It is the people that make any business and, during these trying times, it is your people who will help you craft a new future for your business.

Content Architect and Entrepreneur, Kojo Baffoe, pens his thoughts on how you can effectively set up and manage your team through COVID-19.

If we are honest with ourselves, we will recognise that the changes being brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic are just the beginning. We are dealing with an unsettled present and an uncertain future. 

For the last decade or so, the debate around working from home and/or flexible hours has raged on without any type of conclusion. The pandemic has forced all businesses to now put a stake in the ground. Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, announced, in early May, that Twitter employees can work from home for as long as they see fit while Google is allowing staff to work from home until the end of the year. Google’s CEO did, however, state that there is still merit in collaborative spaces and that they will gradually open buildings for those who want to or need to come in to do so on a limited, rotating basis.

Not all businesses can do this but, while there are still restrictions of movement and the risk of infection, there are some things you can do to help your team navigate work in a way that ensures productivity and their peace of mind.

  • Decide on the platform and etiquette

There are multiple platforms for virtual meetings, including Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex and Facebook’s Messenger Rooms. There are also multiple instant messaging and project management platforms like Slack, Whatsapp, Asana, Trello, etc.

Decide which ones work for your business and stick with them, creating the necessary processes and etiquette. It can go wrong, if you don’t have etiquette and process in place, as evidenced in the multiple memes doing the rounds.

Also ensure that your team has access to the platforms for collaborative work, where needed.

  • Give them the tools: Not every employee’s situation is the same at home. Understand each person’s unique circumstance and give them access to the necessary tools to be able to work. This should also guide the tools you do use to ensure that it isn’t beyond their reach and that they aren’t using already stretched resources to get work done.
  • Schedule work time: With travel time taken out of the equation, people are working longer hours which can have a negative impact on productivity. Schedule and reiterate working hours and remember that not everything has to be a meeting. Your team needs time to do the work and scheduling days full of meetings to check on whether they are working or not erodes any trust built up while also forcing them to work well into the night. You can cluster meetings, create specific and regular meetings, have ‘bulletin boards’ on a platform like Asana, which detail who is doing what and when, etc. And stick to time.
  • Let them know that it’s alright to take moments: As an addition to the above, allow them the time to take moments. Focus on their output as opposed to the time they are working. It has been shown that, in reality, we don’t work for 8 hours solid when sitting in the office. Your team needs time to deal with everything that is going on in the world, and in their own lives, so allow them that space and, by extension, allow yourself the space to deal.
  • Communicate regularly: While you are also dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety born out of the current state of affairs, it is important that you serve as an anchor for your team. Communicate with them regularly, honestly and realistically. By doing this, you are able to set and manage expectations, make sure they feel part of a team (even though they are physically separate), ensure they are clear on their tasks, etc.
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities: As you are revisiting your business, how it operates and what the goals and objectives are, it is also necessary to re-clarify roles and responsibilities within the business. Some of your team may be feeling obsolete because their work initially involved going out to customers, for example, salespeople. It is a function that you may still need, just with different processes. Also, individuals within the team may have to take on an extra load which needs to be acknowledged and agreed upon.
  • One-on-ones: Check in on your team, individually and regularly. Touch base with them to see how they are doing, concerns they may have, challenges they may be facing, etc.

It is the people that make any business and, during these trying times, it is your people who will help you craft a new future for your business. These tips will go a long way in creating greater understanding and bringing your team closer together in these challenging times of social distancing and remote working.