Photo by Tina Witherspoon

By: Justin Carter

Here are 6 ways to keep your team productive while working from home.

As we all know, COVID-19 has drastically changed the way businesses function in 2020. More businesses than ever are encouraging employees to work from home. While many employees already do some work remotely, many workers and managers are still trying to maintain productive teams while adjusting to this paradigm shift. Keeping your team productive while working from home can be difficult, hopefully, the 6 suggestions below will help keep your teams productive, and efficient as possible while working remotely.

Working from home can mean more distractions, such as kids, pets, or entertainment. There are also fewer methods to interact naturally with coworkers, along with more social isolation — all of which can lead to less productivity. To overcome some of these challenges, employers should encourage new ways to manage and collaborate with fellow employees, and enable more ways to connect with each other.

Here are 6 ways you can help keep your team productive while they are working from home or in the field.

Equip your team with tech and productivity tools

One of the most important ways to help teams succeed while working remotely is to give them the tools needed to stay connected and productive. These include project management tracking apps such as Asana and Airtable. Chat/messaging apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. Let's not forget video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Google Hangouts.

Equipping teams with these new technologies allow managers and employees to all stay on the same page no matter where they are working from. These new apps might also help keep your team more productive and connected after COVID-19 fears lessen and people go back to the office.

Establish daily check-ins

Managers no longer getting daily face time with employees. Employees are not able to chat around the proverbial water cooler.  Creating a daily check-in routines are important and help set priorities and foster connections. A morning check-in via Microsoft Teams, for example, can create a sense of normalcy. These check-ins can be one-on-one or held among small groups.

The tech and productivity tools mentioned above can be vital for revamping regular check-ins. For example, if you previously held a daily all-hands meeting in-person, you may want to use a video conferencing app to have a virtual version of the same meeting each morning. Revamped meetings that adapt specifically to remote workers can help you maintain productivity.

Set virtual office hours and be present on instant messaging apps throughout the day to help employees.

Encourage dedicated workspaces

Many regular office workers have never needed a dedicated workspace in their homes.  If staff are now regularly working from home, managers should encourage the creation of home offices that are separate from communal space. In some cases, companies have even offered large stipends to help workers create appropriate, productive spaces for remote work.

Having a dedicated workspace can help minimize distractions from home life. Many parents need to be at home with their children due to school closures or distance learning. Having an office away from family can allow you to maintain focus and stay on task.  Even if this office is a temporary makeshift space — such as a guest room, basement, garage, or walk-in closet — this can help you mentally separate work from home.

Provide emotional and steady support

Working from home can cause loneliness and negative emotions.  Employers should do what they can to provide emotional support to employees. Leaders should set the tone for their virtual offices with a calm and upbeat presence. This can help create a level-headed workplace where people can still get things done.

In a fully remote work environment, managers should be more available than usual for staff check-ins.  Other questions that may come up given the unfamiliar circumstances may require your attention. Set virtual office hours and be present on instant messaging apps throughout the day to help employees.

Leaders should additionally encourage self-care among their employees.  These employees are trying to adapt to remote work,  along with the stress of new environments. There is also the stress of daily updates around COVID-19. Managers should advocate for Remote employees to exercise, get quality sleep, take showers, and continue on with lives as normally as they can.

Dress for success

While it may not sound important to dress for business while working from home, psychologically it makes a large improvement psychologically.  Many workers may want to wear sweatpants and pajamas while trying to be productive. Dressing up for yourself can also mentally help you feel better, thus making it easier to focus on important tasks. Dressing appropriately also allows employees to feel more comfortable hopping on an impromptu video call with clients or coworkers.

Don’t forget about non-work interactions and team building

Finally, one last thing that may not be obvious to managers is the importance of facilitating non-work interactions. Creating time and space for workers to talk about non-work related topics. This will help them to feel more normal like was in the office. This helps them relieve stress and feel better connected. One way to do this is to leave a few minutes before and after video conferences open for people to catch up. Another is to host a weekly virtual happy hour (drinking not required) or a virtual team-building exercise to build bridges between employees.