This year, cleantech companies around the world have faced the challenge of moving to a remote working model as governments implemented social distancing rules to control the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at Life Size, we already had a flexible working model in place, though still had to adapt to no longer seeing each other face-to-face at least some of the time.
Changing to fully remote working is not an easy task. Research has shown that loneliness is the top complaint about remote work, with employees missing the social interaction of an office setting. Other challenges include becoming distracted, disruptions to daily routines such as childcare responsibilities and strained team communication.
So how can you ensure your cleantech company is set up for success, even if your team is not all in the same place? Here are our tips for effective virtual leadership and successful remote working.
Establish structured check-ins: A structured working week with scheduled check-ins is vital to effective virtual management.This could take the form of a daily one-on-one call or a weekly team call. The important thing is that the calls are regular, predictable and in a manner that employees know that their concerns and questions will be heard. At Life Size, we have a ‘weekly focus’ channel on Slack where each of us highlights three areas we’ll be focusing on for the coming week. We also have a weekly workload check-in team call towards the end of the week, where we let everyone else know what we have in store the following week. These enable full transparency on what the whole team is working on and allows people to ask for help if needed.
Set communication standards: It’s essential to set a standard for how communication should work once your team is remote. As it’s no longer possible to walk to your colleagues’ desks or turn to the person next to you, what is the best way of communicating? While most companies will now be using software such as Zoom for virtual calls, we’ve encouraged the use of video calls as much as possible for several years now. Video calls are particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as they feel more personal than emails or traditional phone calls. Alternatively, instant messaging on applications such as Slack or WhatsApp is good for urgent problems or quick questions.
Allow offline time: It can be tricky to balance all the tasks of the day, navigate virtual meetings and still find time to focus on actual work that needs finishing. Allowing offline time to focus on specific jobs is an excellent way of empowering team members to manage their time effectively and focus on work without distractions. Update your status on internal communications channels to signal to the team whether you’re available or not, or send everyone a quick message to let them know you’ll be offline for a while.
Foster social interactions: One of the most important steps a business can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially while working remotely. At Life Size, we encourage water-cooler chat at the beginning and end of meetings, while we’ve also started scheduling virtual breakfasts and evening drinks as a way to connect outside of work hours. Another suggestion is to set up a purely social Slack channel and encourage team members to share things such as pictures from their day or the music they’ve been listening to.
Offer support and praise often: Given the abrupt shift to remote working, managers need to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathise with their struggles. Simply checking in with one another and asking how everyone is doing is a good start. During difficult times, it’s important to try and keep spirits high. We have a ‘praise’ channel on Slack at Life Size which we use to mention a team member who has performed particularly well on a project or deserves a shout out for their hard work.
Be flexible: Everyone works in different ways, and being stuck at home all day is not ideal for many people. Allowing flexible working hours empowers employees to choose when and where they work best and instils trust that managers know they can deliver solid work. Some employees may prefer to change up their work location so they need to travel between coffee shops or coworking spaces. For those who all of a sudden are juggling work with childcare, flexible working hours will always be welcomed.