Supporting your remote working staff

Nick Howes, MD at Leadership Management International UK, discusses how to lead a team who are working from home

Don’t let the working environment define your productivity

Given the government’s instructions on social distancing to slow the spread of coronavirus, employees working from home has suddenly become a necessity in many industries.

Although some businesses already encourage flexible working, there are many business owners, managers – and indeed employees themselves – lacking confidence that work will be done productively when staff are away from the office. Much has been written about various tools and techniques which may help;  however it’s individual’s attitudes that will have the greatest impact on successful remote working.

Ultimately, the location of your workforce shouldn’t determine their results if employees are working towards clear goals, and they have been given the necessary support to become productive individuals.

Personal leadership pillars

It’s important, especially during a period of uncertainty, to instil confidence in your workforce, equipping them with essential qualities – such as purpose and passion – to ensure the work continues to the standards expected. These qualities fall under the six essential pillars of personal leadership that are crucial to developing the self-motivation and self-discipline needed to overcome challenges and deliver results.

Personal responsibility, planning, positive expectancy and persistence are the other essential elements that make up the six pillars of personal leadership. It’s through a combination of these qualities that workers will learn to lead themselves effectively in extraordinary times. Through experience fuelled with positive expectancy, employees can crystallise their thinking and effectively focus their efforts, using this challenge to stay motivated and ensure high quality work is delivered.

Persistence will then become the vital ingredient needed to overcome procrastination, and manage the avoidable distractions at home, whist still giving necessary care and attention to family members who may be sharing the same space.

Clear direction

Whilst it’s important that employees are taught the skills needed to become effective personal leaders, the collective productivity of your workforce relies on their understanding of the ‘common goal’ – having clear direction, and understanding what success looks like.

Goal-setting is a fundamental part of personal development, and is essential for managing teams remotely; it gives individuals clear and realistic targets to aim for, boosting self-motivation and delivering better results in work and all other areas of life.

At the current time clear goals are more important than ever to ensure everybody in the team is pulling in the same direction; each person must understand their role and recognise their importance in helping the entire team succeed. During a period of uncertainty, one shared goal could be as simple as reminding employees that only through hard work, and continued productivity, will the business be able to overcome the financial challenges brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Personal goal-setting

In order to harness the power of goal-setting, individuals need to be personally invested in achieving their targets, fuelling a self-motivation far greater than simply completing the tasks that have been assigned to them. This means taking the time to understand the benefits to be gained by the accomplishment of each goal, including the personal satisfaction of the progress that’s been made and the achievement of large and small victories.  

For employees working from home, it’s a powerful practice to set clear and attainable goals, in line with the greater objectives, on a weekly, and even daily, basis. Remember, there’s a good deal of evidence to suggest that we experience a stronger commitment to our goals when we write them down on paper rather than in digital format. Encourage your employees to set personal goals as well as business ones, as success in one area breeds motivation in all others.

Effective time management

With strong personal leadership, and an understanding of clear direction through goal setting, employees are well-prepared to practice effective time management.  Their ‘must do today’ and ‘do today if possible’ lists can be formed around the tasks and priorities that will generate the most progress towards achieving goals. This is true productivity.

Otherwise known as ‘high-payoff activities’, the most important work can be prioritised – not necessarily the latest request to arrive by email.  Each morning, staff will benefit tremendously from creating a written plan of how they’re going to spend their day, designating sections of the day for focused project work, checking emails and lunch.

With a clear direction for the day ahead, employees will find they get a lot more completed in the time available, which then frees up more time for personal activities.

Maintain productivity…

With entire workforces being required to work from home, it’s crucial that businesses maintain their productivity levels, given the uncertainty of the situation.  Although some employers may be apprehensive about the impact of working from home, there is no reason why standards should slip if staff have been given the skills needed to lead themselves effectively.

Essential personal leadership skills, combined with a deeper understanding of goal-setting and time management, should allow business to continue as usual, despite employees being in separate locations. If your workforce requires training, there are online personal development courses that will give them the tools needed to remain productive over the coming weeks and months.

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