Category: Employers

Working from Home – Family Style

Covid-19 has changed the landscape for many Americans… schools and universities are closed with many now having to take classes online. Non-essential businesses are now virtual if possible.

If you live with other people, working from home may have new challenges. Employers have always said that working from home is not a substitute for childcare. But if you have young kids who normally go to day care, that option is probably gone.

So here are some tips for navigating working from home when everyone is home too.

  • Have a family (roommate) meeting and talk about your job.
    1. What do you do on a daily/ basis?
    2. Are you on the phone a lot? Are they scheduled calls? Video calls?
    3. What deadlines do you have?
  • Do you have a specific schedule? Is there any flexibility?
  • Share with your boss your any issues which might impact your performance.
    1. For example, if you have a 2-year-old at home and are a single parent, be clear about your limitations.
    2. Or you are in an area where your cell phone doesn’t receive a strong signal.
  • Be clear if there are specific times when you can’t be interrupted.
  • Consider taking your breaks with the other people in your house.
    1. Have lunch as a family
    2. Go for a walk or play catch in the yard.
  • If you have kids and there is more than one adult in the house, consider defining who is working and who is watching the kids at specific times. e. you work from 7:30 – 1 and the other person works from 1-7:30.
  • Prioritize your work. You will be most productive when you initially start to work.
  • Use headphones. They will help you to focus and drown out the noise of your living space
  • Set boundaries… for what reasons can you be interrupted. It is not an emergency if a child can’t find a specific toy or snack.
  • If there are bandwidth issues in your house, be clear if you have an important video call and ask others to respect that time.
  • Although scheduling is important, be ready to be flexible.

Remember that communication is key. The more that you communicate what you need to be successful while working from home, the easier it will be. Don’t assume that your family/roommates know what you need. And don’t forget to ask what they need!

 

 

 

 

 

Setting the Goal

While setting the actual goal may seem like the easiest task, there are a few important strategies that have proven to make achieving the goal easier. When setting goals, make sure they are specific, consistent and challenging. A proven way of setting is following the SMART method:

 

Specific

Specifics help us to focus efforts and clearly define what it is we are going to do. When setting a goal, be sure to clearly define:

What: What it is you want to accomplish. (Tip: use action words when defining this: Organize, Develop, etc).

Why: What is the specific reason why you want to accomplish this? What is the purpose? How does it connect the individual to the organization?

How: How are you going to go about achieving the goal? What resources are available?

Who: It is also important to identify who needs to be involved in accomplishing this specific goal. Is there interdependence involved? This needs to be clearly communicated. How is each employee involved in achieving that goal?

Making the goal as specific as possible will help you in measuring your employees progress towards achieving the goal.

 

Measurable

The key to making sure your goal is manageable and attainable is making sure it is measurable. Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress, these can be milestones you create. By being able to assess the progress you will be able to ensure your employees are staying on the right track. Reaching milestones will also increase motivation to move on towards completing the goal.

 

Achievable

Is this goal realistic? Is it reachable given their current situation and resources? A goal needs to challenge; achievable goals will motivate your employees, where as impossible goals can become meaningless and are often ignored. For this reason it is important to ensure that the goals you have set are realistic to your employees. Do they have the knowledge, the abilities, and the skills to obtain these goals?

 

Relevant

Goals should push the knowledge and skills of your employee, but not break them. As mentioned earlier, making the goal and its success to the company relevant to the individual. Seeing this connection will give your employees a better understanding of their connection to the success of the company and motivation do accomplish the goal.

 

 Timely

Structuring goals around a specific time frame provides a sense of urgency to the goal; motivating your employee to get started right away and target to work towards. When setting the time frame make sure that it is measurable, attainable and realistic. A commitment to deadlines helps employees focus on working towards completion.

What is the time frame of the goal?

When are you going to start, finish?

When establishing this section it is always a good idea to set up weekly milestones, these will also offer a good check in opportunity.

