For many of us teleworking is a new way of doing business that we have little experience with. Leaders and managers that have always led their teams face-to-face may struggle with transitioning to this distance. If left unchecked these struggles can quickly lead to micro-management, over-tasking, and frustration; struggles that will ultimately degrade momentum and cohesion that may have thrived less than two weeks ago. Remember, this period in our professional lives is temporary, and soon we will be back in the office with our team. We must take steps now to adjust our leadership to grow through this period or else we will have to rebuild later.
We must recognize that this new work situation places competing priorities on our team. On the one hand they want to be productive and successful professionally, while on the other hand they have to entertain children that are no longer in school and, in some cases, balance their schedule with their spouses teleworking schedule. It is our job, as the leader, to empower and resource them to meet this new challenge without fear of reprimand for missing self-induced timelines or unclear expectations.
Establish Clear Expectations
Clearly communicating expectations for each team member, and the team as a whole, is vital when teleworking. This communication must be specific and verbalized, do not rely on non-verbal communication and implicit communication that may be lost over video conferencing or phone calls. Set realistic deadlines, define what done looks like for each task, and assign individuals or groups to each task. Without this clear communication we increase the chances that our expectations are not met and leads to friction and stress.
EQ Survival Guide for Teleworking Parents gives us some additional tips for teleworking with children in the home, another new experience for most people. When reading through this I stumbled upon a note that I think is important for leaders of teleworking teams. “Focus on the results you want, and those you can deliver.” This is important! Balancing desires against capabilities and limitations during this time reduces friction within the team. You may not be able to accomplish as much, initially, with your team teleworking; at least you are still accomplishing some things and you are not stagnant waiting for the office to reopen.
A phrase we use often in my workspace, that I think translates well to teleworking, is “Work to task, not to time.” By clearly articulating what must be accomplished each day or week allows each team member to prioritize their schedule to be successful.
Not Business As Usual
When our teams telework we must accept that “Business as usual” is not a realistic expectation. By understanding that team members have different needs when working from home than from the office we can maintain productivity without draining the energy and undermining any cohesion.
When we are working together in the office we are able to set daily schedules and mitigate distractions for our team; when we are teleworking, and children are not in school, we must accept that our team will have uncontrollable distractions that throw off schedules. Where we once had the ability to call emergency or unscheduled meetings, now we must provide some notice and context prior to, or risk no-shows and wasted time.
Social interactions in the office provide an opportunity to temporarily “Unplug” and refresh, but the solitude of a home office does not offer this same opportunity. Teammates may feel isolated and, thus, unmotivated when first starting to telework. Encourage your team to establish effective teleworking habits that allow them to be productive; see these 5 Tips For Effective Teleworking.
Finally, leave space for your team to experiment with what works for them when teleworking. Are they naturally early risers, and find themselves more productive in the morning? If so, avoid late afternoon meetings that extend their day. The opposite is true for your night owls on the team. As the leader it is up to you to find the balance in leading your team through this period in a manner that maintains momentum.
What have you found that works, or does not work, in leading your teleworking team? Leave a comment!
During the month of April I will be offering complimentary Lunch and Learns, remotely, for anyone interested. These Lunch and Learns will focus on promoting meaningful connections between team members who find themselves navigating this new teleworking situation. For more information, or to schedule a Lunch and Learn, visit our appointment page.