It was not long after we rang in the Lunar New Year in January this year, that our entire China team of 350 people were operating at a 100% work from home model. And it has only been a few days since the team began returning to office – we’re so thankful for that. However, with the worldwide threat only intensifying during this time, we spoke to our colleagues in China on what helped them keep their spirits up as we were (and continue to) battle uncertainty. As we all navigate through this unexpected and unprecedented situation, here are some experiences that, we hope, will help organizations and individuals alike adjust to it together.
[And if you remember only one thing from this article, we hope that you remember to be kind to others and yourself.]
1. Determine your work schedule
Establishing and following a routine at home can help you stay productive at such a time. To keep it business as usual, get dressed for work. Yes – you read that right. Get dressed! Working in your PJ’s is fine for a day here or a day there, but not for this (seemingly) long stretch. Once you’re dressed (ok, not in your business formals, but it can be Friday casuals through the week), you will feel better, and will be ready for that video conference anytime.
2. It’s the little things that make a difference
We’re all distracted and we’re all juggling multiple things at a time – kids out of school, timing that grocery run, in a lot of cases, you and your partner both working from home. Create a realistic schedule that takes into consideration the need for other work-essential things like food, family and breaks. These breaks can come in the form of a chat with friends and family, a quick cup of coffee, or even by watching a YouTube video. Remembering the little things can help you stay productive and encouraged throughout the day.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Focus on communication that allows your team to not just be productive, but to also be heard and understood. Scheduling a one-on-one with your whole team (or even specific members of your team) can even be quick as a 10-minute catch-up at the beginning of the day. Remember to ask about family, how they are doing, things that might be disrupting their productivity, and how you might be able to help them.
Technology has made long and short conversations easier by using applications such as WebEx, MS-Teams and WhatsApp. Video chatting can also be a great way to keep the connection strong among team members. Finding ways to get creative with video calls, such as team lunches or even wearing the same colored shirt, can promote an additional sense of positivity and community. Not picking-up the phone is the biggest pitfall. Being cognizant and respectful of others’ time is important, but during times of uncertainty, keeping the phone line open can mean the world.
4. Exercise empathy and flexibility
Communication with clients needs to be stepped-up during times like these. Meet your client’s worries and challenges with flexibility and empathy, as situations can differ from country to country. If clients or vendors are international, staying abreast of the situation in their country can help you connect with them and show how much you really care.
5. Make sure to L.E.A.D. (Listen, Empathize, Assess, Decide) your team
Being a leader, regardless of the size of the team you lead or the location that they are in, requires effort and strength. This is rings even more true for those leading remotely. Despite things being equally chaotic on your end, remembering to LEAD can help you keep your team on-track.
- Listen. Get to know the challenges your team is facing on both a professional and personal front. Promote open communication between you and your team members, in order to avoid rumors and worries.
- Empathize. When working remotely, the levels of team bonding is bound to increase. Take advantage of this time to really connect with your team members. Your empathy quotient needs to be at its highest.
- Assess. Before coming to a decision, make the time to listen to your team and let them voice their own opinions. Regardless your team’s size, the actions you decide to take will affect them for better or for worse.
- Decide. When deciding what to do, whether it’s a project report or a crisis management move, avoid making knee-jerk reactions. Remember that during this time, personal life will dominate the professional one and then adjust accordingly.
A little more understanding can be the differentiator between a smooth journey, or a rocky one.