Unleashing the Power of People: The Shift to Working Remote Amidst COVID-19

It seems like we are living in what Time magazine calls "the World's Largest Work-From-Home Experiment. Shifting to a remote working culture brings on unique people challenges. Here are 4 ways to keep your people aligned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Individualization: Great managers have always individualized their coaching to the person but doing so remotely requires greater intentionality. Managers should talk with each team member to learn their concerns about workflow and their emotional response to the situation.

Set early and clear expectations: According to Gallup, about half of all U.S. employees -- remote or not -- don't know what's expected of them at work. That's a bad start, and it'll get worse for employees sent home to work without clear direction. So, managers must make expectations clear: A is the work you should do, B is how you should execute, C is the quality standard. Executives should provide higher-level expectations aligned with the company's purpose: We'll service our customers by doing X, we'll provide the customer experience by doing Y, we'll exemplify our core values by doing Z.

Communication. Employees who are accustomed to working in the office may need to be introduced to communication tools to keep them connected, so plan for conference and video calls. GoToMeeting, Skype and Zoom are a few tools that can help teams stay connected. You may need to increase your communication in the beginning, so your team feels supported through this transition. Your team needs to hear from you as economic fears worsen, to maintain their trust in leadership. Keep the lines of communication open and honest. Send communications about your why, intentions and expectations. Make it easy for managers to know your thoughts and so they contribute their own.

Support your managers: An abrupt change can be challenging for managers. They may worry about disruptions to the team they're accountable for. They will be required to act swiftly and manage in a new way. So, give them your support, both professional and emotional, during what may be a tough time. It’s a great time to invest in management development and coaching ahead of the budget plan. Remember, your managers always need to know you have their back; more than ever during this time.

Food for thought: Remote work is no longer a privilege," Forbes recently reported. "It's become the standard operating mode for at least 50% of the U.S. population." In light of the COVID-19, that percentage is going to increase, regardless if companies are prepared or not. So, if you have to send people home to keep them and their family safe, be sure to individualize, communicate and set clear expectations and your managers will be able to coach effectively during this crisis. However, while COVID-19 won't be a hot topic forever, remote work will be.


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