Depending on where in North America you are, you’ve probably been working from home for six weeks now. We know it feels longer than that, but most of us experienced the reality of the COVID-19 crisis sometime between March 12 and 16th. So here’s an important question: How’s it going?
Six weeks is 42 days. You know what can happen in 42 days?
- Chipmunks, ferrets, gerbils, rabbits and wombats all have gestation periods of fewer than 40 days. An entire generation of furry creatures has entered the world since you’ve been indoors.
- According to the book of Genesis, the entire world was flooded in only 40 days.
- The word “quarantine” stems from the Italian word for “forty,” representing the number of days persons potentially exposed to communicable diseases had to remain in isolation. Some of us feel like we’re on overtime.
Six weeks is also long enough that the novelty of working remotely has worn off for many people, and we are now into some kind of routine. The initial frenzy of activity, the sense that “we’re all in this together,” and the pure adrenaline associated with a crisis are starting to wear off. Frustration, exhaustion and loss are settling in on a lot of people.
It’s the right time to start asking some hard questions of yourself and your team in order to keep things operating and plan for (eventual, sane) re-entry.
How is your team doing with its key metrics?
Showing up to work and logging into Zoom meetings is activity. You should be measuring productivity, output, and hard numbers like sales, completed assignments, and customer satisfaction. By now your team has pretty much settled into a rhythm that will allow you to get a good snapshot of how things are going.
How are your people doing? (Who’s succeeding, who’s struggling, and why?)
Six weeks in, you’re probably going to notice the performance gap widening between teammates. Extroverts are struggling with isolation. People who were juggling family and work at the start are finding their nerves and patience fraying around the edges. If you haven’t been personally impacted by COVID-19 it’s hard to remember that a lot of people have been dealing with family or friends who have been hit hard. If you haven’t been doing regular check-ins with people, now’s the time to see how everyone is holding up. Who’s ready to go back to the office, and who likes this telework thing and may ask to do it more often?
What tasks are being completed satisfactorily? What was put aside that needs to be re-examined?
This can be different than the metrics. One of the first things that happened when we went into isolation was a shift in priorities, and what tasks needed to be done immediately. Some things requiring collaboration or access to materials or data got shelved (especially long-term projects). For everything that is getting done (to many people’s surprise) there are things that have been swept under the rug.
What will be the priorities when you return to the office?
Going back to the office will require more than simply throwing the doors open and saying, “welcome back.” Projects that have been delayed will suddenly pop to the top of the priority list again. Are you ready?
Do you have a plan, including roles and health precautions, for re-opening the workplace?
There will be sanitization, social distancing, equipment, and staffing challenges that need to be met. For one thing, you’ll get a lot of requests for vacation time that wasn’t taken or was postponed during this period. Will you have to make physical changes to the workplace? Will some people be unable to come back because of health issues or family stressors like young children out of school?
How prepared are you, personally, to “hit the ground running?”
This is NOT a rhetorical question. Your mindset will be critical to a smooth (or at least less miserable) re-entry. Not to get all Oprah on you, but if you don’t take care of yourself you won’t be much use to your team. Take the time to think and plan; don’t just arrive at your normal desk and start working. Talk to your colleagues and especially your own manager about expectations and what you need to be successful.
Whether your jurisdiction is planning a return to “normal” soon or not, if six weeks is enough to create a brand new baby wombat, it’s certainly time to ask how your team and its members are doing.
One thing you’ve probably already noticed is the change in team dynamics brought on by remote work. If working at a distance is something that’s going to last longer than six weeks for your team, now is a great time to look at 12 Weeks to Being a Great Remote Teammate. We’re offering the program at a tremendous discount right now and with the option for “binge” consumption.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.
Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. You can pre-order Kevin and Wayne’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammate, now.