When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, like many business owners, I had to shift my business operations entirely online.
While I had followed a remote work model for years, I was often able to meet my team members physically.
However, leading a business during the pandemic was exceptional and meant that I onboarded team members who I had never physically met, did not meet my colleagues for months on end and worked on rethinking how our business operates and serves our clients, all from behind a computer screen.
With remote work becoming a reality for many businesses, I’ve learnt key lessons in the past 18 months that will help business leaders navigate this work model.
Be transparent with your team and maintain frequent communication
With many employees working from behind screens, it’s not uncommon for them to feel lost and isolated.
This is why it’s especially important to keep your team in the loop, and maintaining frequent communication is one way to ensure that. Share company updates with your team and involve them in discussions where possible.
It will provide them with a sense of empowerment, makes them feel trusted and is a great way to hear their feedback on what could be done to overcome a challenge or take advantage of an opportunity. Frequent company updates could be shared through an email, with news highlights and updates or in the form of a weekly meeting.
Embrace failure as a learning experience
When employees are unable to meet their leader or colleagues, they are bound to make mistakes. Working physically away from your team requires a different kind of adjustment.
Build a company culture where failure is embraced and employees are encouraged to make mistakes. The way I see it is that when we provide room for error, creativity and genius are born.
Focus on well-being and mental health
Several studies and surveys have revealed that employees are on the lookout for employers that are focused on their well-being and mental health.
Explore options to provide virtual sessions with well-being experts for your team members. Present your team members with subscriptions to mobile apps such as Calm or Nafas Meditation that provide meditations to relieve stress and anxiety.
This takes us to an important point that many of us have overlooked over the past 18 months: it is essential to take time off from remote work, even if you are working from home.
Work and life have to remain separate for the sake of our mental well-being and our productivity. There are different ways that business leaders can enforce this.
They could start with introducing a company policy where no work communication is to take place after office hours. Another way to do that is to force employees to take an annual leave or short breaks two to three times a year.
Schedule time for brainstorming and creative thinking
One of the things I missed about meeting my team members were the meetings where we didn’t discuss company updates, but rather ideas that inspired us.
A physical workspace where we caught up with our team members over lunch or shared an important update in the lift is one way to build rapport and inspire creativity. But when we are working away from our team members, this could be challenging.
If you follow a hybrid or a remote work model, then you could, if possible, schedule physical meetings dedicated to innovation and inspiration. They can take place in a relaxing environment and dedicated solely to discussing inspiring ideas,
As businesses continue to navigate the remote work model, there will be more lessons to learn and mistakes to be made. One thing that will always need to remain a priority is our team members and their well-being.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.