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Managers and employees are continually learning how to be productive in this new #WFH environment forced upon us by the global pandemic, and people are dreaming up creative new ways to effect positive morale.

Very early on in the COVID-19 lockdown, #DigiBlogChat host @Carol_Stephen invited me to do a Twitter Q&A to offer some tips on working from home. You can also find out what two of my team members think about remote working in their recent blog.

Things are continually changing, and we’re constantly discovering new ways to cope and thrive in our home offices. Here are the questions and answers from my recent, fast-paced #DigiBlogChat experience. Live every Tuesday at 1:00pm PT/4:00pm ET, I urge you to check it out and engage with the regulars. It’s a fun and informative community.

1. What's the biggest challenge to expect / overcome when transitioning from an office to a remote work environment?
Low morale and isolation. Video conferencing helps, with a healthy mix of business and ‘just because’ catch-ups. For managers, it’s out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome. Some struggle to believe employees are working if they can’t see them. Trust is critical.

2. How can organizations best support their employees during the transition to working from home?
Adapt to the new environment. Day-long meetings by video are unproductive and frustrating. Encourage ‘normal’ working hours, not be switched on all day/night. Avoid burnout. Fostering work life balance is essential to employees and organizations. Introduce fun too.

3. How do leaders help maintain company culture in a remote work scenario?
Praise people for their good work. Be transparent and open. Empower the team. Regularly seek their ideas and input and act upon it. Foster empathy and compassion. Remember with #COVID19 kids are #WFH too.

4. What tools and platforms are available to help teams stay connected and collaborative even when separated geographically?
Ha! 22 years ago @interprosepr only had email and the Internet (and pagers!). Today’s communications and collaboration tools are highly sophisticated. Too many to mention in a tweet. ZDNet does a really nice job listing them.

5. What are your tips for managers as they transition to the work from home model for both the near- and long-term?
Be there for your team. Check in with them. When #COVID19 is over, we’ll be judged on our leadership and how well we handled it. People have choices and they demonstrate lasting loyalty when guided, appreciated and listened to. Who knows where they’ll go if not.

6. How do you motivate your team and keep them focused to get their jobs done?
Managers: don’t create busy work. Employees: focus on results. Keep reporting high level. Know you’re measured by your contribution not your physical presence. Prioritize. Collaborate on problem solving. Celebrate. Have baby showers (or whatever), but virtually.

7. How do you know your team members are actually working?
Delivering results in the required timeframe proves people are working. If employees have a tendency to get distracted, ask for updates to keep things on track. If someone needs a nudge from time to time, gently but firmly does it. Be kind. You’ll be rewarded.

8. What is the human side of managing remotely like?
Not being able to look your employees in the eye requires even greater trust and autonomy. Avoid micromanaging, it’s stressful for everyone. Learn to spot signs of employees not being themselves. If your instinct persists, reach out and offer a shoulder.

9. How do manage difficult interpersonal or performance-related situations when unable to speak with employees face-to-face?
Get everyone in the same virtual room and give each person their say. Outline what you believe to be the issue so everyone’s on the same page. Encourage them to suggest a solution to the problem and if one can’t be found it’s executive decision time.

10. Beyond social distancing, what are some of the tangible benefits that the work-from-home model provides?
Your hiring pool is limitless. Very little negative water-cooler talk. People are more supportive of each other IMHO. Productivity is high with those who thrive at #WFH. Those who enjoy it treasure the flexibility. The climate will benefit from less commuting.

Bonus question: How is the work-from-home model evolving?
#COVID19 is a #WFH game changer. Some will love it, some will hate it, but more companies will embrace it (again) in the future. It’s amazing how quickly things can change for unimaginable reasons. Always plan for the unexpected!


For more on this topic, check out Vivian’s recent LinkedIn post, “Will you be coping or thriving in the “new abnormal” #WFH environment?”