The world feels like a scary place right now. With COVID-19, things are changing faster than we ever could have imagined.
And with more and more businesses around the world facing unexpected closures and making the transition to fully remote work as they’re able, there have been a lot of questions from our Skillshare for Teams customers on how to ensure employees in their organization remain engaged, productive, and healthy.
While thorough hand-washing, sneezing into elbows, and staying away from crowds are seemingly “simple” solutions, we know now that these strategies alone are no longer enough. We are likely entering a period of prolonged “social distancing,” and for many of our team members, this means doing a complete 180˚ turn when it comes to how everyone’s daily lives are lived. This not only affects people’s productivity, but it also affects our mental health and state of mind.
The (Temporary) New Normal
For many teams, working from home may sound like a dream. No commute, no need to get dressed, and unlimited cat cuddles. Unfortunately, the transition is not that simple.
As someone who made the same shift last year to fully-remote work at Skillshare, I’ve gone through all of it — the negatives, the positives, the in-betweens — of working from home.
If your team is struggling to get adjusted, we have a few thoughts to help you stay on track. Skillshare was built on a distributed workforce (we’re 30% remote!) and we, like many others, are fully remote right now. We are very familiar with the organizational challenges that come along with #WFH.
Change can be tough, but I’m sharing these tips so that we can all get through this together. And in turn, hopefully, these tips can help your team get through this as well.
1. Keep all communication lines open.
The physical office may be shut down, but teamwork doesn’t have to be sacrificed.
Staying connected is crucial and you can keep collaboration alive by turning your daily meetings into video conferencing calls.
Additionally, if you’re managing a team, it’s important to keep lines open between your employees and yourself. Build in “virtual office hours” or add an extra 1:1 during this time. Don’t underestimate how difficult it is for employees to be in isolation. Consistently remind them that they’re not alone in feeling how they’re feeling.
Another more nontraditional form of communication is implementing different tools so your team can have visibility into everyone’s work, without anyone having to actually say anything out loud. This can happen by upping documentation (my favorite!) in Confluence or managing tasks or projects in agile tools like Asana or Trello — this is the type of over-communication that helps teams excel in remote environments.
2. Tell your team to ditch the PJs.
When working from home, there’s a temptation to sit around all day in pajamas. And, of course, that’s okay if they’d prefer that!
But if your employees are having trouble concentrating or working longer hours than normal, encourage them to get dressed. It sounds simple, but it will allow them to differentiate between day and night, and it will ensure a level of professionalism in meetings or calls. It also will help remind everyone that it’s time to get down to work.
Plus, at the end of the day, you and your team will still feel that same sense of relief when sliding into sweats. This feeling is essential to reducing burnout and driving productivity the next day — trust me.
3. Create a Routine and Stay on Schedule.
While it might seem like the world is whirling around us all, it’s essential to maintain a sense of normalcy and daily routine for your team.
Working from home can drive a big temptation to work straight through or longer work hours than normal. Burnout is a real thing, so help protect your team from it by encouraging them to set boundaries.
Ensure your team is sticking to their working hours and make sure, at the end of the day, they know it’s okay to wrap up. Without micromanaging, encourage your team to consciously sign on and off and let their coworkers know when they’re available or not. Also, make sure they’re respecting their peers’ schedules as well.
Speaking of a schedule… no matter how seemingly small or insignificant a task or errand is, make sure your team adds everything to the calendar and makes it public. Not only will this help keep everyone accountable, it will also empower over-communication, collaboration, and trust across the entire team.
4. Ensure your team to take breaks, hydrate, and eat.
Sure, while isolation can do wonders for your productivity, it also can make you forget something as simple as eating food.
This is my biggest piece of advice, and something I had to learn the hard way. I’ve never been a big breakfast fan, and in my early remote-work days, I would sometimes forget to eat. I was always so focused on cranking out the work in my quiet place, I failed to take crucial care of my body.
Remind your team to take breaks every day, even if they’re only 15 minutes at a time. Ask them to block out time to make lunch, fill up a water bottle, or take a stroll around the park. Encourage them to set up virtual happy hours or coffee breaks with their coworkers across the organization, too. Just don’t forget to make sure they add it to the calendar!
5. Provide time and space for employee growth.
Just because your team is remote doesn’t mean they have to be on autopilot. Employees will be much happier if you give them the time they need to keep their brains and bodies sharp and engaged.
Create a team exercise that encourages your employees to check off fun to-dos, not related to work. Send puzzle progress pictures, run a virtual book club, or learn a new skill like animation on Skillshare together or apart – just for the fun of it.
Once they’ve learned something new, encourage them to share it within a designated channel or during standup where they can share finished art projects or book recommendations. Learning together is a great way to help everyone stay connected right now. By the time we’re all back in the office, it will be like we never missed a beat.
Staying Positive in an Uncertain World
As a former people leader and as someone who now loves supporting the success of customers (like you!), even I have to keep telling myself this: it’s important for a team to stay productive at home, but it’s more important for employees, as human beings, to stay positive and mentally healthy. Be patient while your employees are transitioning. Don’t expect them right away to be as productive as they were in the office.
At Skillshare, we created a Slack channel called #What_I_learned_WFH where we share fun WFH stories or memes. As humans, our minds and hearts crave connection, and it can be challenging to satisfy this need when we’re faced with uncertainty. Create places for folks to come together as a community and we’ll all feel a little more positive about these uncertain times. Your team is your greatest asset – help them help you by sharing, learning, and working together.
Are you a Skillshare customer and want to share some productivity or wellness inspiration with your team? Here’s a handpicked list of fun classes that you and your team can do together.