10 Ways for Managers to Boost Teams’ WFH Productivity

by Allyson Quinby, Vice President of People & Culture

As remote work drags on, people are losing motivation; increasing the need for inspiration or help from managers in staying productive. What worked at the beginning of the pandemic may not be effective anymore, as the distinction between one’s work and personal life blurs even further. Part of a manager’s job is to keep teams engaged by staying positive, maintaining a high level of energy and being a role model who sets a tone that empowers people to approach everyday through an optimistic lens.

Here are 10 ways managers can help their team members, and themselves, stay productive.

1 | Communicate with your team

Communicate with your team on a regular basis and listen to what they have to say. For some, human contact alone can relieve anxiety, but others may need more help. The pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, so it’s important for managers to show compassion, be empathetic and make accommodations for people if necessary. At the same time, it’s incumbent upon managers to motivate and urge people to keep moving forward.

2 | Acknowledge successes and great work

Whether recognition takes the form of promotions, raises, public displays of praise or a simple “thank you,” people will feel a sense of accomplishment and that their work is valued. They will also be excited about how they’re contributing to the future of the company and be motivated to keep moving forward.

3 | Maintain and strengthen personal relationships with colleagues

These relationships should be a priority; they spur innovation, improve communication, lead to higher retention and cause better overall performance. Today, being at home means that people cannot pass one another in the hallway or chat in the bathroom, so managers need to be proactive about bringing people together. It can be as simple as inviting people from other teams to join your meetings, organizing one-on-one meetings between people that don’t know each other well, or hosting virtual events.

4 | Encourage small talk and casual interactions among teammates

You could start meetings with an icebreaker or playful question, carve out time for people to give updates about their lives outside of work, or simply hang out because you miss each other’s company. This is also an opportunity for people to express gratitude and talk about the positive things in life. It’s important to stay away from gossip or serious topics.

5 | Set aside time and find ways to have fun

The monotony of staying inside the house all day can become tiring, so looking for ways to let loose with your teammates can help channel that energy into team building. You could organize a dance party (cameras optional) to release endorphins and help people relax. Music itself is also calming and a way to connect with others; start a playlist that everyone on your team can contribute to. Another option is setting up a recurring virtual coffee meeting or happy hour.

6 | Take personal time

People are so focused on doing it all that they often forget to make time for their own personal needs. Start with the basics: sleep, exercise, and food. Next, schedule time for self-care. Block off the necessary amount of time in your calendar and stick to it. Most importantly, prepare for your “me time” by removing all distractions or anything else that may get in the way. Ensuring your own health and happiness is critical to being productive professionally and personally.

7 | Be mindful of breaks 

Not all breaks or “me time” need to be without screens and in the form of going for a walk or exercising. It is possible to incorporate technology into breaks and experience the same benefits. For example, you can listen to a podcast, read or play games on your phone, participate in a virtual workout class, or call someone you’ve been meaning to reach out to.

8 | Think long term

Encourage people to focus on what’s important to them in the long run, personally or professionally. You may also be able to use this time to tackle all the rainy-day projects you’ve been putting off. Identify exciting new projects for yourself or for your teammates that may promote a feeling of reinvigoration.

9 | Maintain good work-from-home habits

First, stay organized. Prepare your to-do list the day before; you’re more likely to actually do the things on your list if you write them down. Second, plan your work around your internal clock. Recognize what time of day you’re most productive and save your hardest projects or tasks for that time. Third, create rituals where you do the same thing at the same time every day. Fourth, if your calendar starts to book up, block off time for yourself. You can use that time to accomplish tasks that have popped up throughout the day.

10 | Remove distractions

Leave your phone in a different room or pause email or message notifications so they can’t disrupt your focus. This also applies to when you’re in virtual meetings, because your teammates can tell if you’re distracted. Make everyone feel connected to you – and one another – by actively listening, asking questions and engaging in conversations.

As much as we want to forget the last year, we shouldn’t forget about all the things that we’ve learned about ourselves, our work, and our team members. Even as things begin to return to some semblance of normalcy, it is important that we take all of the management practices we were leveraging throughout the pandemic and continue to apply them in the future. Whether your office opens back up, or everything stays remote forever, it’s crucial that we incorporate all of these tips into our everyday lives in the “new normal.”

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