The Covid-19 pandemic is a unique catalyst that accelerates the trend to work from home. We now have proof that teleworking can be efficient for businesses and attractive to employees. It works as long as certain decisive rules are being followed.
The Covid-19 pandemic is the most radical global social experiment since World War II. What will the consequences be? Among other aspects, work from home will become more widespread, even after the expected full economic recovery. There is growing evidence that working from home can significantly increase team productivity (see this article, for example). This effect has been documented long before the Covid-19 pandemic began (see an article, Harvard Business Review, 2014).
I am convinced that working from home can be more effective than on-premise office work when certain aspects are emphasized.
- Continuously work on the motivation of the team. It can be a challenge to motivate someone. Demotivating, on the other hand, is a trivial task. One silly joke or lack of attention may have a devastating effect. Once the damage has been done, restoring the previous status quo is sometimes impossible. Communication training and coaching by a competent expert or seasoned manager can improve the motivational aspect of online work. Do not experiment with the motivation of your team.
- Sell it to the team: Leadership must be good at “selling” the new working-from-home model. You must, however, genuinely like it to be able to sell effectively (see the related article HERE). Do not “hard-sell” it. A careless and critical remark from the leadership in a meeting may permanently damage the model. Use a trusted person with extensive experience.
Also, eliminating offices favoring the work-from-home model may be a good idea to use those funds to increase the team’s compensation.
- Maintain extreme fairness. This point should be self-explanatory.
- Establish an online-centric communication policy. It should ensure a flawless exchange of information between all team members. Lower the threshold of “pinging” someone online to get help or just share opinions. The communication software must work flawlessly.
- Work less with e-mail and more with task management tools and automatically generated reports.
- “Automate everything” should be your motto. It helps establish the “tool guy” role who will handle work automation.
- Establish a comfortable work-from-home environment. Several computer displays and reliable printers and routers are indispensable. Use a redundant “fallback” internet connection.
- Make sure that people don’t work themselves to death.
- Missing feedback can cause anxiety and lead to depression. Make sure that management and team lead continuously monitor the team sentiment. Have frequent one-on-one virtual feedback chats.
- Critical thinking: In the age of political correctness, creativity may suffer. It is even more vital when working from home. It is up to the senior management to establish a “no-fear,” socially safe environment. It is likely a delicate balance but necessary nonetheless. Everyone should be comfortable with a variety of ideas and opinions. Absolute taboo should be taboo itself.
- Physical exercise. It has become all too easy not to leave your home at all – virtually everything can be delivered to your home on demand. It might be tempting to neglect the need to get sufficient physical activity. My advice is: don’t. It is not only crucial for your physical health; it is also evidently vital to your mental performance. I am sure your doctor will agree. Jogging, weight training, taking longer walks – whatever is your favorite exercise, do it regularly.
- Security: I have not previously mentioned security because it is such a vast field that it deserves a separate article. Independently of your professional context (small autonomous team, freelance, independent consulting, or corporate), you need help in the world of online work-from-home. There are just too many pitfalls and risks to be ignored. Consult your favorite security expert to manage security risks systematically.
- Finally, you still need physical team meetings. They should be rare but not entirely absent from your schedule. New hires must be invited to such meetings to build the necessary trust. Trust is the ultimate enabler in the world of virtual teams.
I have worked from home or in a remote office for years and have gotten used to it and learned to appreciate it. Now, since many of us do not have any choice but to join the work-from-home revolution, this trend is quickly becoming a true game-changer.
I propose to embrace this change actively. I am convinced that we will come stronger from this crisis. Let’s enjoy this journey together.
I am a project manager (Project Manager Professional, PMP), a Project Coach, a management consultant, and a book author. I have worked in the software industry since 1992 and as a manager consultant since 1998. Please visit my United Mentors home page for more details. Contact me on LinkedIn for direct feedback on my articles.