The year 2020 fundamentally changed how many go about doing their work!. In a matter of weeks, you may have found yourself going from visiting with the co-worker next to you to suddenly setting up a work station in your dining room. That sudden and sustained shift is stressful and its impact can be long felt on your professional and personal journey.
With the right focus and attention, we can enjoy all the perks of working in a virtual environment and thrive to greater success.
Keep focus in the chaos
Stay focused on your assigned tasks and responsibilities by avoiding distractions in your home. This one can be really challenging depending on your home situation. Your significant other, kids, TVs, streaming, social media, and other things all tug at your attention throughout the day. Be creative and set up a good working environment the best that you can.
Keep your calendar updated to provide structure in both your home and work environment. Scheduling both sides of your life ensures that one is not a distraction for the other. You don’t want that grocery list or messy kitchen to be a day-long distraction on your work.
If you have children doing virtual school, help them with a similar setup so they can stay focused on their school work. We live in an older house and converted our formal dining area into a school space for both our kids. We weren’t sure how it would work, but it turned out great for both in the end.
Build and protect work routines and boundaries
It’s very easy to let your work and life blur together when you work in a virtual environment. I have spent the last 7 years working out of a home office to various degrees and it is always something that I have had to be mindful of.
Success comes down to setting and protecting boundaries, otherwise, you’ll find yourself sitting down for just a minute to do something only to lose a couple of hours of personal time as you continue on in your work. Things will no doubt pop up after hours that may require your immediate attention. Obviously address those, but let them be the exception and not the norm.
If the people that work with you know that you have no boundaries, they will likely take advantage of it whether they know it or not. It could come in texts, emails, or calls that normally wouldn’t take place if you had a good set of boundaries.
Communicate often and with intent
Since you may not see your leader all the time anymore, you need to be intentional about communicating with them. Set up a weekly check-in time and also update them throughout the week on your projects and outstanding items. it will help both of you when your leader has a good sense of where you are in your work.
Keep an open line of communication with your peers as well. Head off a sense of isolation by staying in touch with those you work with. Find out what’s going on in their personal life and how you can help them in their professional life.
Be transparent with your leader about your journey
No one is perfect and no one should expect perfection from you in your virtual work environment. Breakthrough the pleasantries with your leader and stay transparent and authentic in the struggles that you may be facing in your situation. It’s always great if you can bring a potential solution along with a problem to your leader, but sometimes you are at a total loss and simply don’t know what the solution could be. Don’t let that hold you back from talking to your leader. They need and want to know.
A leader can’t lead and help if they don’t know that you need a hand.
Follow these tips to keep a focused workspace where you feel connected with others and good boundaries to feel a great work-life rhythm.
One of the challenges of remote work is that there are fewer opportunities for everything. There may be little to no chances to just hang out with your co-works or team anymore. Certainly fewer opportunities exist to have an impromptu brainstorming or problem-solving session.
With fewer opportunities to connect and grow together, it’s important for you as a leader to have good operational behaviors to close the virtual gap between you and your team.
Have one-on-ones with your team
It’s important to schedule a regular cadence to check-in individually with your people. For newer ones, they should be very frequent (multiple times a week), for your more experienced members perhaps it’s weekly or even bi-weekly depending on the need and scope of work.
One-on-ones are very productive because it offers your team members a chance to address things that have come up between meetings. I have mine weekly and typically write out a list ahead of time of things to cover or updates to give. Some items may include important project updates, non-critical people issues, questions on clarity, and updates from previous topics.
Always open the meeting on a personal note and avoid jumping straight into business unless you meet very frequently and/or you are both pressed for time. The thing you open with first is your most important topic. Show your people that they are important connecting with them before you start with the business topics at hand.
Have an open calendar
People can get weird about calendars. Whether it’s a feeling of invasion of privacy or they lack trust in others, some people choose to keep their calendars locked down so that no one can see them. As a leader, you should at least open up your calendar for your team to see and ask them to do the same for you. This will give you both a chance to look and schedule time together without a bunch of back and forth beforehand.
