3 effective strategies of how leaders can support their team working from home
We are officially living the “era of working from home”. Many companies like Google, Uber, Facebook, Twitter, and Shopify have announced that they are extending their working from home policy until at least mid-2021, or even indefinitely.
Supporting companies in the Netherlands, I hear that a majority of teams here will continue working from home till at least 2021 and only occasionally will work at the office, 1-2 days a week. This means that we need a clear 2020-2021 plan on how to support our teams working from home.
We should make sure we create a healthy and balanced online work environment and avoid issues like invisible burnout - your people constantly overworking, struggling to disconnect, feeling isolated at home, eventually going on a long sick leave.
So, what can you do - as a team leader, as a manager, or someone who wants to support your colleagues? Here are three effective strategies that may help you out:
1) Establish and stick to the working [from home] hours
I know - people should decide for themselves when they need to work and when to disconnect, but you, as a leader, have the responsibility to establish and commit to a working schedule that allows your people to disconnect and rest.
You see, when your team spends evenings in front of a laptop screen, their busy brain and the suppressed melatonin hormone will prevent them from having a good night's sleep. It is proven that the lack of good sleep makes us 30% less productive, creative, and less open for teamwork the day after. So, by allowing your team to work till late - you get a cranky, less-focused, and more distracted team the day after. Is that really worth it?
So, I recommend agreeing with your team on the working hours when everyone will maximise their efforts to work hard, communicate, and be present for each other. Be clear that you discourage communication outside of these hours, avoiding the pressure of being expected to reply to an evening message or email. Can’t it wait till the next morning to send it out?
Certainly, some exceptions will apply (in the busy month-end period or working moms and dads needing to catch up on emails, for instance), but the overall rule of thumb is: communicate in the working hours, rest, and let others disconnect outside of these hours.
2) Support your team’s wellbeing - show that people matter
September is a great time to kick-off the second half of the year and to focus on closing it on a good note together. Next to making plans on how to rock this year, it is important to show that your people’s wellbeing and work-life balance matters and it is not about results at any cost (especially the cost of your team’s health).
Integrating team-wellbeing workshops into your strategic meetings is a great way to show that you care about the team’s health. One of the best practices that I have seen is starting a full day of meetings with energising and focus-boosting activities like stretching and breathing. These 30 minutes of team-wellbeing time together created a positive, open, and solution-focused mindset and transformed a long day into an uplifting and inspiring collaborative experience.
Regardless of whether your team is working from home or meeting in the office, there are many ways of showing that their wellbeing matters.
3) Build a positive team culture with gratitude and praise
I have a golden rule for your team communication: “Praise in public, criticise in person”. People are motivated by receiving praise for their efforts - especially in public and especially when they had to work hard for it. So, you can create a sustainable drive for achievement - not only with a salary raise but also by highlighting what your team members do well and celebrating together.
If criticism, or better put, feedback for improvement, is needed, it should be given one-on-one, so that you can hear the other side of the story and address it in-person. Giving negative feedback to someone in front of others will have a long-term negative impact on the receiver, and others will have less trust in you, knowing that they may become the next “victim” soon.
If you need to give this criticism, take it offline, if possible face-to-face, inviting your team member for a park walk, or for a coffee in the office.
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” - these beautiful words of John Quincy Adams are still true – even for these times of working from home. You just have to find your best practices and ways of communicating well, showing that your people matter, celebrating your team’s achievements.
We would love to hear how you lead and support your team in these rollercoaster-like times, so feel free to comment and share with us your best practices.