COVID-19 has shaken up the world, and along with it, our work lives. What once took place in an office is now, for many of us, happening 100% online. The transition to remote work can feel jarring, especially if it feels like you didn’t have time to prepare. If you are a leader or manager in your organization, you’re probably trying to figure out how to best support and manage your team during this transition. Here are some strategies you can put into place right away to help your employees stay motivated, engaged and fulfilled.

Pay Attention to Individual Work Styles

If you’ve been working with your employees for a while, you know them and how they operate. When your team goes remote, you’ll quickly realize the importance of knowing each person’s individual needs. While some of my employees can work for days with minimal check-ins, others need more frequent communication in order to feel connected. It’s up to you to pay attention to each of your employees’ work styles, learn from them and create an environment where they can be successful. 

One of the most straightforward ways to do this is to create a virtual contract with your employees. This doesn’t have to be a real contract that needs to be signed. Think of it as an intentional and thoughtful conversation that allows you to agree to a set of expectations together. How often would they like a check-in meeting with you? Would they like to receive information about new projects via IM, email or calls? Are there any home or personal concerns they have that might play into their work? The more you can understand about your employee’s needs, the better you’ll be able to support them.

Quick Tip: Brainstorm a list of questions you’d like to discuss with each employee. Ask to set up a call with each of them to talk through these questions and establish any expectations.

Flexibility Inspires Productivity

You may be realizing that it’s difficult, if not nearly impossible, to take the exact structure you had in an office and move it online. At home, people have competing priorities. Kids are tugging at our sleeves. We’re caring for sick parents. We have partners who were laid off or furloughed. We’re struggling with our mental health. Home can be a place of peace or a place of chaos, and either way, it’s going to influence your employees’ productivity, schedule and general well-being. 

I believe a good remote manager knows that flexibility inspires productivity. 

Most of the time, people are most productive and creative when they have control over their schedules and lives. Especially during this time of uncertainty, it’s all the more important to empower employees to take care of themselves and foster home and work lives that are sustainable and fulfilling. Some might want to take the lunch hour to get in a yoga session or a walk with their dogs. Some will want the structure of still logging on at 8 AM each morning, while others might want to shift their work schedules around in order to best manage other priorities. 

Quick Tip: Allow your employees to feel empowered to create more flexibility in their own schedules. Don’t forget the importance of modeling this flexibility, too.

Out of Sight, but Not Out of Mind

It’s easy to let people fall out of your mind when they aren’t in your sight. I’ll be the first to admit that as a remote manager, sometimes I seriously forget about my employees. I’ll have my head down in a project and realize it’s the end of the day before I’ve checked in even once. You might feel a desire to cancel meetings and replace them with an email or an IM thread. Remember that your employees are likely feeling more disconnected from one another than ever. Keeping meetings on the calendar provides a sense of consistency, and it can give you an opportunity to check-in face to face, even if the meeting itself isn’t 100% necessary. Scheduled check-ins, even ones without a specific work-related purpose, help keep your employees at the forefront of your mind.

Quick Tip: Set a calendar reminder each day to check-in with your employees. Whether it’s a video call or a quick “How are you feeling today?” message, checking in daily reaffirms the value you see in them. Cut back on meetings with caution and make sure your employees still feel seen and heard.

Keep Traditions Alive

I used to work for a tech startup that was all about company culture. We played Apple TV games at lunch and had company happy hours. I took random breaks at 3 PM to get a quick game of ping-pong in with my boss. As a leader in your organization, it’s up to you to keep these traditions alive, even as a remote workforce. Happy hours and team lunches can happen virtually;  you can even strive to recreate the work style your team is used to. If you had an open floor plan with cubes or co-working spaces, try a few hours each day of virtual co-working. Pull up a video link, and let everyone work on their individual projects while getting to see each other, chat and collaborate. Maintaining traditions and preserving culture will remind your employees why they love working on your team.

Quick Tip: Ask yourself “What traditions are important to my team?” Then, make a plan to implement something that helps keep that tradition alive. 

Moving a team to a remote culture isn’t easy. By considering how to best support and care for your employees, you’re already headed in the right direction. Remember that your employees are people first – people worthy of your attention and connection. In an unstable and uncertain time in our lives, use the gift of leadership to foster positivity, creativity, and stability for your team.