As we begin to come out of enforced hibernation and figure out the pathway forward, there are opportunities ahead, particularly for businesses that do two things well: focus on cash flow, and successfully manage their people.
Managing money, of course, is very different from managing people. But they are both critical components of small business success. Most businesses have had no choice but to adapt to a virtual working environment, but it is likely to become a significant component of the ‘new normal’. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, if it is handled well. Strong leadership is key.
By Michael Mekhitarian.
Study after study has shown that people can work just as effectively from home as they can from the office. They are also often more ‘engaged’ too, because they feel a greater sense of control over their own time, and they are generally happier, because they are better able to balance work and other commitments.
Another benefit is that the talent pool opens up significantly when you can offer people remote working positions. For some businesses, downsizing the ‘work’ premises could ease some financial burden too.
But for leaders, managing the transition, and also successfully managing a team remotely over the longer term, does present some unique challenges. For the past couple of months workplace morale has been largely fostered on ‘camaraderie built through crisis’ and a sense that we all need to ‘just get on with it under the circumstances’ – neither is sustainable long term.
For those companies that will continue with an at-home workforce, or some form of hybrid with people working at home and in the office, fostering a strong culture will be more critical than ever, to build high-performing teams, ensuring people are united by purpose and goals.
Recently Leadership expert and business mentor John Drury was a guest on Michael Mekhitarian’s webinar series.
John Drury says leaders need to focus on a number of key things, in order to build morale and accountability when teams are working remotely.
For leaders who have a tendency to ‘micro-manage,’ (many perfectionists can be this way) this is a test of how well you can let go of the reigns.
Remote teams need leaders who will keep people engaged and enthusiastic and working towards the common goal. If you don’t know your people well, now is the time to get to know them. Some people will work super productively from home and show initiative and dedication. Others will need more motivation. Some people thrive in an office, some people love to work alone. A good leader knows the difference and knows who might need more follow up, and perhaps more one-on-one contact.
When people are not in the office with you, you have no idea how they’re spending their time. But time is becoming increasingly outdated as a unit for measuring productivity anyway. To ensure people remain engaged, keep sharing the vision and celebrating the milestones.
Reaffirm everyone’s role on the team and how their contribution is valuable to the end result. Mange your people’s expectations (as well as your own) by setting clear deliverables – outcomes that are measurable, and have deadlines. This might mean revising some job descriptions and work contracts – make sure that both you and your employee are protected in writing if there are any significant changes.
Routine meetings help your team to structure their own work day and commitments.Morning check-ins are a good idea so everyone has a ‘start-point’ in the day. Meetings should be set each week or fortnight as the need occurs. Encourage attendance and try not to change these days and times because they provide crucial junctures in the working week, helping people to plan their workload. They need to be consistent. Be aware that as much as home as distractions, it can also be harder to draw a healthy line between ‘work’ and life. Helping employees to find ways to deal with this will also be part of the brief.
Leaders need to be in constant contact with their people – or at the very least – be available to their people. And they need to provide both formal and informal ways for the team to engage with each other. It’s important to remember that what once was solvable in ‘hallway’ chat will now have to be dealt with by other means. People need to be able to contact each other – to deal with issues, to garner information. Importantly, office banter – jokes and mucking around – still need a forum. It’s a critical component of team building, but ensure you have policies that outline what could potentially be ‘offensive’ or inappropriate.’
Being together helps to foster team spirit. Moving forward, post Covid-19 while large chunks of the workforce will probably continue to work from home, working remotely needs to be balanced with personal contact. This could impact your office space and the way it operates. Make sure the office is a place your people enjoy coming to on a regular basis.
Most importantly, consider what your strategy is for keeping people safe when they do return to work. At the start of Covid-19 public health and workplace health and safety laws changed, so make sure you’re aware of new regulations and your obligations as an employer.
Leading through change is never easy, particularly in a situation like now, when there is no clear roadmap. Leaders must acknowledge that people are fragile and stressed, but they must also acknowledge their own limitations. For leaders, the burden is significant right now … but it will ease, as time goes on, and people get used to new arrangements.
Self care and setting boundaries (knowing when to turn the phone off!) is also critical to avoid burnout. While teams are relying on Leaders to remain strong and stable, it’s ok to admit that you too, have good days and bad too.
Some businesses might find themselves restructuring, and if that’s you, take a look at our 5-Step Process for taking control of your business. You can download the free e-book here. And if you need help, contact us. Att ATB Partners we offer a range of accounting, financial and business planning advice as well as a business mentoring.