Few of us ever imagined that morning commutes would soon be a relic of the past, face masks would become a coveted possession, and employees would trade bustling offices for their own living rooms. But as COVID-19 spread around the world, this is exactly what our reality has become.
Now, organizations must find a way to stay agile and fast in the work from home (WFH) setting, where employees are no longer in the same physical office together. According to our survey Working From Home Amid COVID-19: A First Look at Emerging Team Challenges, maintaining consistent levels of speed has proven to be a primary challenge.
In a time when adaptability and speed are more crucial to business success than ever, virtual teams and remote employees that foster these three traits will have the resilience and know-how to succeed: collaboration, accountability, and engagement.
Work-From-Home challenges threaten speed & agility
Amid all of the disruption COVID-19 has created, your team’s success hinges on each person’s ability to perform at the highest level and fast. Business strategies might change, but the need to produce best-in-class products and services remains.
Unfortunately, the abrupt onset of social distancing requirements and the sudden transition to the WFH setting in early 2020 has made it difficult for many teams to meet the usual standards for speed and agility.
We found that nearly one-third of employees (31%) believe WFH challenges prevent them from maintaining a fast pace of work.
When this is the case, team leaders are tasked with identifying the sources of those difficulties and determining how to resolve them.
Worse communication, excessive meetings, and difficulty collaborating hamper efficiency
WFH workers cite a host of obstacles that interfere with teamwork, waste time, and slow them down.
- Over half of employees (59%) said they have more meetings since transitioning to WFH.
- Nearly 40% of employees said transparency into their team member’s projects, tasks, and progress has declined in the WFH setting.
- More than one-third (37%) of workers reported that collaborating on projects and tasks has become more challenging while working from home.
- Another 36% of respondents said their team’s ability to communicate while working from home is more difficult and less efficient compared to the typical office setting.
- Nearly one-third of employees (29%) feel less engaged since transitioning to the WFH setting.
- One out of five employees (20%) says the sense of accountability they feel over their work has declined while working from home.
So, how can team leaders tackle such a broad range of issues? The key is helping your employees develop traits that will empower them to thrive while working from home.
Things to prioritize to succeed while WFH
The survey results revealed that teams that struggle with collaboration, engagement, and accountability reported greater difficulty maintaining a fast pace of work.
- Half of employees (50%) who said that collaboration has become more challenging in the WFH setting also said that they’re struggling to maintain a fast pace of work.
- Nearly half of WFH workers (49%) who reported feeling less engaged also said that it’s become more difficult to uphold the desired pace of work.
- About 57% of employees who said accountability has decreased also said that working from home prevents them from maintaining a fast pace of work.
Collaboration is the key ingredient for remote teamwork
Collaboration is essential to effective teamwork. While every individual has their own domain, goals, and KPIs, overall team performance depends on each team member’s ability to work together.
When collaboration is effective, teammates can easily share ideas and data, provide status updates, and pool resources. In the office, employees share the same physical space, which allows communication and teamwork to occur naturally. In the WFH setting, workers no longer have this luxury.
Teams that rely on physical proximity to guide collaboration have quickly realized that this approach is not suitable for the WFH setting, and it doesn’t set employees up for success. Difficulty syncing on projects and sharing critical information while working from home will inevitably cause bottlenecks and information gaps.
Only those that have a solid infrastructure to promote teamwork will be positioned to maintain the speed and quality of work businesses need to succeed in the current business climate.
Highly engaged employees are more motivated while WFH
Today, maintaining “business as usual” speed and quality of work requires even greater motivation than usual times. Only employees who are highly engaged will be poised to raise business performance to the next level.
Even when confronted with the challenges of working from home, engaged employees strive to do their best. They learn to overcome obstacles and refuse to let them hinder their performance. Engaged employees are also better at working independently and understand why speed is a top priority.
The opposite also holds true. Employees who are disengaged are generally less motivated to meet deadlines and uphold high-quality standards — consequences managers cannot afford to ignore in the WFH setting.
If you want your team to maintain a fast pace of work in the WFH setting, you’ll need to keep a constant pulse on engagement levels and take a proactive approach against its decline.
Employees who feel accountable for their work produce better outcomes
When employees feel a strong sense of accountability and ownership over their work, they are intrinsically driven to work harder. They will be more dedicated to their role, proactive in collaborative projects, and motivated to raise their individual performance.
Combined, these benefits contribute to a faster pace of work and more agile mindsets in the face of change. But when accountability slips, the opposite effects occur.
A low level of accountability translates to a lack of motivation, indifference about meeting deadlines, and greater reluctance to embrace changes that require additional work. When you have these issues on your plate, you can expect slower processes and worse outputs.
In the WFH setting, it’s often a lack of transparency that triggers accountability to decline. When all team members are in the office, it’s easier to observe each person’s effort, as well as the quality of their outputs. But when the team is separated, there is less visibility into each person’s daily work. If employees feel disconnected from the team, it becomes harder to understand the value of their individual contribution or the importance of maintaining a fast pace of work.
It’s difficult to authentically raise another person’s sense of accountability, but you can encourage it with the right approach. By giving your team the visibility and tools they need to do their now fully remote job optimally can help ensure their level of ownership doesn’t falter.
Empower your team to thrive while working from home
The COVID-19 pandemic has put normalcy on the shelf. While all of us seek ways to cope with our new reality and work from home jobs, businesses are challenged to keep their market share and redefine their brands within an ailing economy.
Despite the difficulties of working from home, teamwork is more important now than ever. Without it, staying fast, agile, and competitive will be impossible. Teams that focus on improving collaboration, engagement, and accountability will be positioned to handle emerging challenges with flexibility and ease. They will fare best during the pandemic — and beyond.
Remote work templates to get you on the right track quickly and efficiently
Remote work is challenging enough as it is, so we’ve come up with some ready-to-go templates to get you started quickly and efficiently, and make the most of these work-from-home opportunities.
Remote Team Requests Template
The Remote Team Requests board is the perfect way to receive and organize IT, Ops, or any other kind of request from remote team members. Send the board as a form to all remote workers, have them fill their requests, and their answers will automatically populate the board, seamlessly integrating into your workflow. You can also dedicate a group to outstanding questions or FAQ to be used as a resource when there is no IT team around to ask.
Get the remote team requests template now:
Daily team tasks template
This template will help you and your team align daily team tasks to ensure you stay on the same page. Define your work sprints (days, weeks, months) to keep your work in context. You can assign a task owner to make sure everyone knows who needs to do what. Keep it all organized with statuses signifying the kind of task it is, and you’ll be ready to go!
Pro tip: Timeline view will give you a sense of your next week’s schedule at a glance.
Get the daily team tasks template now:
Team documents and resources template
Once you’ve used the communication plan template to make sure you’re aligned on your company-wide COVID-19 messaging, you’ll probably need to share that information externally, or become more informed yourself. This template will be your go to place to store anything from legal documents, sales pitches, presentations or training resources to make sure your team doesn’t skip a beat.
This board will ensure everyone on your team is aligned, working from the same source of truth. Having everyone on board with your COVID-19 plan and equipped with the necessary tools will ensure you can adapt quickly and effectively in these uncertain times.
Get the team documents and resources template now:
Projects overview tracking template
Unexpectedly working from home can leave you struggling to stay up to date with all of the momentum you had going in the office. With the projects overview tracking board you can see where all projects stand, where the bottlenecks are, who the project owners are, timeline, and more. Working from home doesn’t mean having to compromise transparency into project progression.