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How to effectively lead your team whilst working from home

By Amelia Tyman, Learning and Development Consultant

The COVID-19 pandemic created much more than a temporary change to the world of work; it proved to be the catalyst for a ‘homeworking revolution’ with the number of adults working from home increasing by 10% between 2019 and 2020.

Additionally, with a 199% increase in work-from-home jobs advertised in the last year and 26% of Brits planning to work from home in the future, it looks like homeworking is here to stay. Although businesses have been forced to adapt, the fallout of the pandemic has allowed employers and employees to create their own ‘new normal’ whilst working from home.

One of the steepest learning curves whilst working from home is effectively leading, inspiring, and developing staff from a distance. 

Some managers have been caught up in the lack of face-to-face supervision, causing them to focus on their own workload, neglecting their team and offering minimal communication. On the other hand, the physical absence from their team may have made managers feel they’ve lost control of their team. As a result, they could have become overbearing through excessive communication manifesting as unnecessary meetings, phone calls, or emails – which can hinder productivity and engagement.

Business man line manages his team remotely

Business leaders working from home will have to carefully plan how they communicate. Without strategising, the ways in which you do and don’t communicate can leave your team in danger of complacency, low motivation and even impacting internal relationships and mental health.

To help business leaders personally transition and adapt, I’m sharing five methods to help you continue to develop your staff from home.

Provide opportunities for progression 

It’s especially important when managing a team remotely to keep staff motivated with opportunities to progress their career and learn something new.

Prioritising learning and development, offering recognition and a sense of achievement can drive staff to achieve and progress. A benefit of working from home, means staff are likely to have more time and energy to commit to professional development activities. By showing that you’re devoted to your employees’ future prospects, they’ll feel more engaged and passionate about their day-to-day activities knowing they’re working towards something tangible.  

Re-establish trust

Establish your availability to help your team, have faith that they’re performing their jobs correctly and avoid the temptation to jump in at every opportunity to help. Give them the flexibility to manage their own workload, prioritise, and be productive at a time that suits them – whether that’s during standard office hours, or fitting it in and around the school-run. 

If an employee has to spend additional time explaining what they’re doing, they won’t feel trusted by their manager and ultimately the company will suffer via decreased productivity or them leaving the company. However, it’s essential that your team knows you’re always there to support them as and when they need it. 

Prioritise new forms of communication

Working from home often removes the perks of quick and efficient communication, including the expression of emotion and body language. Without the physical presence of your colleagues, it’s more important than ever to be personable and try to avoid traditional forms of mass, impersonal communication, such as a barrage of emails. 

Using video conferencing tech for weekly, monthly or one-on-one catch-ups provides that much needed visual aspect to communication.

Collaborate and build a sense of community

Remote working can sometimes remove the opportunity for team comradery, so managers need to ensure that opportunities are provided for teams to work together, share ideas and feel part of something important. The most effective leaders actively encourage their staff to learn from each other, this is how best practice is shared and peer-to-peer feedback is crucial to development.

You could assign two or more team members to one project to work together, schedule regular catch-ups or even a ‘team night out – or in’ to socialise will bring your team members closer together – no matter where they are.

Provide mental health support

It’s important to recognise the signs of stress in those working from home and provide them with effective, long-term support. Having this knowledge and taking action can reduce the impact of stress, remove the catalysts and improve the overall happiness and productivity of your team. 

Stress at work can present itself as:

  • An increase in presenteeism – which means employees will show up to work when they’re under the weather and either under performing or having a negative influence on colleagues
  • An increase in sickness
  • Decreased performance 
  • An increase in staff turnover

If the behaviour of your team has changed and your workplace has caused the problem, managers should take action. Strong, supportive and mental health inclusive leadership is key to reducing the risk of stress in your organisation. EDN’s blog, ‘Three signs your employees are reaching burnout – and how to support them’ offers detailed information on the root causes of stress, including preventative solutions and tips to protect the mental health of your team members.

The closer you can align the work from home experience to the office, the sooner your team will benefit, feel included and increase their productivity.

Amelia has been involved in training and developing staff at all levels to promote motivation, engagement and progression. Throughout her career, she’s worked for organisations such as Hilton Worldwide and the Walt Disney Company. Amelia has been working in Learning and Development for seven years, specialising in the delivery of Level 3, 4 and 5 Team Leading and Management qualifications.