Optimising lockdown: working from home and future planning
I’m a remote worker – writing requires little more than document sharing with my publishers, and as a coach I often see clients online which helps with global time differences. I recently shared my top tips for working at home. Something which can be harder in practice, especially if you are not used to it:
Working from home recap:
- Try to keep separate places for work and home life (ideally a clearly defined space for work)
- Keep a routine where possible – work times, break times, “close of day” times
- Be organised – try to not to “muddy” your behaviours – when you are working work, when you are at home, turn the laptop off!
- A change of scenery can help re-invigorate you. While it is now sensible to be somewhere less populated (under normal circumstances, being able to chat is great), moving into a different area of the house, or the garden if possible can be enough to energise you.
- Discipline also applies to rest time…just because you are working from home doesn’t mean you are “at work” 24 hours because you sleep in the same place.
Top tips for leaders of teams working from home:
But I also know how isolated you can begin to feel, so for organisations who have been able to send teams home, here are some tips to come through this strange time, hopefully stronger than before.
1. Be clear on what is expected of your teams
One of the biggest criticisms of the government when they started to ramp up the UK response to COVID-19 was that they were unclear in their direction. Leaders should not just be “present” but they are expected to lead. Make it clear to your teams (as far as you can) what you expect from them and what the channels of communication are. If there are new protocols in place for things like timesheets, or other operating procedures, make sure everyone has access to what they need (or knows where to find it).
2. It may be OK to maintain a skeleton staff
Especially in organisations where machinery or technology is needed, you will need to maintain a staff – however, sending as many people who can work from home, home, this also improves the safety of those still coming in to work as they will be in contact with fewer people too.
3. Keep regular contact with your teams
This does not mean you have to brief them daily, but having a WhatsApp group, or a forum set up where information can be disseminated quickly and directly from you (so there is less chance of crossed messages) can be helpful. Instruct your teams that this is the one place that information will be posted (and stick to it) and they know that they don’t also have to keep checking email or texts or other means of contact.
4. Try a “virtual water cooler”
This doesn’t even have to be for organisations – I have one of these set up in my friendship group. It’s simply a place where we share “funnies” to keep ourselves positive (good for the immune system) when we cannot meet face to face. No-one “chats” (we all can contact each other directly for that) – but we share things which made us smile, and it reminds us we’re not alone.
5. Encourage positive mental and physical health
If you have briefing circulars, it doesn’t hurt to include simple ways teams can keep physically and mentally healthy – if nothing else, it releases the pressure on the NHS who are otherwise occupied.
6. Praise work as “normal”
If you can also maintain motivation regularly by thanking teams and recognising their efforts.
NOW FUTURE PLAN:
Learn from COVID-19 to build organisational resilience
The following tips are things you can do in order to better future-proof your business when we come through the pandemic. It is sadly true that things will be very different, and no-one can predict what exactly will happen, but consider the following:
i) Reflect on and correct areas of weakness in your initial response stages
While the same occurrence may not happen again in your lifetime, you may have identified certain areas in which your response was sluggish or affected company morale and trust. Be aware of what happened, through asking the “5 whys” (asking “why” 5 times to get to the root cause of the problem).
ii) Know that intellectual awareness is NOT the same as practical preparation
It’s all very well knowing the “theory” of what you might do, but it is action that is essential. In life coaching terms, I tell over-thinking clients “don’t be the most enlightened person that never lived”. You need to be able to put those ideas into practice, and if you cannot, then work to adapt them so you can.
iii) Are there wider opportunities or networks with whom you can grow collaboratively?
I used to work within the small business arena of Escape Games – they too are being hit as people (even though they play as a single group of friends) are staying home. However, many are now promoting gift cards, or working with other small businesses to make apps, paper or tabletop games – the latter being especially helpful at a time when others may be looking for things to do in their homes. Use this time to network or reach out to explore opportunities especially since you have been afforded time to think, as well as holding the awareness that people’s habits and behaviours may change after this.
iv) Be aware of changing consumer/client behaviours
There are some lovely reports of people singing together on balconies, or engaging more in cooking or learning skills – even connecting within the home as a family. The lifestyle we had been used to may change and so our consumer behaviour may follow. Organisations need to keep abreast of and consider the possible mindset of their clients and customers.
v) Use the time to reflect on your own responsiveness and growth potential
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you have been gifted some down time:
- If you knew this disruption would last longer than the proposed 12 weeks, how might you respond?
- If you knew 6 months ago this would happen how would you prepare?
- What long term strategic projects may have to change or could be started as a result?
- With whom can you collaborate to help you with any changes of direction, or to help each other rebuild after financial loss or other negative effects?
A final word on resilience
Resilience has three components - it is first about survival, then rebuilding to normal, and finally growth. Survival has a lot to do with how you manage your teams as well as your responsiveness to the changing situation; rebuilding may happen faster if you are able to engage with collaboration or direction change opportunities; and growth may take a direction you didn’t previously consider (so again, responsiveness is key).
It is a very challenging time and uncertainty can also cause unexpected and sometimes unpleasant behaviours (which you may also have to prepare for). However, in the same way as health, people and, yes, the stock markets seem to respond when there is a collaborative (or global) response, this is also the time to connect…albeit virtually.
Audrey is a leadership trainer and coach, Chartered Psychologist and author. Her books Be a Great Manager Now and The Leader’s Guide to Mindfulness are available on amazon, and The Leader’s Guide to Resilience will be out later this year. Follow her @draudreyt (twitter/insta) and watch her weekly psychology & coaching webinar here.