The pandemic has meant that many of us are now working from home on a regular basis, either permanently or as part of a hybrid home / office setup.
While working from home certainly has many benefits, it can present a number of challenges when managing a team. Lack of access to resources or information can be difficult – the simple act of asking a question to a colleague in an office situation suddenly becomes a much longer process – and remote working can also have a detrimental impact on an individual’s mental health, productivity, increasing feelings of social isolation and loneliness.
On Mental Health Awareness Week (9th-15th May), here are 5 key tips for managing teams that are working remotely.
Create a separate working environment
Many find that the commute to and from a workplace serves as point to separate ‘home’ from ‘work.’ Working in the same place that you live removes this, and so it is important to encourage your team members to set up (where possible) a designated space that can be used just for work-based activities. This doesn’t have to be an entire room, it can be the corner of a room that is used less frequently, but it should be an area that allows them to put away your things, log off and walk away at the end of a working day.
The working space should be kept clear of clutter and should only contain work-related items. Ask your team if there is anything that they need that would make their working space more comfortable.
Know when to switch off and encourage others to do the same
It’s important to remind your team to treat their day when working remotely as they would if they were working from a different location. Establish the working hours for the day and make the action of logging in and out be deliberate via a communication system.
Remember to take breaks (setting an alarm to do this is helpful) and eat lunch, leaving your working area when you do so. During your breaks it may be helpful for your mental wellbeing to go for a short walk or take a few minutes to practise breathing exercises and meditation. Remind your team to do the same, checking that they are doing so by asking them to communicate with their manager and avoid attempting to contact them during their break and lunch times.
Use a ‘chat’ system
Adopting a chat system such as Slack allows your team members to communicate quickly and effectively. The benefit of this sort of system is that multiple threads can be created for different things – celebrating wins and successes, checking on the wellbeing of your team, being accessible should any of the team wish to contact you and creating a virtual ‘water cooler’ for team members to interact with each other. It’s a great way to help boost the feeling of loneliness that some of your team members may be experiencing.
Focus on outcomes instead of processes
Working from home means that there is very little opportunity to keep track of productivity levels. Instead, focus on setting clear expectations and reasonable deadlines, clarifying what tasks need to be completed within a realistic timeframe. If necessary, set smaller deadlines to break larger projects down into chunks. This will help to lower stress levels for your team, and everyone is clear in what needs to be completed and when. Show trust in your team to do their jobs effectively.
Organise social interactions
Now that restrictions have lifted, organise social interactions to give the team an opportunity to relax and connect with their colleagues. This can be anything you like, or ask your team what sort of events or activities they would like to participate in and when they would like it to happen. Creating an environment that is out of the workplace will help to boost your team’s mental health, decrease feelings of social isolation, provides something to look forward to and can be a way of saying thank you to your team for all their hard work!
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