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  • Tracy Tyler

You CAN Create a Positive Telework Culture!

Updated: Apr 4, 2020

A CEO’s Practical Guide to Creating a Positive Telework Culture in the time of COVID 19

If you or your team has worked remotely, you probably have all of this figured out. If not, under normal circumstances, you would spend some time getting input, crafting a plan, implementing and communicating new expectations, policies and training for it. You would have been able to ease into it and really think about the impact it will have on your culture. But here we are, facing the first global pandemic in our lifetime. It’s not surprising that this new remote work situation is creating some questions and anxiety. Here are some thoughts and tips on how to use this time to reinforce or redefine your culture.

Recognize and remember that telework can be hard and challenging for everyone:

  • Bosses are worried employees won’t work efficiently

  • Employees have less access to support and communication

  • Everyone has less access to information and answers

  • Employees may feel that their managers are out of touch with their needs, not supportive or helpful

  • Distractions are likely – many are working with sub optimal workspaces and unexpected parenting responsibilities

  • Everyone feels disconnected and socially isolated

  • With limited ability to see typical nonverbal cues, friction and misunderstandings will increase

The basic needs people have at work haven’t changed – they need a worthwhile mission, to feel like part of the team, to have the information and tools required, to be recognized for their contributions, and to feel respected as a team member. If you make the appropriate adjustments, you can come out of this with a productive, engaged, empowered, and happy team.

Here’s what you can do:

1. Set and communicate clear expectations for work performance and communication

o Work performance – you should uphold the same performance expectations. Let them know that unless you are in a situation where expectations are changing. And guess what, you need to let them know that, too.

  • Extend trust. If and when someone is not meeting performance expectations, hold that person accountable. Follow the same basic guidelines you already have in place for performance /accountability discussions.

  • DON'T make one size fits all rules like "show proof of work daily". That is demeaning and demotivating.

o Communication protocol – you may have to be clearer about this – for example:

  • Email – use for informative, non-urgent updates and questions

  • Text or call – time based and important

  • Chat rooms – quick collaboration

  • Video – meetings and collaborative sessions

NOTE: Video also works best for sensitive conversations because it feels more personal

2. Keep them informed. Regular and predictable communication is key. Make sure they hear from you. There are times to delegate to your leadership team…this is NOT one.

3. Ask for input and listen to it. Stay in touch with how it’s working and how people are feeling. Adjust as necessary. No one expects you to have all the answers.

4. Establish and schedule structured daily check ins – I recommend a video platform (like Zoom click here for tips or Microsoft Teams) but, this could also be a conference call.

  • For independent workers, a 121 format would work

  • For collaborative teams, a team call works best

  • While meetings are important, but be on the lookout for "Zoom meeting overload"...people still need time to get the work done!

5. Make sure your team knows when you are available

  • Have a regular Video Chat with an open invitation – scheduled “office hours”

  • Open your calendar up for them to see

6. Structure and support ways for employees to interact socially, deepen relationships and build the team. Make it fun!

  • Start meetings with an icebreaker question (i.e. tell us your favorite joke)

  • Have a video pizza lunch meeting – have pizza delivered to each person at their home

  • Have themes for meetings (i.e. a Caribbean theme, have background music, icebreaker could be “what’s your favorite tropical drink” …etc.)

7. Focus more on rewards and recognition – keep it simple

  • Continue or create ways to recognize great performance

  • Ask the team for contest and challenge ideas

  • Recognize winners publicly and have fun rewards sent to their home (i.e. a gift card to a local restaurant)

  • High fives from each other – allow time during a meeting to have the team members recognize each other for things they did to help

  • click here for 53+ ideas and tips

Remember that you set the tone. Your team is looking to you for leadership. Reinforce your confidence in them and help create a telework environment that gives them a solid sense of focus and purpose. Create ways to replicate social interaction and team building in a way that empowers them to exceed your expectations. I think you (and your teams) will be happy with the results!

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