In response to the uncertainties presented by Covid-19, many companies and universities have asked their employees to work remotely. While close to a quarter of the U.S. workforce already works from home at least part of the time, the new policies leave many employees — and their managers — working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time.

 

Although it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may not be feasible. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.

 

Common Challenges of Remote Work

To start, managers need to understand factors that can make remote work especially demanding. Otherwise high-performing employees may experience declines in job performance and engagement when they begin working remotely, especially in the absence of preparation and training. Challenges inherent in remote work include:

 

Lack of face-to-face supervision: Both managers and their employees often express concerns about the lack of face-to-face interaction. Supervisors worry that employees will not work as hard or as efficiently (though research indicates otherwise, at least for some types of jobs). Many employees, on the other hand, struggle with reduced access to managerial support and communication. In some cases, employees feel that remote managers are out of touch with their needs, and thereby are neither supportive nor helpful in getting their work done.

 

Lack of access to information: Newly remote workers are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to locate information from coworkers. Even getting answers to what seem like simple questions can feel like a large obstacle to a worker based at home.

 

This phenomenon extends beyond task-related work to interpersonal challenges that can emerge among remote coworkers. Research has found that a lack of “mutual knowledge” among remote workers translates to a lower willingness to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt in difficult situations. For example, if you know that your officemate is having a rough day, you will view a brusque email from them as a natural product of their stress. However, if you receive this email from a remote coworker, with no understanding of their current circumstances, you are more likely to take offense, or at a minimum to think poorly of your coworker’s professionalism.

 

Social isolation: Loneliness is one of the most common complaints about remote work, with employees missing the informal social interaction of an office setting. It is thought that extraverts may suffer from isolation more in the short run, particularly if they do not have opportunities to connect with others in their remote-work environment. However, over a longer period of time, isolation can cause any employee to feel less “belonging” to their organization, and can even result in increased intention to leave the company.

 

Distractions at home: We often see photos representing remote work which portray a parent holding a child and typing on a laptop, often sitting on a sofa or living-room floor. In fact, this is a terrible representation of effective virtual work. Typically, we encourage employers to ensure that their remote workers have both dedicated workspace and adequate childcare before allowing them to work remotely. Yet, in the case of a sudden transition to virtual work, there is a much greater chance that employees will be contending with suboptimal workspaces and (in the case of school and daycare closures) unexpected parenting responsibilities. Even in normal circumstances family and home demands can impinge on remote work; managers should expect these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.

 

How Managers Can Support Remote Employees

As much as remote work can be fraught with challenges, there are also relatively quick and inexpensive things that managers can do to ease the transition. Actions that you can take today include:

 

Establish structured daily check-ins: Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees.  This could take the form of a series of one-on-one calls, if your employees work more independently from each other, or a team call, if their work is highly collaborative. The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable, and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you, and that their concerns and questions will be heard.

 

Provide several different communication technology options: Email alone is insufficient. Remote workers benefit from having a “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, that gives participants many of the visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face. Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for smaller groups: Visual cues allow for increased “mutual knowledge” about coworkers and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.

 

There are other circumstances when quick collaboration is more important than visual detail. For these situations, provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.

 

If your company doesn’t have technology tools already in place, there are inexpensive ways to obtain simple versions of these tools for your team, as a short-term fix.  Consult with your organization’s IT department to ensure there is an appropriate level of data security before using any of these tools.

 

And then establish “rules of engagement”: Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams. For example, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, but we use IM when something is urgent.” Also, if you can, let your employees know the best way and time to reach you during the workday (e.g., “I tend to be more available late in the day for ad hoc phone or video conversations, but if there’s an emergency earlier in the day, send me a text.”) Finally, keep an eye on communication among team members (to the extent appropriate), to ensure that they are sharing information as needed.

 

We recommend that managers establish these “rules of engagement” with employees as soon as possible, ideally during the first online check-in meeting. While some choices about specific expectations may be better than others, the most important factor is that all employees share the same set of expectations for communication.

 

Provide opportunities for remote social interaction: One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office.

