Let's face it, the last 12 months have been extraordinary. We have learnt that change CAN happen really quickly if there is a need for it. It has been really tough for people juggling home schooling with Zoom calls, cooking more, going out less and generally not really knowing what was going on!
Resilience is the priority now rather than a drive for increasing efficiency. Leaders can no longer provide certainty (if indeed they ever could!) and they are looked to for vision, agility, making difficult decisions quickly, and the ability to ask openly for advice and support.
For some working from home was brilliant... no commute, no distractions from people wanting you to do stuff, space to spread out. For others where working from home was not an options there was the need to juggle child care, manoeuvre through traffic or public transport where you didn't know who had sat on the seat before you. And why are they not wearing a mask?! For other people nothing has changed, except perhaps the amount of work they have to get through.
Many of my ex colleagues are in healthcare and are managing a huge workload, whilst wearing masks and having to be even more vigilant about hygiene than they were previously. It is tough for everyone in one way or another. The risk of burnout is ever present.
2020 was my first year in business and I saw my calendar empty quicker than the dogs' breakfast. It has made me really conscious of how lonely and vulnerable working from home on my own was. So here are my top tips for making it more bearable for your teams, because home working and remote collaboration are not going away!
- Communicate regularly, and not just by Zoom/MS Teams. Most people require connection, even for a chat over a cup of tea. Remember those days when you would have a conversation next to the kettle in the kitchen. Those are the conversations that help people feel connected. Pick up the phone every now and then. Get to know your team... how are their children and did their team win at the weekend?!
- Set clear expectations. Outcomes...not inputs! This should be a two way discussion to decide what the outputs are. Be flexible. Life happens and sometimes people cannot do the exact hours you agreed. It happened before Covid and it will happen now. Provided the outcomes are achieved allow people to find their own way to do them and then let it be.
- Ask your team members "How are you doing?" And really listen to what is going on with them. Be available for them and to them.
- Have regular team meetings and spend some time having fun at either the beginning or the end of them. Open a breakout room or two so people can meet up and have a chat. (Ask me about some great ice breakers to make your meetings more fun.)
- Think about what you are sharing on screen. It is tiny! So make it engaging and big enough to read! More pictures, less text.
- Make sure that all your team have appropriate equipment, wherever they are. Ensure that their mental and physical wellbeing is at the forefront of your mind.
- Encourage your team to set their own rituals. Remember when they had to commute? It was an opportunity to switch persona from work to home and vice versa. Work rituals can help to make that psychological break. It could be a Work Mug, or a walk before sitting down to the office.
- Look after your own mental health. Take time out when you need it so you can be there for your team when they need you. Remember to attach your own oxygen mask first!