Six Golden Rules to keep your on-field workforce productive while working-from-home

Madan KumarMay 27, '21
Prima facie, businesses are man-made institutions & hence prone to the effect of situational calamities.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for businesses to consider “social containment” strategies, more and more companies are shifting to telework (i.e., work from home). Here are six tips to consider as you shift your on-field workforce to remote-first work culture.

Golden Rule #1: Get 3 Commitments

The most important thing you need to do as a remote team leader is to get an agreement (i.e., set expectations) on three things. People feel far away from each not because of the number of physical miles, but rather by the amount of time—the delay—it takes to get an answer from someone. People feel “close” when communication is predictable—not necessarily fast, just predictable. So the three agreements are:

  • Timelines. What are the normal working hours for the team? When will the workday begin, and when will it end? Are there deadlines for responsibilities for each person at different stages of the projects/work?
  • Responsiveness. How long will it take to get back to each other? If we reach out with a question, should I expect an answer immediately? Within an hour? By the end of the day? And will this change based on the communication channel? Is it OK to respond to internal emails by the end of the day, but if I call you it means it’s urgent and you should pick or call me back as soon as possible?
  • Availability. How will we notify each other when we will be unavailable and unable to meet these expectations (e.g., out at a doctor’s appointment)? Will we just let the boss know? Or do we send a team email? Or use a shared calendar? Is it okay to call and at what times?

Golden Rule #2: Establish a Cadence of Communication

As goes communication, so goes the team. This is true for all teams but is especially important when leading a remote team. A credible communication regime has three components:
  • Weekly one-on-one meetings. On my calendar “Mondays Are For Meetings” and every direct report has 30-minutes with me to build our relationship, ask questions, give ideas, and to review priorities.
  • WAR meeting. A Weekly Action Review (WAR) with your direct reports should take no longer than 30-50 minutes. It’s an opportunity for everyone to share sync up on their weekly priorities, problems, and data.
  • End-of-Day Check-in. At the end of each day, every team member shares a list of things they completed that day. This, however, could just as easily be done via email by automatically sending a daily reminder to the workforce to share reports on the completed tasks.

Golden Rule #3: Establish a Video-First Culture

“Video-first” is an organizational communication strategy that places a priority on video conferencing tools, as opposed to audio-only conference calls. Whether having a one-on-one meeting or a team meeting, the benefits of the video-first practice include:
Ability to use and observe non-verbal communication
Encourages people to participate in meetings from a professional, quiet location (as opposed to just dialing-in-and-muting while driving in the car)
Encourages people to get dressed in the morning!
Francis TMacAndrew, a professor in environmental psychology states " If you are dressed professionally and you’re dressed up, in some ways that raise your own opinion of yourself, and you want your behavior and demeanor to match the clothes. So, if you’re dressed like a slob and you are in your sweat clothes, you’re either prepared to work out at the gym or clean out the basement, but you’re not doing anything professional or mentally challenging, and that spills over into your motivation and confidence.” Hence, just getting your team out of their sweat pants is a huge booster for their self-esteem and the whole team’s morale.

Golden Rule #4: Keep It Personal


Relationships at work are critical to a high performing team. “I have a best friend at work” illustrates the power of workplace friendships on employee engagement. And personal relationships go a long way towards building trust and reducing unproductive conflict. Hence some practical tips for keeping remote teams fun and personal:
Use the first few minutes of your one-on-one meetings to ask about their weekend or similar personal interest.
  • At the beginning of your weekly WAR meeting, have everyone spend 20-30 seconds sharing, “what was the best part of your weekend?” Or, “what’s going on good in your world these days?”
  • Create an online area (e.g., Slack channel, Basecamp chat, etc.) to discuss things like sports, movies, or even a monthly online book club.
  • Create an online area, or group email, where people can share photos of their pets, or from recent vacations, holidays, or other events.
  • Don’t forget to recognize team members for their effort and achievements. Share to the whole team positive feedback from customers, or internal customers.

Golden Rule #5: Invest (a Little) In Tools & Tech

Any workplace can survive a one or two-week work-from-home experiment; it’s not much different than an employee taking a vacation or sick time. But if you expect your team members to work for several months and keep their normal productivity, then you should be prepared to make at least a minimal investment in hardware and software. Consider:

  • The basics: high-speed WiFi, good ergonomic chair, external keyboard, mouse, and monitor for their laptop or tablet.
  • For video-conferencing software consider many free or low-cost options to start: Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams.
  • For teaming and project management software consider: Basecamp, Asana, Wrike, Monday.

Golden Rule #6: Consider Personalities

Great leaders individualize their approach to leadership and take the time to truly understand what motivates and challenges each team member. Using popular behavioral assessments you can understand who on your team might have an easier or harder time with a work from home situation. The bottom line being each individual will respond according to their level of adaptability to the change, and hence, empathy & understanding are the keys to leadership in such times.

At Gubbacci, we tend to follow most of the above to engage our on-field workforce in sync with the business priority so that we can handle situations like this with slightly more ease. We have been successful by far and are constantly trying to better ourselves for enhanced productivity. This has given Gubbacci an edge over others to function day-in & day-out flawlessly.

We shall keep sharing our recommendations & experience along the way. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy & most of all stay proactively productive!

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