Implementing Work from Home and Leadership in Critical Times
It is truly a difficult time for the world as we go through the uncertainty of the cause and effect of COVID-19. Unfortunately due to the safety of the people, many of us have had to take drastic measures to help contain the virus. As we have already seen, many events, gatherings have been cancelled and many hotels, restaurants and airlines are losing business. This is a time to be prudent and do whatever we can to sustain.
It is also a time we need to adapt and one of the areas businesses have to look at, is really to remove traditional beliefs and to start implementing ‘Work from Home’ solutions and practices that will let businesses and work to continue. This may be the new norm, at least for the next year or so but really we don’t know…
One of the ways that we have no choice but to accept is that the only way we can stop the spread is by implementing some form of social distancing. The chart below proves that we have to take some measures.
Thankfully, there are solutions today that are mature and practices that have been used for the last 10-20 years that can help.
However, the solution is not just a technical one. It involves many other components to make up a proper Work from Home practice. Here are some methods that are proven and that even I am using in my companies.
Discipline & Policies
First and foremost, a work from home policy needs to be established that includes similar but more discipline that working in the office. This may include some of the following:
- Establishing a ‘work’ room where we would go to the ‘office’ in our homes. This will separate the work and personal boundaries of the home and maintain discipline within the practice
- Constant sync-up and updates are important in a predictable fashion so that no one goes unattended
- A mindset of work. Some go to the extend to ‘dress-up’ for work even though they are at home.
- Common company-wide tools to use are essential so that everyone is communicating in the right fashion
- While the policies are set, as a leader… TRUST is equally as important. It is easy to assume and get stressed out about whether or not your teams are actually doing work, but we have to shift to a Goal oriented culture and focus on the results.
Leadership in times like these are also leadership of availability. As leaders we need to let our teams know that we are constantly available and morale needs to be preserved. Janet Lee, Culture Guru writes about this here: How Managers Keep Remote Teams Productive
Meetings are important but most of us don’t really like it. Why? Because typically it is long, there is no agenda and no desired results pre-set.
In the world of Work from Home, where everyone is not seeing each other face to face, having meetings is critical for ALIGNMENT. If we don’t know what the other is doing, we potentially may be wasting time.
The Meeting Rhythms are critical whether its in a Work from Home or an Office environment. These are taught in the book Scaling Up by Verne Harnish and you can read about it more in the book. But for this topic, the 2 most important meeting rhythms are:
- Daily Huddle
- Weekly Plan
The Daily Huddle is a very quick and short meeting where everyone comes together on a fixed time every morning to update on 4 main areas:
- My WINS (anything that has made me go YAY!)
- Creates a positive effect on the person and the team in general
- My Main Thing today (1 major priority for the day)
- We need to be focused on 1 major thing so that we can be focused
- My GOALS to achieve today
- All the metrics and task that I want to head out to do, whether its sales, technical work, invoices, etc
- Critical Help I need from someone
- Who I need to work with to achieve my goals so that they know
Each one of us will take 2 – 3 minutes to mention the above update and this meeting should be short and precise. No problem solving here and no chit chat. Why? Cause we need the meeting to be quick and not let us THINK that its wasting our time to get sh*t done.
The Weekly Plan is typically thought about and planned before the week starts and once again we meet up and share what our goals for the week. This is to help us be more structured in what we do, our action plans and if any help is needed from anyone, we can foresee any disruptions to our plans for the week. This is typically done on a Monday morning
Once these rhythms are established, and alignment is achieved within the teams, you can see a shift in how everyone works towards a High Performance nature. Especially in a Work from Home scenario where we don’t see each other.
Having this rhythm also ensures that we are all going through things together and not feeling lonely in a home 🙂
Core Technology & Communication
Today there are heaps of technology and tools available for remote communication and really its up to your personal preference which one you choose. I make my choices based on:
- The lesser the number of tools the better
- It meets the requirements at an affordable cost
- Helps my team be more efficient
In a Work from Home policy, to maintain discipline in the workforce, we need to ‘simulate’ a face to face environment as best as possible. Of course a decent internet connection is needed.
