Homeworking – our new reality: How to lead your team to success
With the nation now finding themselves working from home, we look at how strong, flexible and inclusive leadership can make this a great way to work - for you, your team and your business...
By Jaclyn Stoker
In these challenging times our leadership skills are going to be put to the test. Now, more than ever, your ability to support, encourage, trust and motivate others is vital. You will need to be flexible enough to change – often at a moment’s notice.
The debate on homeworking has been ongoing for many years. Some love it, some loath it, but most just don’t understand it – perhaps thinking that working from home is just an excuse for drinking tea and looking after the kids! But not so. Indeed, the CIPD UK Working Lives Report 2019 recognises that “overwork is common among those who work from home and may even contribute to the blurring of the boundaries between work and personal life.”
Making homeworking ‘work’ needs great leadership
Preparation – this is particularly important when this change is being thrust upon us at such short notice. Make sure your team have the tools they need to be able to work effectively. Skills such as time management and planning are absolutely key, so make sure you offer support in these areas.
Check in on staff, don’t check up on them – it is vital that you are accessible and ‘visible’ in a really supportive way. Check in with the team regularly to make sure they are ok.
Communicate, communicate, communicate – and if in doubt communicate some more! Homeworkers can feel isolated, so creating a strong team spirit is essential. Set up open communication channels, a buddying system, regular team meetings and short buzz sessions. There are some great digital systems, like Zoom, that will help with this.
Informal communication is also vital. Encourage staff to chat to each other about both work and non-work matters – after all, they would do this in the office.
Embrace technology – it may be that you use technology already to stay in touch at work, but if not, there are some really easy systems that can help.
A shared calendar is ideal if the current system you use allows this.
For meetings I tend to use Zoom or Skype for Business, but there are lots of other options. Choose one that allows everyone to be visible and interact, and also one that allows you to share your screen with the team.
Apps like Slack or Ryver are ideal for sending messages to either individuals or the team but can be great for just keeping in touch too. Some, like Microsoft Teams (which is also a great option for virtual meetings), make sharing information easy. I also use WhatsApp regularly, setting up Broadcast Lists for different groups of people.
Be Flexible – in the current environment, it is important to recognise that, for some staff, working 9-5 may not be practical. If possible, give them flexibility to work when they can be most focused and productive. Your approach to your people will need to be flexible – it cannot be about treating everyone exactly the ‘same’. Rather, it is about treating everyone with the same respect and trust
Health and Safety – Employers have a duty of care for all their employees, including homeworkers. You will need to carry out a risk assessment to check whether the proposed home workplace is suitable for the tasks they will be carrying out. You can find lots more information on this from ACAS.
Trust – You can’t micro-manage remote teams. But if you get the above right you won’t need to. Developing trust is, without a doubt, one of the most important things you will need to do.
There are definitely things you need to put in place to make homeworking effective – but if you get it right you will have a strong, loyal, productive team. As someone who has worked in and managed remote teams for over 15 years, it is definitely my preferred way of working. You never know, it might become yours too.