Five Tips for Keeping a Newly-Remote Team Focused and Productive during Uncertain Times
Updated: Apr 20
Crisis, disruption and change are arduous times for everyone. And no matter what the cause of these scenarios, team members who are anxious and/or stressed by them are likely to be distracted and unproductive. Couple this with a lack of experience in working (and leading) from home, and you’ve got the potential for some serious concern on your hands.
Fortunately, there are ways to help keep a newly-remote work experience focused and productive for you and your team during trying times.
1. "Secure your own oxygen mask first."
Just as every airline safety video encourages you to “secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others,” the same applies to your well-being as a leader in uncertain times. In fact, it’s a pretty simple equation. You can’t possibly support your team and role model resiliency if you haven’t acknowledged and managed any stress and anxiety you’re feeling yourself.
Sleep, exercise and good nutrition are a good place to start since they’re proven stress killers and productivity enhancers. So first make sure you’re paying attention to those three areas and then encourage your team to do the same.
2. Avoid micromanaging. Empower your people with trust.
As a leader, you may be frustrated by losing the in-office visibility of your team that you were used to pre-crisis. And, understandably, your first response to this feeling might be to micromanage. Try at all costs, however, to avoid doing so as it will only disengage an already stressed team.
Instead, empower your team by trusting them. Give them flexibility with work hours and how they structure their day. Allow them the freedom to complete their work in ways that are easiest for them. As long as performance expectations and goals remain the same, hand them the reigns (at least for the short-term).
3. Check in with compassion and empathy…a lot.
Whereas micromanaging newly-remote teams during a crisis is a recipe for disaster, frequently checking in with each member is an important ingredient for maintaining focus and productivity.
Right now, your people are likely overwhelmed, anxious, stressed or some combination of all of those feelings. And they’re probably going a little stir crazy, too. When you regularly check in to ask how they’re coping and how you can be of service, your team will feel seen and heard and know someone has their back through the uncertainty. That, in turn, will help keep up morale and keep them on task.
4. Increase the number of team and individual shoutouts.
As a leader, you know that taking time to appreciate your team vastly increases their productivity, focus, job satisfaction and loyalty. But did you know that during periods of disruption and uncertainty, employees’ desire to be recognized for their contributions rises by 30%?
Given the lack of visibility in a remote environment, however, you’ll need to find alternative ways to identify new, positive contributions. For example, use simple surveys or specific questions during virtual one-on-ones to uncover barriers team members have been able to overcome or ways their peers have helped them during this time of crisis.
5. Encourage virtual socializing.
Whether organic (think breakroom catchups) or organized (like ERGs), connection opportunities with colleagues—beyond those that are strictly work related—are an important part of everyone’s workday. They keep up morale and strengthen relationships. Without them, your team may begin to feel isolated, leading to a lack of motivation, focus and productivity. Encourage your team to plan virtual socializing activities. Better yet, organize a few yourself! Try an easy go-to like a virtual happy hour. Or maybe a friendly competition activity like an in-home scavenger hunt. Whatever it is, it’ll help keep them positive and better able to cope with the sudden change and uncertainty.