When managing workers in person, it's easy to focus on making sure workers are present and focused on getting the job done. When managing a distributed workforce in a global health crisis, it is also very important to monitor the health and well being of your workforce.
Here are some strategies for staying connected to your workers without hovering.
Daily "Stand Up" Meetings
Similar to the construction trades, programmers and project managers, you could have daily "stand up" meetings that allow you to:
- Hear how folks sound
- Ensure folks are engaged with you and others daily
- Distribute work
- Hear how folks are progressing with previously assigned work
- Answer questions about work, about working from home
- Reinforce that you are available to support them and that they may reach out to you
You might consider dividing a larger team into smaller groups for stand-ups, so the discussion is relevant to the work they are doing. Then, have a weekly, large team meeting. Are they all working on pieces of a project? Share a visual Gannt chart or other visual representation of incremental progress to keep folks on track and motivated to finish.
Does their normal work involve physical activity?
Working away from the office may present different demands and conditions. Encourage one of your team leads or someone who's into fitness to lead a fitness challenge. Not to compete for who is the "best" but to encourage physical activity, and measure maintenance or improvement in health. Percent improvement over time, most time spent, etc., may encourage health and fitness and promote emotional wellbeing in a stressful time.
Weekly Wrap Up and Planning for Next Week
Giving folks a chance to reflect on how the week went and look forward to what's next also promotes a healthy, positive outlook. We need to be honest and not fill folks with false hope, but we can positively impact others with our strength and confidence. A 'weekly retrospective' gives you a structured opportunity to recognize the team's accomplishments, or a successful transition to working from home, following the new schedule, participating in web meetings, etc. All of those things are accomplishments when their lives are in varying states of upheaval. Embrace the opportunity to lift them up, allow them the space to support each other, and to ask for what they want or need to be more productive. Whether you can deliver or not, consider all requests and get back to the team with an answer.
"Face to Face" Meetings
Do you have meetings with your workers individually? If so, do your best to replicate that personal connection with Video conference if possible. You will be able to "see" how they are doing, really listen to how they sound, watch their body language, and use all of those inputs to discern how they're doing. When you have a reasonable estimation, ask them if you are right, "It seems like you are…(guess)… is that about right? What can I do to help?".
For tips on how to help your team be productive at home, check out this article: Worker's Guide to Being Productive at Home