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JOE SHERREN: Managing in a virtual world

Working from home as a result of COVID-19? Set up a dedicated workstation using some items you likely already have on hand.
Today’s unfortunate circumstance will help managers better understand the many benefits of telecommuting, writes Joe Sherren. - Saltwire

We have experienced many life-changing events over the years, including 9-11 when the twin towers fell. The world changed forever that day, but after some time we all got back to a more normal lifestyle.

Yet travel has (and will) never be the same as a result of that event. This coronavirus crisis (which is far from being over), will be one of those historic moments in our lives that no one will ever forget. We will all remember this time when business as we knew it – stopped – forcing everyone through an unprecedented virtual learning curve.

As a result, managing people will never be the same. This is what will be called a paradigm shift in the way we work. For many years now, organizations have been slowly evolving to a flexiplace workstyle, where some employees are now able to work from home. This fortunate group will be equipped to adapt the fastest and possibly succeed the most.

But, for many years many managers resisted. Whether it was lack of trust for the workers or the old conditioned belief that if you cannot see your employee working – they are probably not. They did not embrace working virtually. Today’s unfortunate circumstance will help managers better understand the many benefits of telecommuting. In addition to the general increased productivity and morale — such as less stress and an improved work-life balance, we will also see:

  • Higher levels of creativity
  • Significantly less fossil fuel usage which will protect our environment
  • Significantly fewer road accidents and lost time because of commuting

We have now entered a whole new world of work and it will never go back to the way it was. To make it successful, here are some tried and true guidelines to follow.

Your home office should not be a bedroom, or any other room already in use.

The family must have strict boundaries, when mom or dad is in their office working, pretend they are not even in the house – they are “at work”.

Obtain all the productivity tools and equipment you need to work effectively.

Upgrade to the broadband and phone system that will best meet your needs.

Make sure the area is secure, as you would at the office.

Speak with your insurance provider about what provision will cover you appropriately.

Discuss with your accountant what tax breaks you can now take advantage of.

Take breaks and lunches the way you would if at the office.

Shower and dress professionally, as if you were actually going to the office.

Studies have shown that the more you can replicate the real office environment, the more effective you will be.

I know it will be hard to say to your children that mom or dad is at work now and cannot be disturbed but, you must set boundaries and guidelines that everyone follows. For some of us, this transition will be easier than for others. Working from home will now be the new normal — so get prepared.

As a manager, you will need to set clear expectations of the quality and quantity you expect from employees and how they will be measured and compensated going forward.

The most important factor of virtual team success will be constructive collaboration within and between workers, managers, and clients. Open and direct communications will be even more critical for this new working modality to succeed.

Unfortunately, if your face-to-face communications were not so great before, those cracks will become even greater as we transition to working from home. So, take great pains to keep your team connected as we work through this transition.

My question this week is: What are you doing in terms of training, technology upgrading, and establishing clear expectations to set your employees up for success in this emerging virtual world?


Joe Sherren is an international business transformation specialist. For more information, check out his website at gatewayleadership.com.

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