The unprecedented changes to our lives and work in 2020 have created new challenges never experienced before. Technological barriers have shattered, causing millions of us to alter our beliefs about what is possible working virtually.
As 3-4 times the amount of people could be working from home in 2021 and post-pandemic it begs the questions:
What can we do to successfully manage a team that is dispersed?
What key challenges must we address to optimise this 2021 environment?
Here are 3 elements to worth considering in your 2021 planning.
Communication Plan – At the start of the pandemic hundreds of hours were spent on endless virtual meetings. Moving forward we need to create some communication norms to make productive use of time.
Good meetings require ‘Build-up’. Clear communication beforehand highlighting the purpose and setting an expected outcome help ensure everyone is fully prepared to make a meaningful contribution.
When individuals are dispersed inclusion and openness are vital to keep everyone well informed. It’s important to share not just what was agreed in a meeting, but also why and how decisions were made so people feel connected and engaged in the process.
Create consistency by deciding on which channel you will use for different types of communication. E.g., you might use Slack for daily internal messaging but email for formal documents and meeting summaries etc.
Review how many meetings are really necessary to be productive?
What’s the most effective format and frequency for your team to get results?
Social interaction in the office is something we all miss the most. So, try and recreate these ‘Watercooler’ moments with informal virtual hangouts and a ‘Random’ chat channel on Slack/Chatter where people can post funny appropriate videos, comments and jokes etc to lighten the workday.
Managing Remotely – This can require some new skills even for experienced managers. Reflect on the quality of your communication.
- Am I managing by objectives?
- Can I explain the task clearly to my team with expected outputs?
- Do I know how long it takes to produce this work product?
- What are the resources needed to deliver this product?
Make sure you agree realistic deadlines, remembering many employees are working in conditions that are far from ideal. Imagine working from your dining table whilst trying to keep your children occupied at home!?!
The key ingredient is TRUST
Workout with your team the right number of calls and check-ins and their optimal schedule for work each day. The concept of sitting at a desk at home from 9-5 is counter-productive and unsustainable. So, we need to recreate our working patterns and urgently help our teams adjust so they can be effective and engaged next year.
Employee Wellbeing – Before CV-19 we had some separation between our working life and our home life, and we spoke of creating work life balance. Today this fragile boundary has been removed. We are in one space with constant I.T. connection causing stress and potential burnout.
It’s important to establish ‘Boundary Control’ to alleviate this issue. One suggestion is for staff to be able block out family appointments and engagements in the calendar.
Another concept is to create highly individualized flexible work schedules that enable couples to balance family and work responsibilities.
New daily working rituals are proving essential to performance and productivity. It’s not healthy or sustainable to sit at a desk all day at home. Management need to clearly communicate to employees that this is not their expectation of a ‘normal’ workday. One solution is to encourage people to start their day getting some fresh air outside, a walk in the park or exercising. Break up the day into ‘Sprints’ where they focus on completing a task or objective in 30-45mins. Then take a 15min break, run an errand, do a chore and then refocus on your next ‘Sprint’ of productivity.
Companies who have dispersed workforces regularly provide an allowance to staff so they can purchase a good ergonomic seating and create a stimulating comfortable work environment with quality lighting, pictures and plants.
Implementing these adjustments will create a much more productive and enjoyable 2021!
Please share your thoughts on any aspect of planning for 2021 that you have found effective.