Human Resource executives are being asked to take the lead in facilitating the transition of significant portions of their workforce to a virtual environment. Currently, working from home has become a reality for a wide swath of employees and in many organizations literally overnight with no warning or time to train your managers or staff.
So where do you start?
First, recognize that normal work patterns, modes of communication, and team dynamics will be disrupted for weeks if not months. This brings with it the opportunity for HR to encourage and guide leadership to ensure that operations can continue as normally as possible.
Below you will find tips and strategies to help managers and employees continue to collaborate effectively and meet deadlines. They involve spelling out deliverables and roles repeatedly as circumstances require changes, making an extra effort to stay personally connected with people so teams don’t feel disconnected, and providing guidance, support, and encouragement for working virtually.
It is all about connection and collaboration. Here are 8 tips to help:
Make communication a top priority
You need to make sure pertinent information is easily — and frequently — communicated.
Don’t rely solely on email to stay in touch with remote members of your team. Set up frequent meetings with each employee to touch base and keep the connection strong.
Spell out deliverables and goals
Teams that suddenly change work patterns — particularly moving from co-located to virtual — need to rethink how to accomplish their tasks and ensure that essential duties and goals are met.
Include all your remote workers in meetings, whether strategic or tactical to make sure that they’re aware of updates as well as the big picture. It will also help them prioritize work and manage their time. All members of your team should know what deliverables they and the team are working toward, and how these deliverables will be met.
Keep in daily contact, but don’t micromanage
Let your staff know how and when they can reach you throughout the workday. Remember, team members who are off-site won’t be able to swing by your office to ask questions or get feedback.
Hold regular check-ins
Schedule a daily or weekly check-in meeting to ensure all tasks and deliverables are on schedule and any issues are addressed. Perhaps you want a weekly email update from each member of your team, or you may prefer that people update a master spreadsheet of projects. Figure out what works for you, and make sure everyone knows.
Use video conferencing if possible
The ability to see each other while talking fosters a sense of teamwork and more closely imitates an office setting.
Utilize chat and collaboration tools to facilitate remote communication. For example, we are using Zoom at the university where I teach. There are several available products available in the marketplace, and your organization may already be using one.
Be responsive and available
Communication lag can be counter-productive for remote employee’s efficiency.
Receiving a response to an inquiry in a timely fashion encourages employees to remain focused and on task. Make sure everyone knows how to reach you when an issue is time-sensitive.
Remember to write a "good job" email to staff whose work you’d otherwise acknowledge casually in the office. You can also call out their achievement in your group chat platform.
Provide Helpful Resources
Especially for telecommuters who are not used to working from home, it can be a good gesture to offer advice on how to work from home effectively. Ideas include information on how to set up home office spaces, how to establish working hours, and how to set boundaries with any family members who may be present in the home.
Finally, let your organization’s employees know that HR is available to help with work and life and they should feel free to reach out as the need arises.