The Overnight Switch to Working from Home

As most of the country is working from home, there’s a lot of talk about how to have the most productive days at home. And thanks to thought leaders who’ve cracked their code on what working from home looks like for them, you can find lots of great advice out there about what to do before you leave your bedroom, when to wake-up, even when to put pants on. 

But here’s the thing, for most business leaders and managers, working from home didn’t happen overnight. Preparation was key. They were able to instill confidence and trust and a routine into how their responsibilities operate, with an onramp to making it happen. 

Now, that’s all out the window. 

So WorkHound has applied what we know about working with dispersed workers, more than 30,000 across the U.S., and made the switch overnight to work from the safety of our homes in the wake of COVID-19. We’ll be sharing tips on what’s working for our team and how we’re continuing to maintain enthusiasm for the work we do. 

Tips for a Thriving Team-Focused Culture:

  1. First and foremost: Communicate. Discuss what everyone’s working on daily, but don’t be “Big Brother” about it. Have the task conversation first thing in the morning, or create a tracker, and simply communicate as things come up. It’s true that trust is earned, but when in doubt: communicate. Even if you do have a chat service, take the time to talk on the phone or better yet, call for a video chat. Schedule one-on-ones with your team just to check-in and open up the floor for them to share their uncertainties. Do this more often than just when you need something. Additionally, make sure to take the time on those calls to share empathy right now. It’s a tough time for everyone. 
  2. Set a protocol for COVID-19. If you haven’t already, clearly communicate with your team about what to do if they experience COVID-19 symptoms, per the CDC, and allow them to take the time to recover. It can be tempting to allow team members to continue to work since they’re already at home but give them the same time and space they would have if everyone were working in the office.
  3. Understand expectations for both your team and for you. Do you want to make sure everyone has logged in by a certain time? How will the KPIs for your team change during this time? Do you want a heads up when team members take breaks for tasks like walking the dog or taking lunch or helping their kids with a math problem? These are all just examples, but make sure that you take the time to get on the same page with your team. 
  4. Give grace. Understand that everyone is adjusting and will soon return to full operation, but many of your team members are learning their at-home work routines on-the-fly. A major life change has happened for everyone on your team and their loved ones in an instant. Many of your team members are learning how to balance work while keeping their kids occupied (not to mention schooling at home!) and co-working with their partners for the first time. Accept that everyone won’t be operating at 100% off the bat. 
  5. Encourage time-blocking. Studies show that time-blocking can increase productivity by 150%! This is dedicating a set amount of time to one task. For example, if members of your team are responsible for monitoring worker feedback on your company’s WorkHound dashboard, encourage them to designate time on their calendar every morning for only reviewing feedback, initiating reachouts, and considering actions that can be taken in response to feedback. 
  6. Support equipment needs. At-home workstations look a lot different than at-work. That surely goes without saying, but it’s likely that most of the members of your team don’t have access to a printer at home. If and when a member of your team needs to sign a document, support their needs. Look into alternative options for e-signing, like DocuSign or HelloSign. Additionally, if members of the team need specific equipment that can’t be easily hauled from the office to do their best work, then support their desire to do their best work. 
  7. Learn about the new working environment your team is in. If people get distracted in the office, it’s realistic to understand they’ll get distracted at home. But it’s better to accept that and work with it than to reprimand someone for the unavoidable realities of their situation. For example, a coworker of yours might be sharing a one-bedroom apartment with their partner, who is now also working from home, and they also have a dog. The dog will likely need to go on a walk during working hours. Instead of getting annoyed or frustrated, encourage the break because you know it’s coming, and know they’ll return re-energized. Most importantly, be mindful that they didn’t choose their apartment because it’s an optimal place to work, they chose it because it’s a great place to live. 
  8. Encourage everyone to get out of the house. Of course, this encouragement comes with an asterisk, as outside time needs to be done safely right now. But we are social beings, and we do not thrive when we’re stuck in one place. We need a change of scenery. Support and encourage your team members to go for a walk or a midday drive.
  9. Have a human-to-human conversation with your team members. It’s okay to commiserate together. Ask them what they’re doing to stay sane. While it’s possible you have a bunch of machines on your team that will gladly run a train over their work for days on end without interruption, it’s more realistic to know they’ll do better work when they have a chance to recharge.
  10. Respect their schedule. Now more than ever, the line between work and home is blurred. It can be tempting to just stay heads down and work long past traditional office hours. But not allowing a break for you or your team can cause burnout.
  11. Physical exercise: Encourage your team to check out online resources to take a midday stretch. There are lots of great remote apps and online memberships that will help your team members loosen up for the long haul of staying at home. In fact, services like Grokker and Down Dog are offering free memberships for a limited time. 
  12. Mental exercise: Members of your team will adjust (some likely already have) and will learn they can work faster and accomplish more in a shorter amount of time at home. If they find themselves with free time, encourage taking this time to learn. This is a great opportunity to reset and hone up on new skills for the betterment of your team. Check out resources like Coursera or Udemy to engage in online learning from world-class universities for a fraction of the price. Or dedicate weekly time as a team to tune into a relevant webinar to inspire deeper discussions from a distance. 

There are entire books on how to do working from home well, so this is just a small glimpse at how your team can thrive from afar. Our hope is that this time helps you continue to build stronger relationships and that your team members are grateful for the respect your company has given for them and their family’s health and safety. 

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The world might feel upside down, but it’s only temporary and there will be life on the other side of this chaos. In the meantime, we’d love to know if you and your team have additional tips to add to this list. What has been the most helpful tool for you and your team during this time? Reach out at info@workhound.com.