 

The easiest way to establish some basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work items (e.g., “We’re going to spend the first few minutes just catching up with each other. How was your weekend?”). Other options include virtual pizza parties (in which pizza is delivered to all team members at the time of a videoconference), or virtual office parties (in which party “care packages” can be sent in advance to be opened and enjoyed simultaneously). While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, experienced managers of remote workers (and the workers themselves) report that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging.

 

Offer encouragement and emotional support: Especially in the context of an abrupt shift to remote work, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. If a newly remote employee is clearly struggling but not communicating stress or anxiety, ask them how they’re doing. Even a general question such as “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?” can elicit important information that you might not otherwise hear. Once you ask the question, be sure to listen carefully to the response, and briefly restate it back to the employee, to ensure that you understood correctly. Let the employee’s stress or concerns (rather than your own) be the focus of this conversation.

 

Research on emotional intelligence and emotional contagion tells us that employees look to their managers for cues about how to react to sudden changes or crisis situations. If a manager communicates stress and helplessness, this will have what Daniel Goleman calls a “trickle-down” effect on employees. Effective leaders take a two-pronged approach, both acknowledging the stress and anxiety that employees may be feeling in difficult circumstances, but also providing affirmation of their confidence in their teams, using phrases such as “we’ve got this,” or “this is tough, but I know we can handle it,” or “let’s look for ways to use our strengths during this time.” With this support, employees are more likely to take up the challenge with a sense of purpose and focus.

 

We’ll add our own note of encouragement to managers facing remote work for the first time: you’ve got this. Let us know in the comments your own tips for managing your remote employees.

 

by Barbara Z. Larson , Susan R. Vroman and Erin E. Makarius for the Harvard Business Review

For full article click here

 

TAPP Tip: 7 Soft Skills to be Successful

There are different definitions for soft skills but most agree that they are a combination of interpersonal skills, communication, social skills and attitudes. According to Terri Williams1, there are “7 Soft Skills You Need to Be Successful.” They are:

Leadership skills enable an employee to manage other staff effectively. A person with strong leadership skills can communicate effectively, build relationships and create the desired culture. A good leader has the other soft skills listed below. A leader can be at any level within a company … not just at the top.

Teamwork – whether you work alone or in a large department, knowing how to collaborate with others is key to success.

Communication  – Terri says that successful communication has five components: Verbal, Nonverbal (body/facial language),  Aural (ability to listen), Written, and Visual (use of pictures and graphics).

Problem Solving – “The ability to use your knowledge to find answers to pressing problems and formulate workable solutions will demonstrate that you can handle – and excel in – your job.”1

Work Ethic is your commitment to your job …. completing projects on time, being dependable, checking your work for errors, and having a helpful attitude.

Flexibility/Adaptability – the world is changing and companies need individuals who are open to change and will be able to switch gears as needed.

Interpersonal Skills – “This is a broad category of “people skills” and includes the ability to build and maintain relationships, develop rapport, and use diplomacy. It also includes the ability to give and receive constructive criticism, be tolerant and respectful regarding the opinions of others, and empathize with them.”1

1The 7 Soft Skills You Need to Be Successful by Terri Williams https://www.omniagroup.com/the-7-soft-skills-you-need-to-be-successful/

TAPP Tip: Retention- Professional Development

In every industry, training is critical for success. However, limiting training to the specific tasks of the job does not enable the individual to grow and become engaged with the company. Providing opportunities for employees to participate in professional development demonstrates that the company is invested in their future. It is equally important that the company actively support professional growth at each level.

According to David Ballard in the Harvard Business Review “Lack of supervisor support for career development is also linked to important organizational outcomes. For working Americans without supervisor support, only 48% say they are motivated to do their best at work, 39% are satisfied with their job, 16% say their company or organization makes them feel valued, and 22% would recommend their organization as a good place to work.”1

To read the full article 1“Managers Aren’t Doing Enough to Train Employees for the Future” by David Ballard published November 14, 2017, click here.

 For more tips on retention, click here to download “5 Secrets to Increase Retention.”

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