COVID-19 has drastically changed the business landscape. For many employees and managers, their homes recently became their workplaces for the very first time. And it’s going to take some time to adjust to this paradigm shift.
Working from home brings new challenges to managers and their teams. For some, it can mean more distractions from everyday work tasks and learning to balance work with responsibilities at home, such as children. For others, working from home can mean that the line between work and personal life is blurry. Many managers today are left wondering:
- What’s the best way to maximize my productivity and my team’s productivity while working from home?
- How do I separate work from personal life? Is it ok if I am not available for a meeting because of a personal commitment?
- How can I lead a team virtually without coming off as a micromanager?
In our recent webinar, ExecOnline teamed up with Professor Homa Bahrami, Senior Lecturer at UC Berkeley Haas, to answer your most pressing questions about working from home and managing a virtual workforce. Professor Bahrami shares practical tips you can apply today, both personally and with your team:
Develop a Virtual Routine With Your Team
Bring your team together and ask, ‘How do we want to operate?’ When managing a virtual team, Professor Bahrami recommends having even more interactions than you did in-person. She suggests:
Frequent team meetings: As a team leader, make sure your team knows exactly when you are going to engage together. Have a team meeting on Monday to kick off the week. Use this time to:
- Check in with how everyone is feeling. Ask your team, ‘Where are you at on a scale of 1 to 10?’ Take the opportunity to take the pulse of your team, listen, and empathize.
- Ensure the team understands what deliverables they should be focusing on this week.
Host another team meeting on Friday. Use this time to look back on what you achieved! For example, we made 5 deliverables this week. These deliverables may not have been anything life-changing, but they are concrete deliverables. Make sure to celebrate those successes!
Daily 1:1s: Depending on the size of your team, Professor Bahrami recommends that managers schedule daily 1:1s with each member of their team. You will find that the daily check-ins really help because these meetings may only last ten minutes, but having this set time each day can stop you from micromanaging. Making these check-ins a regular part of your day when at home can also be a great way to add more structure for your team.
Mid-week office hours: Offer set time when you are available midweek. Your team may not contact you during office hours, but just providing this opportunity can go a long way.
“We find that in a time like this, predictability in a very unpredictable environment is crucial. So be predictable with your very concrete tasks. Be predictable with deliverables. Be predictable with your routines, including 1:1s, team meetings, office hours. And absolutely make sure you acknowledge, empathize, and listen to their concerns.” – Professor Homa Bahrami
Develop a Virtual Routine at Home for Yourself
While it is easy to create a master to-do list of all the things you need to cover in a day, this can be especially challenging when you don’t have a traditional work schedule at home. Creating a virtual routine allows you to add structure to your day, and it can go a long way in making you feel productive, fulfilled, and organized.
Professor Bahrami suggests we look at our calendars and block off time when we are available for virtual meetings. These windows of time are called “focused sprints.” In addition to blocking off time when you are working, block off time that is dedicated solely to YOU. It’s critical to your mental health to take that time to yourself and how you spend this time is up to you – go for a walk, have lunch with your kids, attend a virtual happy hour.
Below you will find a few examples of schedules to bucketize your time. These are just examples of what could work for some people — but remember every employee is different, and every employee has different responsibilities outside of work. As a manager, be patient with yourself and also be patient with your team during this unprecedented time.
Looking for more tips to manage your virtual team? ExecOnline’s full webinar led by Professor Homa Bahrami is now available on-demand.
Words of Wisdom
If you’ve been feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or confused as you balance both everyday life and work at home, know that you’re not alone.
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