Leading from home: How to motivate your work-from-home team

Maddie Castillo

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Leading from home: How to motivate your work-from-home team
Taking care of your team — as well as taking care of yourself — can be overwhelming

MANILA, Philippines – Work in the time of a pandemic is, for most, business as “usual” – except that this time, it’s from the comfort of our homes.

Or should we say discomfort?

Since Luzon was put under an enhanced community quarantine, the country was left to cope in the best way we can, including the way responsibilities at work are fulfilled. A good number of companies have allowed their employees to work from home.

This is a good solution, but this set-up also means that tasks are to be completed independently rather than collaboratively. This works for some; for others, it doesn’t.

One thing remains certain, though: it can get boring and demotivating.

This is something that leaders in a team, organization, or a company need to think about. During these trying times, managers need not lose sight of business goals, adapting quickly and carefully. At the same time, people who are responsible for others need to have empathy, understanding that some things might be prioritized over work at times.

Taking care of your team — as well as taking care of yourself — can be overwhelming, so we hold on to two things to continuously engage them: constant communication and presence.

“Management and leadership are both forms of relationships. This is an entirely new setup for most leaders and will take some getting used to,” shares Neil Rojas, co-founder of Workbean, a platform that focuses on company culture and employer branding. “For most people, this is [also] their first time experiencing working from home and being managed at home. Similar to how managers built their rapport with their team, managers should engage their team even more, remotely.”

It’s been a couple of weeks of nothing but staying at home, and we have a lot more to go. When the cabin fever kicks in for you and your team, consider the following activities that can help boost everyone’s spirits: 

1. Have morning check-ins. Kick start mornings by checking in on your team. May it be as simple as a quick 10-minute video call over coffee or as elaborate as a one-hour brunch conference, it’s totally up to you. The important thing is to get people talking.

“At 10am everyday, we have a ‘coffee break,’ We get all available employees for an online call, and we talk about anything: how everyone is doing, what Netflix series we’re currently watching, what food we have left in the fridge, etc. Basically, we talk about anything except work. This helps us check up on everyone, and at the same time, remind us of what each other looks like (hehe).” 

– Jerome, People and Talent Manager of a healthcare company

When working alone, there is a big chance that employees focus only on the tasks at hand and keep mum for hours and hours, so it’s important to spark some sort of interaction among the team. It also gives you a gauge on who needs more help with coping with the situation.

2. “Abuse” the office chat room. Your company may have most likely invested in online tools that might have not been used as much when you were all in one space. Now’s the time to use them, especially the office chat room, as much as possible.

“We maximised our company group chat channels to give business updates and also to share experiences and random, often funny items to the rest of the company. Imagine company memes about working from home or about the COVID virus.”

– Big, Senior People Manager of a financial company

Make sure that your team remains connected on both professional and personal levels. Have a separate group chat where members of the team can talk about things that they are interested in outside of work. Providing this is equivalent to providing a safe and comfortable space for your employees. 

3. Make a WFH team lookbook. Let all your eyes take a break from spreadsheets, presentation decks and other work documents by sending and looking at some snaps. Your team lookbooks can vary from très chic and all ka-vogue (#OOTDs) to funny and all natural (literally #WokeUpLikeThis)

“We’re a crazy bunch so as soon as the quarantine was announced, we immediately started […] snapping behind-the-scene photos of what we really look like, pajamas, boxers and all!”

– Kass, Co-Founder of an HR tech startup

Lookbook photo submissions can be sent to everyone on a designated day, and can be compiled in an album until the team no longer needs to work from home. You can experiment on themes every week to match different objectives. 

Your team can go for a more easygoing and relaxed style for this week, a great reminder of your identity as a group. You can work on a more fashionable lookbook the week after, a creative way to make sure everyone showers and keeps a professional mindset for the day. You can work on a theme that reflects your company colors next, a subtle nod to keeping your company culture alive and thriving.

4. Host online contests. Staying at home challenges the creativity of a lot of people. Take this opportunity to see how artistic and fun your team can be by coming up with different challenges where they can showcase their skills and talents.

“I feel proud that despite the situation, our company has engaging activities, like the TikTok dance and acting challenge. We also have the Quaran-tour challenge, where we need to take a picture of ourselves at any part of the house and name it after some place. And we can win a cash prize!”

– Francine, trainee from a BPO company

Healthy competition has always been good for company culture, and participation is always good when there’s a worthy prize at stake. Other contest ideas may include best home office space set-up, trivia and quiz e-mails (where you can ask questions that the participants can answer given a particular time period) and many others. Take into consideration your employees’ interests, come up with simple and clear mechanics, and your all set!

There’s no manual on how to be an effective manager at the time of COVID-19. Facing threats from a business standpoint may be overwhelming.

As leaders, remember that your teams, organizations, and companies need emotional support, especially from those who know enough about their work to understand why being productive at home may be more difficult than it seems. – Rappler.com

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