Managing Your Newly Mobile Workforce
Just because a shift to mobile workforce is happening doesn't change business as usual. Work still has to get done, products have to get shipped and deals closed.
As a manager, this puts a new, major pressure on you: Whether you wanted to or not, and whether you’re familiar with how to do it or not, you suddenly have to keep your team engaged and productive as they transition to remote work.
Here are some tips mobile team members and team leaders have for those new to working remotely from home.
What would your best piece of advice be for somebody who might be working remotely for the first time?
Understand the Technology You’ll Be Using Daily
Take time to learn how to use the tech that’ll help you stay connected. Get intimate with virtual meeting software like Cisco Webex, so you can attend or facilitate meetings as needed. The built-in camera sometimes causes issues for those unfamiliar so be sure to practice. You don’t want to be the only one in a meeting (or worse, a presentation) who can’t be seen. Additionally, if you are facilitating (vs. attending) a virtual meeting, be sure all attendees know the expectation is for all team members to be virtual as opposed to them all gathering in a conference room and you’re the only one who is virtual. This puts everyone on a level playing field.
Take Time to Set Up & Troubleshoot Your Home Office
Take time to set up your work station—block off a few hours. It might not take that long, but it’s better to ensure everything is working properly before finding yourself in a meeting and unable to present what you need. Or worse—miss the meeting altogether.
Create a Dedicated Workspace That Inspires Focus
While the perception of working from home (WFH) is often sweatpants and relaxed attitude, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. When your work is at home, it’s then obviously never far away. It can be easy to find yourself jumping on email at all hours, answering a call during dinner with the family, be on your laptop before calling it a night, etc. It can be tougher to mentally disconnect and “leave work” when you didn’t physically go anywhere.
Having that dedicated work space helps avoid distractions and mentally feel like you’ve commuted to work even if it’s just a few steps down the hall.
And getting ready for the day just like I would to go into an office also helps me make the mental switch when I actually leave the desk … and then do throw on sweats.
Stick to Your Normal Office Hours
Trust me, it’s easy to crawl out of bed thinking you will just check email quickly and then find yourself four hours later, bent over your laptop with unbrushed teeth, bed hair, and still wearing your pajamas. And it’s easy to keep working at the end of the day, particularly with the heavy workloads we are all experiencing thinking, “just one more, quick thing.” But it’s more important than ever to respect the hours you would normally work. If you are lucky enough to have a separate space in your home for your office, close your door at the end of the workday and avoid going to your computer repeatedly. It will make you a better worker for the hours that you are supposed to be working.
As mentioned, the luxury of staying in your pajamas WILL be tempting. But I encourage you to get up, shower, and change out of your pajamas even if it is only into your “day pajamas” (yoga pants). It changes your headset, puts you in work mode, and sets the stage for the day.
Any advice for a manager who might be leading a remote team for the first time?
Leaders Should Stay As Connected As Possible
Most days, I’m in back-to-back meetings. I never want my team feeling frustrated that I don’t answer when 99.9% of the time it’s because I’m on a call. To keep my team updated, I share my Outlook calendar with my team so they know where I am—virtually or meeting-wise. Figure out the best way to reach you immediately for urgent matters and communicate that to your team. For me, it’s (1) text, (2) leave a voicemail and (3) send an email based on what gets my attention first.
Be Available for Virtual Pop-Ins
It’s like the quote “my door is always open.” For a mobile team member, that looks different. An open door from my manager to me looks like a forwarded phone, availability on our office communications and a guarantee that my phone calls (which don’t come very often) are returned. The most important one is the chat function—that’s the same as me popping in for a one minute chat as I walk by your office on my way to a meeting, or see you in the break room. It’s essential to have a means for casual or quick dialogue.
Feedback Is a Gift—Be Transparent About Your Own Concerns
Ask for feedback—a lot. And look at feedback as a gift. What you choose to do with the feedback you’re given is ultimately up to you. But asking for and accepting feedback goes a long way in establishing trust.
To that end, be open to experiencing bumps along the way. Things won’t go or feel perfectly so be open and vulnerable with your team about that. Acknowledge when this happens and lean into it. What I’ve discovered is that when this happens, it’s because I’ve struggled to show up as the best leader I can be. My physical location didn’t have anything to do with the challenge I was faced with. In the end, leadership is leadership. You are simply more challenged in communicating effectively with a new mobile workforce, but it’s possible and the foundation you’ve built as a leader will continue to grow because of it!
If there was one thing you wanted your peers or leader to know about your experience being remote, what would it be?
Don’t Forget About Your Mobile Team Members
Sometimes we feel like we’re an afterthought and anything the home office can do to make that feeling disappear, the better. The world is not a butts in seats world anymore. We’re a work from anywhere world now. The more our home office team can understand and live with that in mind, the happier we’ll be.
Little Moments Have a Big Impact
Every touch point with me is meaningful. I’m alone in my house all day, so I don’t get to experience small talk with team members about the weekend as we walk into the building from the parking lot. I’m not in the room giving and receiving high fives after a client call goes well. I’m not a part of that quick recap after the phones are hung up and everyone is still in the room to talk about what just happened. I’m not there to laugh or be surprised by a desk drop. So that chat message you send me saying, “Hi! Good luck on your presentation this week!”—it’s life giving. Or a quick Monday morning call or shout out before the start of the meeting to see how my weekend was? It means a lot.
While these are certainly new and evolving times for businesses, it doesn't have to all be panic and chaos. There is a lot out of our control, but there are things we can still do.
With uncertainty and chaos happening in the world around us, we need leaders who build some structure and routine back into the day-to-day. Hopefully, these tips from our team members can get your team up and running in no time.
Looking for more help with your mobile workforce? Here are five proven ways to build remote workforce engagement.