I remember when I made the transition from office based employee to self employed and working from home. In the first few months I missed many things about corporate life, but the thing I missed most was the people.
The morning hello, catching up over a cup of coffee, asking someone’s advice for a minute by the water cooler. All the things I had taken for granted were no longer available to me.
I had to find a new way of working, and over time I found that groove, started building a team and learning how to effectively engage and get the best from them even if we were living in different countries.
It won’t surprise you.
Easy and open communication.
I know that many of you will be making the transition for your teams right now, and if you are used to having them physically in one place, or even in a few UK based locations, you might be wondering:
- How you are going to keep the wheels of your business turning if you don’t have your team with you every day.
- How your team is going to achieve ‘business as usual’ when they are home dealing with all the distractions that this situation may (understandably) bring.
So I’ve put a few tips together. Born from my experience of working from home as a single mother and self employed business owner for the last five years, and my nuggets in effective communication too.
- Agree on a team charter for your virtual team
A study by the Corporate Leadership Council a few years back showed the number one driver for discretionary effort is linked with communication. If employees feel part of the change, involved with the change and contributing to how you ‘do’ the change, then they are more likely to buy into it and make the effort.
Some may find the WFH transition tricky, so to help with this, hold a short session with all your team members and agree a team charter for your work from home communication. This sets out some clear guidelines, wishes and principles so everyone understands what they are working towards.
Agreeing common ground will gain buy in from your team members about the transition and ensure they are more likely to follow the charter (which you can create as a graphic on an a4 PDF and have them stick up on the wall at home.)
2. Introduce virtual versions of real life things
Just because you aren’t physically together doesn’t mean you have to change what you would normally do with each other. So turn your real life activities into virtual events. A morning huddle (via zoom or skype) can help you all kick off the day focused in the right direction. You can hold an open virtual room at lunch for people to drop into and eat their lunch together. Get creative about what you can bring online.
3. Fill in the gaps with voice notes
Video conferencing is going to be the best way for you to keep in touch with your teams, especially if you have frequent meetings. I highly recommend using Zoom as the potential for different communication channels is huge, from delivering online training to holding a meeting. It is also incredibly user friendly and can be downloaded onto your phone. But video calls are not always going to be the best solution, and sometimes telephone calls won’t be either. So for those over the desk type questions, or water cooler chats, use voice notes instead. There are specific apps designed for ease of use such as Voxer (the walkie talkie app ) which is free to download from your app store. Or simply use Whatsapp, either in a Whatsapp group or 121 with each other. It’s a quick and easy form of communication that can fill in the gaps where phone calls and video calls won’t work.
4. Create comms check points
One concern with WFH is the disconnection in communication and resulting lack in motivation and productivity. Creating frequent checkpoints in your day with your virtual team can help keep everyone focused. So for example, a morning and lunch time huddle can set the focus and check in on progress. You can also have a final check in at the end of the day on a text platform (slack or a whatsapp group work well with this.) This involves everyone checking in and texting one main piece of progress or win they have achieved that day.
It may not feel like it, but the transition to WFH can be a very positive experience, bringing people even closer together and achieving a highly engaged team working towards a common goal.
If your organisation would like the support with this transition, I have a virtual training session – ‘Productive and engaged virtual teams’ that may help. Just send me a direct message or email Hello@helenpackham.com and we can arrange a time to speak.