Rebecca Newenham is founder and director of award-winning virtual agency Get Ahead VA. Her team of over 40 virtual assistants and 7 franchisees all work flexibly and remotely to provide marketing and business support services to SMEs and entrepreneurs across the UK. Rebecca Newenham founded Get Ahead VA in 2010 after recognising a gap in the market for virtual assistance services that offered the flexibility, value and performance that small businesses and start-ups need in the 21st century, digital economy. The business has been recognised in awards including Flexible Business of the Year and Rebecca has recently been listed in the #ialso list of 100 inspiring female business leaders in the UK.
Right now, the world is changing faster than we could have imagined. The unthinkable has become the new reality. Our entire way of living and working is being challenged.
But despite what can feel like chaos, there is some normality. This is a temporary situation and this time will pass. Until then, many businesses are moving to home working to contribute towards ‘social distancing’ and slow the spread of the virus.
For some people, this may be the first time they have ever worked from home. For others, it is normality they have been living with years. Working from home and leading a business from home certainly does require different skills. Motivating a team through any challenging situation is difficult, let alone trying to do it remotely. However, there are key things that entrepreneurs and CEOs can do to lead their team through this virus pandemic successfully whilst working from home.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
In any crisis, communication is important; giving people facts, explaining situations and answering questions to allay their concerns. When you can’t physically see your team, communication is even more important. Employees need to see and hear from you daily, just as they would in the office. How you communicate will depend on the size of your team and the methods you use, but daily online updates or briefings can be a great way to start, to get your team ready and motivated for the day, as well as answer any concerns early.
When it comes to communicating, using video, videoconferencing, webinars or any means of communication where people can see your face helps to keep the verbal/visual energy up and instil trust, more so than voice-only or written communications. Zoom is a great tool for this. Though many businesses use a lot of emails every day, try and pick up the phone where you can. Interactive communications enable people to ask questions and for you to gain a sense of their wellbeing through their reactions. It also provides much-needed interaction for team members that may struggle with loneliness whilst working from home.
Communication doesn’t have to be always formal. Having the opportunity to meet up online and just chat too, replacing that ‘water cooler’ moment, can be important to help individuals feel connected, motivated and still part of a team. Online chat forums like Microsoft Teams or Slack can be great for this.
In times of change, employees can feel anxious; worried about their health, their jobs and their future. Keep your team motivated by celebrating success regularly. Whether someone has managed to run an event online, get a deal signed, had a great idea about how the business can work in the future or gone above and beyond to help the team or someone outside of the team such as a client or supplier. Celebrate every little success both individually and with the whole team to keep morale high.
Share best practise about working from home
Don’t just assume that people know how to do it. For some team members, working remotely will be an alien experience, and not one they are comfortable with. Enabling employees to work successfully from home isn’t just about making sure they have secure technology to make it happen. There are both physical and mental considerations that, as a leader, you need to provide guidance on to help your team perform.
Share advice on physical practicalities such as how to sit when working from home. Employees with a sore back from sitting on the sofa whilst they work will not be motivated or productive. A perfectly positioned ergonomic desk and chair might not be possible for everyone but do encourage the team to think about their posture and work location. Work at a table and try and use cushions or blocks to get into the right position for back, hands and feet. Encourage regular exercise and breaks. Standing up and moving around is so important to maintain a healthy body at work – whether it is at home or in the office. Recommend apps like the Focus Keeper app and the Pomodoro Technique of 25 minutes of work/activity followed by a 5-minute break, to keep employees healthy and happy.
Suggest that staff give themselves rewards during the day. Some team members may feel they have to be attached to their laptop from morning till night to somehow ‘prove’ they are still being productive from home. Reassure employees that you value their efforts to do their best in the current circumstances. Encourage employees to time block activities in their diary so that they work to a schedule as if they were in the office, and then reward themselves during the day for a task or target completed. Set the right example by sharing yours with the team where you can.
Already we have seen that these are challenging times, but good can arise for businesses as well as individuals. Remaining positive as a leader and supporting your employees will ensure you and your team remain motivated and productive, able to tackle the challenges ahead.
Join BEYOUROWN Membership Club to connect, network and feel inspired amongst many of our like-minded ambitious women just like you.