Working from home and spiral into busy.
Does this sound familiar?
You start off enthusiastically when you are told to work from home.
You set up your home workstation and quickly find you are working 16 hours a day.
As managers when we are remote from our workforce we can feel like we
don’t have control and can become fearful that we aren't able to keep track of the work being done.
This can be compounded when we are a new manager, new to managing people or new to a team.
This can manifest in a lack of trust and we can fall into the trap of micromanaging.
This can lead to a resentful team, afraid of doing the wrong thing they stop using their initiative and instead rely heavily on you to make all decisions.
The result is that you have more and more work to do, getting more and more overwhelmed.
Welcome to the Spiral of Busy.
Let's look at some strategies to get out of the spiral.
1. Setting priorities to stop the spiral to busy.
As people we often default to the work we feel most comfortable doing but this might not be the most important work.
People like to be busy but the amount of time worked is not always the best measure of success.
Do you know what work is a priority and do your team know?
Talk to your team about the work that absolutely has to be done. Set clear expectations and time frames.
How will you review the work? By email, using a project app or a shared screen reviewing it together?
What are the measures you are using when you review the work, is this a first draft or do you expect it to be the finished product.
Focus on the priority work first and help people (including yourself) steer clear of the temptation to fill the time with busy but not important work.
Remember the measure is the quality of the work not the amount of work carried out in a set time. People are working from home, surrounded by distractions and trying to home school their children, they may do less work so help them to focus on doing the right things to a high quality.
2. Less check-ins and more communications.
As managers working with a remote team for the first time, we can fall into the trap of mistrust leading to micromanaging.
One of the symptoms of this mistrust is the surprise check-in.
How do you check in with your team?
Micromanagers often use the check in to 'keep an eye on people' but people can become suspicious when they see you and hear from you unexpectedly.
Better to set your expectations with the team about how and when you will communicate.
Will there be set formal meetings, how often and using what technology?
How do people ask questions and access you and each other on the hop?
It can be useful to explore with the team how they prefer to communicate. Some people prefer a more formal structure allowing them time to prepare, others (think extroverts in your team) might be happier with ad hoc conference calls.
Whatever you all decide make sure your team knows what to expect so that your checking isn't perceived as micromanaging.
3. Providing stretch opportunities.
It can be tempting for us and the team to focus on the work in our comfort zone, but how can you support your team to stretch themselves right now?
One trap of delegation is to provide people only with a list of tasks. Stretching people could involve giving them a project to complete.
Is there an idea or a project that people have been wanting to try but there just hast been the time? Might this be a good time to look again at a project?
Giving people opportunities to stretch might also be a stretch for you? How exciting you get to test out that delegation muscle.
My motto is "always delegate with trust, people might surprise you..."
4. Delegation is the best way to move from manager to leader.
New managers often struggle with delegation.
- Its easier to do it myself...
- I haven't got time to train people...
Delegating effectively will distinguish you as a leader and stop the spiral into busy.
People want to be engaged in meaningful work.
People want to feel they are contributing.
REMEMBER - YOU ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE BEST PERSON TO DO THIS WORK.
Don't just take my word for it, start following the amazing Maree Burgess on Linkedin who is the delegation expert.
Managing a remote workforce for the first time isn't easy but with some effort and strategies at hand you can make it work, build a culture of trust and autonomy and set yourself and the team up for even better productivity when you get back to sharing space again.
Stay well everyone and I'm here to help if you need me. You may call +61 0403 857 054 or send me an email to email@example.com.