Working from home is the new normal for the foreseeable future as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. While you still may be getting used to taking conference calls in your sweatpants and having lunch while also teaching your child math, staying connected with your team is important during this time. More than likely, this is your first time working from home, so you may need some guidance on the best ways to stay productive and engaged with your team virtually.

We’ve been a virtual company since the beginning, so we’ve perfected the work-from-home method. Here are five tips to help you and your team stay connected and focused during this unusual time.

  1. Communication

During these next few months, it’s crucial to keep a face-to-face connection with your team members.  When you see someone through a Zoom call, you feel less isolated and alone, which in turn boosts your morale. Your team members are less likely to waste time and resources if they are reminded they are a part of something bigger than them. You want to foster a sense of community, even from afar.

Zoom calls can also be used outside of a meeting like catching up with a co-worker over lunch. You can also set up a  Slack channel for everyone to talk about what’s happening in their daily lives—similar to a virtual water cooler. Various topics can include what’s everyone watching, listening to, reading, etc.

    1. Technology

    Technology is everyone’s best friend these days, so use the multiple platforms out there to your teams’ advantage. Besides using Slack as a virtual water cooler, you can also use it to check in with team members about their work progress and ask quick questions. Another useful and user-friendly platform is Basecamp, which is a project management system. You can start and assign projects to team members, and keep clear, streamlined communication in its messaging system.

    1. Clear Directions

    Communication is great, but you also need to have clear directions for projects and tasks to succeed. Using clear directions is the other piece of the virtual production puzzle. Your team needs to know what’s expected of them and when. Besides Basecamp, and Asana can keep your team motivated as they see their progress.

    When giving directions, you want them to be to the point. It can be easy for a sentence or instructions to get misconstrued over email. When giving directions over email, be concise and direct.

    • Example: Instead of “I need this done quickly.” Write: “I need this ready at 5 p.m.” This way there is no confusion on a deadline.

    Also, reward your team with shout outs and positive messaging to reinforce good habits.

    1. Feedback

    You need to be comfortable giving both positive and negative feedback remotely, as well as having a good system in place when it’s time to advise. It’s important to give positive feedback, whether big or small. A simple, “Thank you for your time and hard work.” It can go a long way. Everyone wants to be appreciated at work, especially when you can’t have face-to-face interaction.

    Negative feedback is never fun to give, but necessary for your team members to improve and perform better in their role.  It may be awkward to discuss performance reviews over the phone or video call, but those awkward talks are a part of managing a remote team. Be proactive in addressing the issue(s) and don’t sidestep. You might find it’s helpful to have a system set up where you do check-ins regularly until the situation is resolved.  Just remember, when delivering negative feedback, consider any difficult circumstances your employee might be facing.

    1. Availability

    When working remotely, you want to be available to your team during regular work hours if any questions or needs arise. You can’t simply walk over to your colleague’s desk to ask him/her questions, so make sure you’re available on Slack or any other chat function your team uses. You also need to be available via phone and email to help employees who need support with productivity, and to address any difficulties that can arise between team members.

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