Several weeks ago the world looked completely different. The market was at an all-time high and unemployment was at a record low. It’s amazing how the world can change in a heartbeat.

However, through all of this, one thing that is not getting the amount of press or attention that it deserves is how managers and leaders can set their teams up for success while working remotely.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the percentage of people who worked from home regularly in the US was 3.9 million or 2.9 percent.

These statistics tell a compelling story. More people want to work from home year after year; however, what it does not tell you is it’s not as easy to work from home as people think.

Yes, technology has made it easier to work away from the office. Faster internet, more robust networks, unlimited cell phone plans, and a myriad of software and hardware options make it technically easier to send teams home.

Ask the right questions

All companies must realize that sending teams home is not as simple as mandating it. Leaders must set their teams up for success, or else chaos may ensue.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Do they have the necessary quiet space to work from home, or will they be sharing an area with a spouse or children (or both), making it difficult to work effectively?
  • Do they have a proper desk and chair?
  • Do they have proper lighting?
  • Do they have stable, high-speed internet?
  • Do they have a home phone, or will they be reliant on their cell phone?
  • Do they have a printer with a scanner and copier function (if needed)?
  • Do they have a computer that can be tied into your network, or can they take their computer home?
  • Do they need a dongle or software to access the VPN (virtual private network)?
  • Can the network handle the additional outside connections effectively, or will it slow the system down to a point where people cannot work?
  • Do they have the letterhead, envelopes, courier packages, etc. that they need to conduct their work from home?
  • Can they legally bring files home without compromising insurance or business protocols?

And the list can go on.

Establish communication channels and expectations

Physical and technological issues with sending people home is only half the battle. Now that these people are home, it is up to managers and leaders to make sure they are available and accessible, that there is effective communication, and teams are able to engage each other in meaningful and productive ways.

Leaders of teams need to think about how people, some of whom have never worked from home long-term before, will navigate away from the office. Those sent home no longer have the social connections, ideation teams, coffee breaks, and lunches with fellow workers. Developing communication channels for check-ins and collaboration are vital to team success.

Developing protocols where team members check in with each other, and leaders check in with their teams, are essential to having teams thrive away from the office long term.

Leaders should ask questions like:

  • What are you working on?
  • Do you need help?
  • What challenges are you facing being out of the office?
  • What can I/we do to make things easier for you at home?
  • Do you need anything sent from the office to make things easier for you?

It is the role of the leaders and managers, more than ever, to make sure the team, and the individuals within it, are working effectively and do not feel they are being ignored, isolated, and unheard.

Leverage technology for collaboration

Setting up Zoom chats so individual team members can work together with shared screens throughout the day can help. It does not have to be Zoom, but choose a stable software system that allows for video chats, shared screens, and chat functions.  I prefer Zoom because while everyone is online, you can send them off into smaller groups for 10 minutes to have sideline chats about challenges they are having and then bring the conversation back to the big group.

Being available and accessible is essential, and they are not the same. Available means that you can leave a message, and someone will get back to you when it is convenient for them. Accessible means that you can be reached as and when needed, which can be important to dispersed teams when a decision needs to be made quickly.

Have a toolkit for managers and leaders

Working from home when you are not used to it, and when you do not have the right tools, technology, and support can be difficult and disheartening. I have created an on-going video series that will address to how to be more successful leading remote teams. You can find it here.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions, concerns, or challenges.