Chances are, you've been in work-from-home mode now for weeks. And while maybe you're finally settling into a routine, it doesn't yet feel like the best routine. It's time to learn some simple things you can do to up your game.
Moe Vela, chief transparency officer at workforce-management software company TransparentBusiness and a former advisor to vice presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, is a fervent advocate of remote work. In a webinar Monday moderated by Inc. editor-at-large Kimberly Weisul, Vela explained how business owners and managers can boost productivity and morale while leading remote teams.
Besides incorporating any necessary technology your team needs, here are Vela's four top tips for helping your workforce be as productive as possible, at home:
1. Resist the urge to micromanage.
"Distance and absence create uncertainty," Vela says. When they can't see or hear their direct reports, many managers feel the need to check in throughout the day to make sure they're on task. But interrupting an employee every 10 minutes will have the opposite effect, he says. Trust your team to get things done, and find ways to coordinate work in "noninvasive" ways. Workers can counteract micromanagement, too, by sharing their progress with bosses more frequently than usual.
2. Be flexible to a point and infinitely understanding.
Remind employees that you value and trust them, Vela says. Make it clear that while remote work isn't a vacation and you're still running a business, you understand the challenges that come with these unprecedented circumstances, and you're willing to be flexible. If you see a pattern of lower productivity, say so, but be patient and give your team a chance to course-correct. Above all, make sure your employees know that their health and well-being are your highest priority. Encourage them to build self-care into their routines. Vela is also a fan of video meetings for building personal connections between managers and employees. "Let them hear you," he says. "Let them see you smile."
3. Stay calm.
When you're the leader, your demeanor in meetings and communications can have a direct effect on your team's frame of mind. Be mindful of how you present yourself. "If they see you panicked--if they feel like you're panicking, they feel like you're rattled--they're going to be panicked, they're going to be rattled, and it will affect their productivity, and it will affect your operational efficiencies," Vela says.
4. Consider the upside.
Finally, Vela suggests embracing the benefits of working from home. Global Workplace
Analytics, a consulting firm that studies remote work, estimates that a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 a year for every employee who telecommutes just half time. Less office space means lower rent, utilities, and equipment costs. Employers can attract top talent when they aren't limited to applicants who live near the office. Workers may be happier too: They save money and time when they don't have to commute to work, and many work-from-home employees report feeling less distracted, less stressed, and more loyal to their employers. This, in turn, makes them more productive and reduces absenteeism and turnover.
Vela acknowledged that remote work has downsides, too. Public transit and commercial real estate suffer when fewer people are commuting to offices, for example, and working in isolation can lead to loneliness. At the same time, employers can help protect workers' mental health, he says, and the environmental benefits of reduced carbon emissions and the larger boost to the economy shouldn't be discounted. "The economy will be flexible and nimble. It will find ways to adjust and adapt."
While some businesses already are preparing to go back to their offices, Vela is confident that as more employers adjust to a remote model, they'll want to stick with it, even when it's no longer necessary. "I am a firm believer that this will be our new normal, post-pandemic."