Winning in the WFH World

Welcome to life in what may as well be a corporate petri dish. Like it or not, many organizations have just become part of the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. Are you ready?

For most companies, an all-in, at-home workforce is a whole new world. And while each business and industry must adjust (and hang on) in its own way, we’ve found a few common denominators helping people get through this transition. 

As we’ve talked to managers, executives, and their assistants, we’ve heard five ways they’re helping support company goals while their teams are working from home.

1. Adjust expectations

It’s easy to think companies can send workers home with a laptop and a prayer that the coming weeks will be business as usual. But working from home is a tough transition.

Many employees will be balancing a new way of working—along with kids at home, the demands of homeschooling, caregiving, or other demands. The truth is, most of your team won’t be able to fulfill their regular jobs during their regular hours. It’s not ideal, but it is reality.

So be open to change. Adjust expectations. Flex working hours and encourage staff to reach out for help where they need it. Remind everyone that success will come from the output, not hours or activities. Support a positive go-with-the-flow attitude.

2. Do a remote-work reset

Managing and working with remote colleagues will require a mindset reset. Things are not going to run the way they used to.

Start by getting rid of non-essential projects or putting them on hold. Now is the time to prioritize and help everyone focus on a few common goals. Think differently about how people go about solving issues, too. Be on the lookout for creativity and critical thinking—then recognize and reward it.

Most of all, minimize the micromanagement. Unrealistic rules (ahem, see this bad example) just won’t fly in the WFH world. Remember that at the office it’s normal to chat with co-workers, get a fresh cup of coffee and take a bathroom break. Working from home is no different.

According to Alison Green, workplace management expert, “If a manager has an employee on their team whom they don’t trust to work when they’re not being closely watched, that’s a failure of the manager’s and something that should have been addressed long before this crisis hit.” Trust your employees, and give workers the opportunity to prove their own self-motivation, discipline, and trustworthiness to fulfill expectations without supervision.

3. Support people’s needs

A home office won’t replicate the regular office—but you can sure try. Consider these essential things you and your team will need to get things done:

  • Tools. Yes, a company laptop is a start. You may also need to explore software and subscriptions you’ve never needed before, like video conferencing, screen sharing, group-access file storage, and team collaboration tools.
  • Communication. When you’re not working together in person, you miss out important messages that happen during office drop-by’s, informal idea sharing in the hallway, and even nonverbal cues. Go above and beyond to over communicate.
  • Structure. It’s true, hours and schedules can’t be the same as before. But you can determine fresh routines and expectations people can count on. Develop processes that reflect and embrace this new normal.
  • Organization. Give people time and encouragement to get settled and organized at home. An ordered workspace can help keep people from feeling overwhelmed and can give sense of control. (My little secret: I repurpose a Spoonful of Comfort cookie box to keep—and hide—my random desk stuff.)

4. Be empathetic and engaged

An extensive international study (pre-pandemic, we might add) measured what impacts the effectiveness of virtual teams. One of the most important skills might surprise you:

“Empathy,” notes Roberta Sawatzky MA, CPHR, “is the glue that binds all the competencies together.” In other words, being kind and thoughtful goes a long way.

It can be hard to interpret what someone is going through during stressful times, especially when nonverbal cues are fewer. People are adjusting to a “new normal” and their responses will be very different and come at different times. Experts recommend that every virtual worker show empathy by asking appropriate questions, listening to the words and emotions they hear, and being patient.

Showing care and concern for others is what Spoonful of Comfort is all about. And we are grateful to be one means for companies to share their empathy. It is humbling to see managers checking in on families and businesses sending support to employees during a tough economic downturn. We thank every team member, home office, WFH warrior, and lunchroom pal who is sharing comfort right now. We’re all in this together.