How to manage locked-down teams

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How to manage locked-down teams
Channel your team member’s attention to prioritise self-care.
Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash

As NSW grinds through lockdown, most employees have shifted to remote working, which means we need to shift how we lead and manage.

In this new context, where remote working amplifies any existing lack of clarity, everyone is forced to navigate in the organisation with a short line of sight.

This is a good opportunity for leaders to create the environment where employees feel connected, recognised, and supported by doubling down on their mission and making employees feel closer than ever to their organisations ‘why’.

Many articles and papers have been published since the beginning of this shift. You will find below a summary of the best “Do’s and Don’t” that we picked across our reading. 

1. Remain connected – every day is communication day

  • Set up a tempo of scheduled and predictable check-ins both as a team and individually. The important feature is that these check ins are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.

  • Reiterate the organisation’s shared purpose and values – your team needs to feel that their job has meaning

  • Leverage upon videoconferencing to make sure that you include more than transactional conversations and create bonds.
  • Build trust through increased transparency employees need psychological safety. Share facts and figures as much as you can.

  • Don’t assume that what you say is well received communicate having your audience in mind more than ever. It means explain and formulate verbally and visually rather than by email.

2. Take advantage of technology

  • Leverage all the online information-sharing platforms and groups that have been developed (formal and informal information, learning platforms, innovation platforms etc.) encourage your employees and leaders to keep collaborating and contributing by:

    • Creating groups around things they’re interested in, whether they be professional (e.g. product testing, sales competition, new processes, ideas to improve the business etc.) or personal (e.g. best photos, best campsites, best TV shows, best recipes etc.)

    • Posting stories on their success, recognising and celebrating successes

    • Leadership Hub – an area on the intranet designated to People Leaders, which contains a range of useful tips, articles & support.

  • Make time for video small talk and provide opportunities for remote social interactions and virtual events – e.g. leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work items, organise virtual office drinks, pizza parties.

3. Offer support and encouragement

If remote work saves commute time and provides more flexibility, it also imposes challenges to employees who can experience distress, loneliness, a difficulty to unplug or to stay motivated.

  • Channel your team member’s attention to prioritise self-care, knowing that their wellbeing will affect the quality of care they are able to give to your clients.

  • Provide technical support to your employees (IT support, office equipment, ergonomic assessment, reimbursement for phone and internet etc.)

  • Give your employees access to resources that support the different facets of maintaining a healthy lifestyle: physical, nutritional, mental and financial health.

  • Acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. Let the employee’s stress or concerns (rather than your own) be the focus of dedicated 1:1 conversations.

  • Promote your EAP / offer free mental health counselling sessions.

  • Don’t forget to praise your employees, recognise and reward successes and professional/personal achievements.

4. Focus on tangible outcomes and deliveries

Many employees have long called for more and better flexible work arrangements, whether to accommodate carer duties, working parents or work-life balance. With the current pandemic, ways of working have changed and the new “normal” is all about flexibility (flexible workplaces, flexible hours etc.).

  • Formalise flexible work arrangements and practices if you have not done yet.

  • Don’t micro-manage your teams – people who are empowered to work where, when and how they want, work more productively and do more than they are paid to do - if you trust people to get their work done in a way that works for them, that trust is usually rewarded. 

5. Manage in the short-term

  • Motivate your team, find ways to make sure every single person on your team feels like they have a challenge that they can help solve - make sure your weekly routines are not focused only on the tactical work.

  • Set short-term expectations and KPIs and adjust them regularly.

  • Agree on a way of working that is more qualitative than quantitative.

Zrinka Lovrencic is CEO of WRK+.

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