Managing Your Virtual Workplace During The Coronavirus Pandemic
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has pulled the brakes on work and life as we know it. Organisations of every size and type have had to shift to working remotely at extremely short notice, whether they were ready for it or not.
Needless to say, a sudden transition to a remote workplace setting comes with a steep learning curve for some who have been accustomed to an office setting and rarely been exposed to the virtual workplace. For managers, too, getting teams up and running from within their own homes, for an indefinite period of time, is challenging to say the least.
We’ve thought up a set of strategies that can help you lead your teams through this crisis while keeping up productivity, inclusiveness and morale.
Broadly, there are three crucial areas that need your attention from the outset:
a) Infrastructure b) Productivity c) People
Since this is the framework within which you will operate, devoting some time to assess how many of your employees or team members have the hardware to access a virtual workplace.
Do they have PCs/Laptops/smartphones and the wherewithal to install and utilise the right apps? Do they have a space within their home they can use as an office unhindered?
As a manager or company head, you must ensure that every employee has what they need to do their job as much as possible, and that no one falls through the cracks.
This is closely tied in to the third factor, people. Working from home comes with a unique set of challenges for everyone. For younger employees sharing an apartment with others, it could mean a lack of a suitable work zone. For employees with partners and/or children, it could mean disruptions and a ton of additional at-home responsibilities.
Be sensitive to the various work environments your team members are having to contend with. Make sure that they communicate and understand each others’ situations and adopt a supportive rather than questioning approach.
First, have a “rally around” type of group conversation, letting your people know that this is the new, indefinite normal and how they can adapt to it. Then communicate goals, key priorities and assign work. Clarity is important.Your team members should know whom to approach in case of any roadblocks. Maintain a schedule and a frequency of calls to keep up a routine. Check in one-on-one with any individuals that need additional help or support.
A crisis can throw up a multitude of new problems and tasks, and your team members, especially those who are shared among projects, will have too much on their plate. Guide them and help them plan and prioritize, to take away some pressure. Map your team members’ skill set and re-evaluate their capacities in the changed scenario. Assign work accordingly if necessary.
Make virtual meetings a place where your team can discuss, ideate and debate the same way they would in the conference room.
In certain settings, teams may need to be coached on virtual workplace etiquette. You may rapidly have to onboard a new team member. Some of the quieter members of your team may feel left out on calls. Mothers on your team may suddenly find themselves minus their usual support structure. When people work from home, stereotypes and biases may rise to the surface, with people questioning others’ commitment and ability to work.
You must maintain a professional outlook, leading by example and establishing a culture of inclusivity during your virtual meetings. You should also take time out for synchronized lunch or coffee breaks where your team chats informally, and discusses things other than work. Creating a positive remote culture is an investment you make that pays off when things return to the way they were before. Till then, hope these strategies help you in the new normal!