How To Lead Your Business While Working From Home – Forbes - Freelance Rack

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Sunday, July 26, 2020

How To Lead Your Business While Working From Home – Forbes

In the first half of 2020, the United States went from hearing stories of a virus in other countries to identifying the first cases at home to widespread lockdowns. Leaders at companies across the nation discussed how they might respond to COVID-19 one week and then executed emergency plans the next week.

Now, states are lifting lockdown requirements and allowing some businesses to reopen. But COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the country, and some companies are facing the reality that remote work isn’t going away anytime soon. Household names like Facebook, Twitter, Shopify, and Slack are considering permanent work-from-home measures after a successful transition spurred by the pandemic. Considering the potential to cut costs by keeping team members remote, such plans also make financial sense.

If you’re a business leader who’s facing the prospect of long-term remote work, you’re going to need to find strategies for leading from home. And no, these strategies won’t be, “Do what you’ve already done—just on a conference call.” Just like working from home isn’t the same as working in an office, leading from home isn’t the same as leading in person.

When your team is remote, you lose elements like nonverbal communication cues. You have to individualize your managerial approach even more than normal while your employees contend with parenting from home, caring for loved ones, home internet issues, and the challenges of learning to live during a pandemic. And you have to do it all while keeping your business afloat.

Fortunately, you’re not in this alone. There are things you can do to build your remote leadership skills and navigate your business through an uncertain future. Start with these four strategies to lead your business while you and your team work from home.

1. Focus on your long-term goals.

Think about the past few months: How much time did you spend working on long-term goals and strategy? If it’s been less time than usual, that’s understandable. When you’re not sure what next week has in store, it can be tough to think about next quarter or next year. But as you settle into long-term remote work, it’s important to refocus on your company’s long-term goals. These goals will help shape what your organization prioritizes in the short term.

Take Alan Mulally’s tenure at Ford, for example. Mulally started as Ford’s CEO in the late 2000s, and it was his responsibility to lead the brand through the ensuing financial crisis. Instead of merely cutting costs everywhere he could and hoping the company would make it to the other side, he used his long-term vision that the company would create high-quality, environmentally friendly vehicles as his guiding light. Every decision he made was meant to get closer to that goal; he explained as much to his management team to ensure they and the rest of the company were aligned with that long-term strategy.

2. Communicate your expectations clearly.

Chances are good that throughout your organization’s pandemic response, you’ve been communicating early and often with employees at all levels. But just because you and your team have settled into the new routines of remote work doesn’t mean that communication should stop. In fact, now’s the time to ramp up that communication—especially when as it relates to setting remote work expectations.

According to Zapier, which has a fully remote team, it’s crucial to set expectations regarding how quickly employees should respond to messages, which tasks need to be completed, who is responsible for completing them, and the deadlines for completing those tasks. Once you nail down your remote work expectations, create clear messaging around them that you can distribute to your team via multiple channels. As everyone gets comfortable with these new standards, it may help to remind folks about them in companywide emails, department meetings, and even one-on-one meetings between employees and their managers.

3. Set ground rules for meetings.

Another critical set of expectations to set involves how you’ll conduct meetings in a virtual space. Without guidelines in place, you may be setting yourself and your team up for disruptions and unproductive conversations. No matter which videoconferencing platform your team uses to connect, offering a little guidance can help employees avoid making incorrect assumptions about how they can make the most of their time collaborating.

“At the very least, expect employees to be punctual,” suggests Christine Alemany, CEO of branding and marketing firm TBGA. “Arriving late to a Zoom call is just as disruptive as showing up late to an in-person meeting. Beyond that, you might consider requiring employees to be on camera at all times and asking them to close all tabs on their laptops. Do anything you can to limit multitasking, reduce distractions, and ensure employees pay attention.”

4. Make time for company culture.

Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you can let your company culture fade away. Your efforts to foster culture among your employees might be even more important now, considering that a major complaint about long-term remote work is the lack of facetime with co-workers and feelings of isolation. Fortunately, you likely already have access to some of the tools you need to address this issue.

Use an instant-messaging platform like Slack to post prompts that get employees to communicate casually with one another as they would around the water cooler at work. These prompts could include sharing baby photos, productivity tips, work-from-home setups, or pictures of pets, for starters. Encourage employees to use video for check-in calls to remind everyone that humans exist on the other side of the screen. If you can, consider sending snacks or small pick-me-ups to your employees by mail in lieu of free treats in the break room. The opportunities are endless—just make sure they align with your existing culture practices.

If you didn’t start 2020 thinking that you’d be leading a fully remote team in a matter of months, you’re not alone. But with these strategies under your belt, you can make the best of an uncertain situation. Focus on the long game, keep everyone in the loop on expectations and meeting guidelines, and find ways to inject company culture into your new routines, and you’ll set yourself up for successful remote leadership moving forward.



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