Work from home isn’t just a temporary situation anymore with 60 percent of U.S. economic activity now coming from people working from the comforts of their home. Although remote leaders and managers are struggling to keep the wheels on the bus, the new norm hasn’t been very productive for the company culture. When you’re dealing with a workforce that has to juggle office work with kids, pets and myriad other household distractions, patience is bound to wear thin and exasperation is inevitable. However, it is not just your employees who are damaging the company culture. Here are some of the ways you as a remote leader, might also be killing the workforce morale.
Allowing participants to turn off the video during meetings.
As a remote manager, you must be noticing that more and more of your teammates start to turn off their websites as the meeting progresses. Zoom fatigue is real and your colleagues may not feel up to revealing themselves and their surroundings at every meeting, after all no one wants to be distracted by a messy living room, kids jumping in the background, or your messy ponytail at the end of the day.
Set a good example by always leaving yours on and encourage others to do the same. Not to mention, it can be rather tempting to turn off the video and get some chores out of the way while your coworkers are droning on, but resist the urge. Face time is highly critical these days and you need to impress the same upon your team.
Not establishing regular check-ins.
The days of casually stopping by a colleague’s workspace to say hello, inquire into their day, and casually check the progress on a project or offer help with something they are stuck with, are behind us. Remember the friendly banter in the hallway or those water cooler or coffee machine conversations where you learned that an employee was struggling with a client matter or a serious family issue that might be impacting their work? Remember when your team could just knock on your door and confide in you the issues they are having with a project. Remote working has taken that element out of workplaces and those 30 seconds of preliminary hellos at the start of a Zoom meeting will not suffice.
This is why as a remote manager, you need to establish a regular routine that includes team meetings, as well as daily check-ins with each individual member of your team. An early morning email or a daily half-hour zoom session may seem like overkill, but it will keep up a culture of open communication despite the physical distances. Make sure that the communication is two-ways. Keep encouraging your employees to come to you and seek help whenever they are stuck in a rut and prompt them to share daily updates on their work. Not everyone communicates well on email while most people are not comfortable talking on video chat. Find the best medium for those check-ins and make it happen.
Not embracing flexibility.
At the onset of the pandemic when schools and offices first closed, most company leaders put up an unprecedented show of empathy and compassion for their employees who were unceremoniously chucked into remote working, most with kids in the mix! Manager understood the challenges of juggling office tasks with multiple household responsibilities, and allowed flexibility in working hours. However, seven months in to the picture, that patience is wearing thin!
While most employees are becoming more and more adapt at juggling endless hours of daily screen time, lack of personal workspace, meal preparation, childcare, house chores, and home schooling, better than they ever thought possible, in no way is it getting easier. Remote managers need to realize that we are set in for the long haul and learn to adjust their expectations.
The best of organizations are already embracing agile working, in which people can work wherever, whenever and however they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints. This is an attempt to empower employees to do their best work and optimize their performance despite the many challenges. If you are worried that all this flexibility would impact team performance, what are those check-in meetings good for! Flexibility is the only way to truly support your company’s culture for the long term.
Not creating collaboration opportunities for the team.
Employees who prefer to quietly retreat to their workstation and get to work without the distraction of conference meetings, colleagues stopping by, endless chatter, and coworker birthday celebrations, are loving the new work-from-home lifestyle. However, the “working as an island” concept can wreak havoc on the big picture of your organization and make it harder for managers to maintain focus on the shared purpose of projects.
This is why it’s important that remote managers proactively create projects that require collaboration between team members. Since all your employees have access to tools for sharing work and working together, it’s not a challenge for different levels and departments to work on different parts of a larger project together or brainstorm to share project insight and information. Not to mention, this is a perfect opportunity to and improve communication channels, build empathy, and strengthen relationships.