Leading from the Kitchen Table: Managing a Team Whilst Working from Home
There’s an unspoken context behind much of the advice and guidance that’s available to business leaders: The office. It’s assumed that for the majority of businesses, the dynamics of leadership are based around an office environment, so much so that even the jargon used to describe the challenges leaders face (‘office politics’ for example) is rooted in the idea of a physical workplace. So what do you do if your business doesn’t have an office? How do you successfully lead a team who all work from home and rarely meet face to face?
For those looking for a little inspiration, we’ve put together a guide that shows that with a little creativity and some help from technology, it’s perfectly possible to build an engaged, motivated and happy team without ever having to step foot inside an office!
Invest in the Right Tech
Technology is often your greatest ally when leading a remote team. There are hundreds of productivity and digital communication tools on the market, all of which are designed to help businesses stay connected and productive, no matter where their employees are.
A great example of this are tools like Office 365 and Google Drive, which enable instant collaboration across documents, spreadsheets and presentations. If your team is battling with a design concept or a new project, bringing them together to work on the same live document can help facilitate a free flowing exchange of ideas, streamlining the creative process and reducing unnecessary drafts and email exchanges.
When it comes to investing in the right tools and technology, it’s really important to define the fundamental requirements that you and your team have. A great way to kick off this process is to put some simple questions to your team about what they perceive to be the biggest challenges they face whilst working from home:
- Do they struggle to stay in touch with other team members?
- Are the logistics of managing projects or new clients too time consuming?
- Do they have a good enough internet connection to access all the online resources and tools they need to do their job remotely?
As a first step, investing in solutions that allow your team to enjoy seamless connectivity is vital for both engagement and job satisfaction. With 70%1 of workers admitting that they already get more done working flexibly, solutions like ultrafast business broadband, the latest business handsets and mobile SIMs with shareable data will help further enhance this productivity, to the benefit of both your team and the business.
Out of Office, Not out of Touch
Technology makes managing a team who work remotely eminently possible, but successfully doing so still requires no small amount of creativity, strategy and emotional intelligence. In short, core leadership skills may well need to be adapted to fit the needs of a team who primarily work on their own, at home.
This means being able to use the tech at your disposal to build a sense of unity, engagement purpose in your team. Morning briefings via video call are an excellent way of catching up with team members on key projects and assignments, as well as an opportunity for everyone to socialise and catch up with one another. Scheduling team calls should be the norm, but unless it’s urgent, try to limit these to one or two each day, so your team also has plenty of time to work on other things uninterrupted.
It’s also really important to recognise that for many people, working from home is often driven by a need for greater flexibility around family or social commitments. Be cognizant of those needs and recognise that as long as your team is working productively and meeting deadlines, their days don’t have to be scheduled around a 9-5 format. Equally, it’s vital to ensure that team members who prefer to work earlier or later aren’t letting work bleed into their entire life; encourage them to set working hours that they then stick to as much as possible.
Just because you’re all in separate locations, doesn’t mean there isn’t opportunity for team bonding and team building. Online gaming parties in the evening, quizzes via Skype on a Friday lunchtime, or even just taking the time to make social calls to one another during the week can massively benefit a team’s morale. Feeling isolated has long been recognised2 as a key concern for those working at home, so embarrassing as your suggestions might seem, doing as much as you can to combat this is essential to keeping your team happy and engaged whilst at work.
We’re here to help
Managing a team who work from home requires leaders who are creative, empathetic and above all, as flexible in the way they work as their team. Not only that, they need to invest in technology that creates a productive home working environment and enables their team to collaborate effectively. If you’re exploring potential connectivity solutions for your team as they transition to working from home, the experts at Virgin Media Business are on hand to help.
 'Work Life Balance Infographic' - Virgin Media Business 2019. https://www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk/pdf/Insights%20Guides/work-life-balance-Infographic.pdf
 ‘Telecommuting, professional isolation, and employee development in public and private
organizations’ Cecily D. Cooper, Nancy B. Kurland, 2002. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/job.145