a jarring experience, here are a few things to keep in mind as you lead your team. Above all, you want to ensure they are engaged and productive while we ride out the coronavirus social distancing era.
EMAIL ALONE WON’T CUT IT
Now that people can’t stop by my office to talk, my inbox is more crowded than ever. That means I need to be extremely diligent about checking it more frequently and reading each email more closely (no scanning!) in order to craft a clear, relevant response that decreases the need for long back-and-forth threads.
What I truly look forward to is an instant message or a video meeting invitation. Virtual brainstorms, chats and strategy sessions work so much better and produce great outcomes when the team is visually working together and everyone is feeling seen and heard. Plus, these sessions help combat isolation. We use such tools as WebEx, Google Hangouts and Slack to work better with each other and with clients.
ARTICULATE DAILY WORK AND BANDWIDTH
I ask managers to share to-do lists for everyone on their team, as well as project hot sheets. Leadership has also scheduled time for workers to discuss difficult issues. That way, we can help prioritize tasks and address concerns (such as people having too much on their plate) that may result in someone needing other support throughout the day.
I also keep regular weekly check-ins with all managers. We discuss client and project status updates, but I’m also looking to take their temperature and that of their team. It’s important to keep an eye on morale and gain an understanding of what additional mentoring or nurturing might be needed on an individual level. This holds true for our clients, too — this is all new to them as well, and we want them to know we’re here for them in every way.
SHIFT YOUR PROACTIVE THINKING ABOUT CLIENTS AND CUSTOMERS
Because of the major societal impact coronavirus is having, we have shifted our thinking on what clients might need to do for their customers and are advising accordingly.
We continually ask ourselves, what do they need now that they didn’t before? It could be new internal messaging to colleagues, help with crisis planning, or market-facing information on the supply chain and operations.
From there, we think about what opportunities do they have that they didn’t have before? We’re helping many of our clients provide perspective on this crisis and how it can affect their industry and customers.
From a PR perspective, we are helping our clients who have unique expertise pitch their insight and POVs to some of the top business publications in the world.
We’re also looking for new opportunities to connect on social media, provide different messaging, and develop creative content that is audience-specific. When it comes to how best to reflect the new reality, each communication channel and message needs to be examined to ensure they sound appropriate given the changing circumstances.
KEEP IT REAL
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to ask people both internally and externally how it’s going. Now more than ever, we need to take time to talk to our team members about their triumphs and struggles, both professionally and personally.
We've even scheduled virtual get-togethers to share lighthearted stories and a beer or two. (You might have to adjust that last one based on your organization.)
Stay positive and determined — we will get through this!