By: Byung Choi for Forbes
“Strong company culture is vital in any workplace. But what do you do when your team doesn’t work from one main office space (or in the instance of an emergency like the coronavirus)? As CEO of a marketing technology company that was 90% remote even before the coronavirus upended most people’s work environments, I have learned a thing or two about how to best lead a remote workforce.
Now more than ever, employees will look to leadership for cues on quality of work, professionalism and workplace culture. Addressing working from home, whether temporary or permanent, can easily be broken down into four main pillars: communication, culture, professionalism and technology.
Overcommunication is not a word in the work-from-home vocabulary.
Successful leaders go out of their way to form connections with all their employees. To do so in a work-from-home environment, you need to communicate as much as possible. What happens organically in an office needs a mindful effort when working remotely. Schedule regular check-ins with employees and team members to ensure they are well adjusted to working at home, and encourage open communication with not only management, but also one another.
It’s easy to feel alienated as a remote employee. By promoting open communication, you can deepen team bonds and lessen the feeling of isolation.
Culture is key.
When working remotely, culture goes hand in hand with communication. Consider the normal office operations that happen outside of the actual work you do — such as morning updates, end-of-day goodbyes, office chatter, team happy hours and activities, etc. — and recreate them for your e-office by embracing virtual communication.
Things as simple as sending weekly email updates, calling out team wins, giving team members an outlet to get to know one another outside of a work setting (whether that be through a nonwork-related group message, a morning or end-of-day video call), or virtual happy hours can make a world of difference when working from home. For example, in the wake of COVID-19-induced working from home, my company started organizing a weekly virtual scavenger hunt to keep morale high and promote employee engagement.
Creating a professional environment is essential.
A crucial part of working from home is getting in the “work” mindset. It’s hard to stay focused and produce quality work from your bed or couch. To mitigate distractions, institute a standard of professionalism from the get-go, and communicate it with anyone working from home.
While there are some standards, such as getting dressed for work every day and not taking calls from bed, that are a given, also consider establishing a clear approval process to keep a standard of quality in work. Using video chats to keep in contact with team members will ensure everyone in the meeting is focused on the task at hand and not multitasking in the background.
In addition to professionalism, setting clear boundaries between “work” and “home” is crucial when working from home. Encourage employees and team members to create a space that is just for work. In my experience, not only will this help them stay more organized, but it will also help minimize distractions. To further differentiate work and home, remind employees to take a lunch break away from their workstations, and set clear start and end times to their days. Creating simple routines like this is crucial when adjusting to this new work environment.
If working remotely is standard in your company like it is in mine, set up a mentoring program to encourage professional development and employee connectivity and interaction.
Technology has changed the way we work, and now it’s improving the way we work from home.
“Work from home” no longer means less communication and collaboration; instead, it means communication and collaboration through technology. Whether it’s through team chats, video calls or virtual happy hours, technology can close the distance between home offices.
In addition to technology-enabled communication, ensure everyone on your team has instant remote access to the most up-to-date files. A number of companies (my own included) offer digital asset management tools, for example, that can allow instant file sharing and real-time edits while removing the uncertainty of who has access to what. Research if there are any tech solutions that could help you connect team members who aren’t sharing an office.
Whether you are new to working from home, leading a remote team or just looking for some tips on navigating the new normal, tackling the challenges brought on by a virtual team gets a little easier with communication, culture, professionalism and technology.”
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