For years, leaders have strived to create a stable, productive, and efficient workplace. The measures brought on by COVID-19 now threaten to disrupt what they tried so hard to achieve. A workforce untethered from the office brings on new opportunities for how leaders manage, communicate, and lead their teams.
Before COVID-19, 80% of employees stated they wanted to work from home at least some of the time. However, many of those employees are finding that the reality of working remotely is very different from their expectations. Some on your team might be feeling overwhelmed by remote work due to a lack of structure in their days, ineffective communication, and misplaced focus on keeping busy.
As a leader, you may be witnessing this first-hand. Rock star employees, who thrived in an office work environment, might be struggling to adapt to working remotely. Meanwhile, average performers may be shining in this new dynamic.
3 Ways To Help Lead Your Untethered Workforce
Set Clear Boundaries
One of the major fears leaders have with employees working remotely is that they will slack off during work hours. Being aware of this, many employees are doing the opposite – working endlessly throughout the day, the night, and even on weekends. Without a clear definition of when the workday begins and ends, employees feel increased pressure to respond to messages/emails immediately, regardless of the time of day.
Having work, leisure, eating, family time, etc. take place in the same physical place contributes to this. In the long term, working an excess of hours and without a defined schedule can lead to burnout, which eventually may lead to employee disengagement and ultimately quitting.
- Delegate appropriate tasks to your team which will empower them to make decisions and build trust.
Working remotely has led to employees being less communicative than before. Although working remotely can reduce unnecessary chatter, it can also limit the brainstorming of ideas, giving/receiving advice, and deeper connectedness.
Previously, I’ve written about how the future of communication is rooted in the past. With remote workforces in full effect, managers are naturally leaning more heavily on collaboration tools like email, Slack, Trello, Google Docs, Office 365, etc. However, using technology that allows face-to-face conversations, albeit virtually, is more important than ever before. Without the typical office interactions, virtual calls through Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, etc. allows purposeful communication where ideas, active listening, and strengthening relationships take place.
- Use collaboration tools to educate and inform, while being cautious about using them excessively or unnecessarily. When appropriate, use Zoom or other video conferencing platforms to replace previous face-to-face interactions including informal huddles, or quick check-ins with employees.
Promote Outcomes, Not Tasks
When not working alongside other teammates and their managers, employees may want to show their worth by checking off as many to-do’s and tasks as they can. For employees, productivity should be about achieving objectives not about completing tasks.
Meanwhile, as a leader, you may be tempted to review how many tasks an employee has completed measuring how hard they are truly working. Beware that micromanaging is time-consuming, stressful, and can potentially undermine your employees’ efforts.
- Rethink how you want to see the objectives accomplished. Test your flexibility in letting your team come up with new ways to achieve the targets.
The Bottom Line – Untethered Does Not Mean Unmanageable
I have been coaching and consulting clients remotely via Zoom and other remote methods since I started my business. Through video conferencing tools, I’ve helped lead organizations to positive changes in their workforce, even if it is untethered.
I give practical advice to business leaders who may be struggling to manage an untethered workforce in my upcoming book, “Yeah…But”
Let’s turn conversations into outcomes.