You can always keep certain events and time private if you need to. Look for the privacy setting when you create an event, it will typically mark the time as busy or unavailable when others see your calendar.
Be on time
Does your day consist of going from meeting to meeting? It can be hard to keep yourself on schedule for the day when each meeting has an X factor of talking heads and oversharing. Do your best to end the meeting on time so you can be on time for the next one. It shows you respect the other person’s time and have them as a priority.
I typically watch the time in my meeting and then give us a verbal warning if I don’t feel like we are going to wrap up on time. I may say something like, “Alright, we have five minutes left. What follow-up is needed as we wrap up this topic?” If there are outstanding items still to cover, schedule more time later to discuss and follow-up on.
Knock it out now
With fewer opportunities to pop-in on one another, it’s more important to make decisions in the moment. Don’t make a rash or ill-informed judgment call, but do your best to provide an answer, direction, and clarity in the moment.
Provide an answer to someone when they ask for it, rather than putting it off unless it requires further follow-up or knowledge gathering. Every time you delay a decision or push the topic until later on, you are hitting the pause button on that action item. Because of the nature of remote work, you’ve likely just stopped all progress on the topic whether you realized it or not.
Take care of questions and decisions in the moment if at all possible.
You can be a great leader in the booming age of remote work. Carry the proper mindset and build strong operational behaviors to lead your team, and yourself, well.
This week marks the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 virus in the human population. We have lived through one of the most devastating events that have happened in the history of humanity, and one area that has fundamentally changed is how we go about doing our work. More people than ever are doing remote work.
Leaders should be aware of the natural gap that is created in this remote environment and adapt the right mentality to meet the new demand.
Carry a clear perspective
While you’ll have a natural pull towards people on your team that you have a lot in common with, or people that are high performers with high potential, remember to treat everyone like they are winners and they matter. I have seen some leaders truly shine and this is one of their secrets. I’ve had this leader in my life as well and it’s both affirming and aspiring. I know that she really appreciates and values me, and I also know that she gives that same love and support to others on the team.
Make them feel like there is no one winner. Make them all feel like winners.
Know your people well
Another mindset in order to close the virtual gap is to know your people well. Take the relationship past the transactional and business at hand, and get to know those around you.
Understand what motivates them on a personal level (Not just at work).
Gain a level of mutual respect where you both are free to share more vulnerable parts about your life. What are some things that you struggle with, avoid, or need help on?
Learn the person’s body language. As long as you have those cameras on during the meetings, you should still be able to lean into this aspect of reading a person somewhat.
Know about their loved ones. This can look different depending on the person and life stage. Regardless of whether it’s a best friend or a spouse and kids, learn those people’s names and ask about them when interacting with your team.
Knowing people well helps you dial in your message and direction that meets the person right where they are. This mindset becomes a weather forecaster for people. You’ll start to see signs of an impending change or struggle in a person before it fully manifests itself.
Trust & Empower
Do you want to save yourself some time, make your team feel better about their job, and lower your stress? Empower your people as they work in a virtual environment.
Give your team members responsibilities and trust them to do great things. This will help you re-allocate your time from doing tasks that you shouldn’t do to doing extra coaching, mentoring, and development time.
Assume that your people are coming to you with the best intentions and that there is a legitimate need when they ask for it. Value your people and the fact that they are seeking your guidance and help. Always start from a positive place in your interactions.
Affirm and Confirm
With an avalanche of emails, you might tend to let the trail drop once a resolution is sent. Great remote leaders take the time to send one last confirmation that word of thanks to the other person(s).
This may seem trivial, but these small gestures add up to a big deal in the long term. You are reinforcing that you are responsive and attentive towards your team and colleagues. Always end an email chain on a positive note. Remember that minor things matter.
Having the right mentality makes all the difference when you are leading your remote team. Trust and empower your people and help them keep the right perspective.