In my Tech company, we use Microsoft Office365 and Microsoft Teams because obviously we sell the solution but more so, Office365 has many of the necessary tools in one. A teams video conferencing feature, chat feature, email, central storage, task planner, central storage, collaboration on Microsoft Office and more.
For my other companies where they are smaller and we need to be prudent wherever we can we use the following:
- Slack: This is used for a central chat and document sharing tool where we can split it to multiple channels. We use this over Whatsapp because WhatsApp can be overwhelming at times with too many groups and a mix with our personal messages. Using Slack allows us to segregate work from personal
- Trello: This is used to centrally plan tasks amongst my team. As we can see deadlines and assignments, it is very easy for us to look at one place to know how we can collaborate with others
- Zoom: I find this the most effective video conferencing facility which can allow us to use for free for up to 45 mins and its not expensive to have a paid account. Video conferencing is important, especially with our meeting rhythms and to maintain discipline that every call has to have the video on.
- Google Drive or OneDrive: A central storage for everyone to store files, access and collaborate. This ensures that we don’t ‘lose’ documents along the way because we don’t remember how we sent it across to a team mate
- Email: I tend to go to more popular systems like Microsoft Office365 or Google Mail because the service uptimes are high and reliable and they manage spam properly. Also the storage spaces given allows me to NOT have to delete mails and leave it as long as I want. However, I place e-mails at the bottom of the list because the above are more effective in collaboration. I don’t know about you but I hate searching through e-mails to find 1 thing.
- Any other tools: that your business uses has to be implemented in a fashion that users can access it over internet or a cloud tool. Project Management Tools, Digital Marketing Tools, Customer Relationship Management are essential tools depending on the business that needs to be cloud ready. While there are also ways to establish a VPN connection to the office to use these tools, it may be cumbersome to some to get work done effectively.
NOTE: Many of these tools are offering FREE 6 months due to the current situation. Go check them out
Working from Home sounds like fun, but may not be easy, especially if the reason you have to do it is because of self-quarantine. It is important to maintain discipline and focus as shared above, but also some habits related to health of your body, mind and soul.
Every morning I do 4 things…
- I write a gratitude message of what I am thankful for
- I read for 10-15 minutes
- I spend some quiet time with myself to meditate for 10 minutes
- I exercise for 30 minutes
The FIRST is to maintain a positive outlook in life and maintain my sanity in a closed environment.
The SECOND is to ensure I keep my brain active and always learning something new. I am naturally not fond of reading and its hard to finish a book. But 10 minutes a day I can do. The other thing I do is to read an article or a daily devotional religious reading. This helps me to center myself and my faith
The THIRD is to reset my mindset and to ask key questions to myself about what I am going to achieve today. I also say a prayer during this time.
The FOURTH and final is to keep my body healthy and my immune systems stable. There are many exercise routines that you can find on YouTube which lasts for 30 minutes like HIIT or Tabatha and its simple enough that you can do it at home.
To add to the above, especially in the current global pandemic situation, it would be important to maintain a clean environment, wash hands constantly or use sanitizers and wear a mask if you are unwell. There are many practices on this that you can look up.
Having good habits like these and you can add any that you want, may seem tough at first, but hey… so was brushing our teeth. Once these become a habit, it becomes part of life and essential when working from home.
Business Continuity Policies
There may be cases where we can’t have everyone in our office work from home and being in the office is necessary. So one of the areas to look at is to have a Business Continuity Practice (BCP).
A BCP is a combination of all that I mentioned above coupled together with a people logistical process.
You may want to think about having 2 separate teams serving similar functions and creating shifts of weeks where each team works from the office while the other team works from home. Creating 2 separate teams may mitigate the risk of having the entire company infected at the same time.
Before the next ‘shift’ comes in, you may want to explore sanitization of the office and have ready supplies of hand sanitizers, face masks and a hygiene practice.
We’ve been helping companies to implement these and it has maintained productivity throughout. I hope this will help someone. If you are interested to know more, do put in a comment and reach out.
It is VERY possible to be just as effective with people working remotely IF we maintain regular rhythms and the necessary tools to assist. The only thing we need to have is the mindset of change and adaptation.