Working from home is not a recently-introduced trend. Global teams, remote workers with flexible schedules and people who prefer the comfort of their own home over travelling long distances to get to the office have long been part of the business world.
These days, however, there is something else that’s been forcing everyone to work from home and that is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. The invisible enemy has disrupted our daily and professional lives, forcing everyone to adapt to a new working environment with little to no preparation.
Employees all over the world had no choice but to quarantine themselves and work remotely. With such a colossal change for many people who were once used to the office lifestyle, outcomes such as stress, employee burnout, low levels of productivity and miscommunication started to emerge. Add the heightened uncertainty, sense of dislocation and pressurized conditions to the picture and you get one big bowl of daily hardships.
It became troublesome for team members to adjust to all that’s happening but imagine what managers and team leaders are going through. The leaders of businesses and companies from all over the world are now facing a new set of challenges. Some of those challenges include how to support continued learning from a distance, how to keep employees motivated and in touch, how to improve the emotional well-being of team members,keep productivity levels high and get work done, despite the situation.
The following article will present effective ways to manage your team while social distancing. We will talk about how to manage team members smartly during these difficult times and not risk projects getting delayed. All hope is not lost. Social distancing may have changed things dramatically but a good manager remains a good manager despite the situation. Not just that but with the help of technology, tons of useful meeting management tools and communication platforms, you can definitely save your business and keep your employees’ productivity levels high.
How to Manage Your Team While Social Distancing?
- Manage Your Expectations
Remember that the majority of teams are used to working at the office and all that comes along with it – socialization with other team members, synchronous work, standardization of daily operations and regular stand-up meetings or morning huddle meetings while having a morning coffee. Team members are accustomed to working together, under the same working conditions, following the same well-established schedule.
In a quarantine environment, managers must find a way to smoothly transition their team members to asynchronous work and personalization. That means that managers have to adjust their expectations for how work will be done. It might be time to loosen up deadlines and previously established ways of completing tasks. Focus on results and offering flexibility, rather than micromanaging from a distance. Let employees accomplish their responsibilities in their own terms, at least at the beginning of the shift. Give them some time to adjust and adapt.
- Change your Attitude
IF you’re wondering how to manage your team while social distancing, you have to start with attitude. Yes, a lot is happening and many new challenges are arising in front of you, however, you shouldn’t be gloomy or pessimistic. Good leaders stay calm regardless of the situation. Your role is to inspire and set a good example as team members will inevitably look up to you for inspiration and assurance during those difficult times.
Try to paint a positive picture so that the employees can find meaning and purpose in their work during quarantine. Remind them of the advantages of the situation, including how working from home provides an opportunity for coming up with creative solutions and innovative ideas. Invite your team to use this quarantine as a stimulus for fresh ideas.
- Think about Virtual Team Building Activities
Team building activities have tons of proven positive outcomes such as increased productivity, collaboration and motivation, as well as bonding and establishing better relationships between team members. Team buildings used to be all about outings, seminars, trips, dinners, etc. but in quarantine, we can’t really do that. Don’t worry, though, as there are plenty of ways to still conduct team building activities, while everyone is at home in front of their computer.
If you’re the manager, think of creative ways to involve your team, despite the distance. A simple quiz night or playing online bingo can do wonders for your team members who are definitely feeling disconnected from one another.
👉 Check out some ideas for virtual team building activities during quarantine.
- Monitor Engagement and Stress Levels
Make it perfectly clear to your team members that your main concern is their well-being. Monitor their engagement and stress levels by periodically asking them to rate the level of stress they are currently feeling and the level of overall engagement. Sometimes, it’s helpful to refer to actual quantitative responses rather than relying on intuition. If you see a drastic tip in employee engagement or stress levels, you should definitely consider ways of improving the situation.
Remember, humans are social creatures who long to belong. Therefore, despite the conditions of quarantine, team members should feel included and safe to contribute and learn without fear of being punished. You have to create and sustain such conditions in order to acknowledge their humanity and allow them to contribute and perform at their best. Your business or organization will be only benefiting from such a positive online working environment.
- Frequent Communication
It’s pretty straightforward – you have to stay in frequent contact with your team members. Several researches have concluded that shorter but frequent communication cycle times are effective in building engagement and sustaining morale. Fortunately, there are plenty of instant messaging apps, video conferencing tools and project management platforms that allow you to check in with your team on a regular basis.
Don’t let a day pass without checking in with your employees. A huddle is a must, ideally with all team members having their cameras turned on. Have a different meeting leader every week so that all employees will have a chance to be responsible for the meeting. Set expectations for these regular meeting sessions and require everyone to be present, not distracted and give their inputs during the virtual meeting.
- Interpret Tone and Voice
It’s difficult to interpret your employees’ emotions when you are not present in the same room or office. You can’t depend on body language and facial expressions while working remotely so you have to look for other indicators such as tone, voice and written communication to determine emotions, feelings and conflict.
Patterns in the tone of written and voice communication can tell you a lot. Pay close attention to rate, volume, pitch, inflection of voice communication and any types of physical gestures in video communication. If you know your team well, changes in these patterns will certainly help you identify if someone needs additional support or is experiencing some difficulties.
Ultimately, just because you have to stay at home because of the pandemic and you have to manage your team while social distancing, doesn’t mean that you should stop learning. If one thing doesn’t work, try another. There are plenty of ways to adjust and find that balance, despite the ongoing uncertainty in our lives due to the pandemic.
Communicate frequently, hold surveys, have virtual team building sessions and lift their spirits as much as you can. If you do so successfully, you won’t see much difference in work output, productivity levels and motivation. Remember, it’s still your team, after all. You build it and lead it in an office and you can do it just as good from your home.