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Weeks into lockdown – why revisit your WFH plans?

Weeks into lockdown – why revisit your WFH plans?

Many of us recently, hastily, became Home Workers.

By now you should have a good idea who on your team has taken to it like a duck to water, and which of your ducks may be visibly calm but paddling frantically below the surface. This has been a huge shift for both managers and staff. With more than a few tips articles out there, and a plethora of conflicting advice, it’s time now to pause and revisit your early decisions.

Check in daily? – only if that’s working.  

Video fatigue. In the early days of lockdown everyone’s diary filled up with check-ins – not just with teams but with friends and family as well. The novelty has worn off, we’ve settled into the new etiquette. Being on camera has become as normal as it can be stressful. Revisit what calls or video conferences you have in the calendar. What’s working, what isn’t? Are your daily catch-ups too much? Is your once a week company-wide town-hall enough? Or would twice a day be better but in smaller groups?

There isn’t a right answer. Review and renew what you first put in place based on how it is working. What is each call looking to achieve – a project catch-up? a general check in? are we sharing two way communications and are we making decisions? Who really needs to be there?

Check Your Tech, before you Wreck Your Tech.

There’s been a frantic rush in the past weeks to check does everyone have access to the right software, have strong enough broadband, have the laptop or printer that they need? What’s working, what isn’t?  You might have got new tools – are they they best option? Investing in services like Zoom or Microsoft Teams means people can fire off quick questions or catch up face to face. This will all result in more productive, happier and communicative team members, but if you invested in them when we first went to work from home are they being used? Have you committed to a solution, or is there time now to review the tools and check out alternatives? We will be working remotely, where possible, for months to come so a rushed decision now may have got you started, but the right decision will be better in the long term.

Encourage Breaks – Throughout the Day

Some studies are showing that people are working longer hours from home, and not taking the same breaks they would in the office. Lead by example. Show your team that you are taking your hour for lunch every day – and that you are not sending emails before 9am or after 6pm. It is too easy when we’re sitting in the same place all day to not allow ourselves to step away from our laptops. If you let your team do this you will not get the best out of them – and work will become a chore. Promoting a good balance is key.  This article in the financial times suggests there is increased risk of burnout. Get ahead of it. It’s likely that office workers, at least, will be working from home for several months.

Set Clear, Achievable Tasks

Setting clear, short term, goals will help people get through the day. This isn’t business as usual, a different approach might be needed in the short term as we pivot to the new long term. Make sure you keep communicating with each other.  As we’re no longer just sitting across the office from one another, think about how you can break complex tasks down to short term daily or weekly goals. Cutting tasks down like this will also make sure that people feel a sense of achievement regularly throughout the week – something we all need at the moment!

Stay Positive, but be Realistic. 

It is easy to panic. Most businesses have never been tested like this before – but remember that you worrying will not help your team. Presenting a calm exterior while confronting reality will help others stay calm and embrace the tasks ahead of them.  We are in for a long haul, not a sprint. Past the worst is not ‘out of the woods’, but we can be cautiously optimistic. Saying that, social distancing is likely to be in place well into 2021. Some measures suggested for allowing return to workplaces are tape on floor to enforce 2m distance, PPE in the workplace, disinfectant stations and staggered working times – but it seems if we can work from home, we will be working from home, so it makes sense to be regularly reviewing what’s working and what isn’t.

More than just the Day Job

You may have successfully got people doing their day-job – think about other processes that will also need to move to a remote paradigm. If someone leaves – how will you conduct an exit interview? reclaim equipment? How can you offer training, development and promotion? What processes can you put in place if someone will be moving team? Are you ready for new staff to be interviewed, trained, introduced to the team and start working completely remotely? It’s best to think about these now before they are urgent.

One Size doesn’t Fit All

There may not be one right solution. Yes company-wide solutions might be the best for scale, but as a manager you will know your team best – speak with them. A twice daily check in might work for 90% of the team – but who turns up with the camera off and never takes mute off – is it really working for them? Maybe, or maybe  they would be happier and more productive skipping the daily check ins and having a 1:1 phone call with you once a week. Maybe you are moving the new home workers to Teams, but you have an existing product team that have been working well remotely for years using Basecamp or Trello. If what they are doing isn’t broken, don’t fix it!