The Professional – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 5 Ways to Keep a Team Motivated & Engaged While Working From Home

To be absolutely certain, SARS-CoV-2 has altered and disrupted contemporary life as we know it. Our daily routines have been cast into disarray; so we steel ourselves daily with the resolve and steadfastness to answer different challenges we all face. As I stated in my previous post, working remotely from home is not as glamorous as it may appear to the public. Trust, those of us that can work remotely are blessed. However, there are some challenges that cannot be ignored. Locked down utilizing whatever space is available to conduct work efficiently and effectively can be challenging. For example, my role and responsibilities require a consistent carousel of interaction with suppliers, hospital personnel, sales representatives, executive leadership, and fellow colleagues. These tasks are not an issue within the comforting confines of a cubicle or meeting room. Now, at home – not so much. Without a doubt, the concept of work-life balance has been disrupted. Coupled with the elimination of in-person team collaboration and the specter of furlough or termination; the combined stress can deplete what little remains of a worker’s drive and enthusiasm. As leaders, how can we keep a team motivated and engaged when the energy just isn’t there given the current environment? I am not an expert, but I offer 5 tips below that might be helpful.

  1. A leader should offer sincere praise, praise, and even more praise for a job performed well. Sure, a reward with monetary value would definitely be appreciated. Nevertheless, do not underestimate the strength of verbally acknowledging a colleague’s work and work ethic. Moreover, a leader should actively encourage team members to praise one another. A leader should encourage colleagues to share successes with the team and provide positive work-related topics. Welcoming a positive vibe can definitely boost morale. Now, if a leader really wants to add a personal touch of appreciation, a digital gift card from Grubhub is a popular and inexpensive option. Digital greeting cards that express gratitude is also a great option.
  2. During uncertain and worrisome times, it would not be unusual for a colleague to lose connectivity to their purpose. It is important that a leader touch base with their team periodically throughout the week. During these remote meetings, it is vital to incorporate the company’s mission and vision into the team dialogue. I am not suggesting one quote said mission and vision verbatim. A savvy leader should be able to weave a cogent theme that gently reminds the team of its purpose and role. He or she should clearly state attainable goals, identify areas of opportunity, and tie it all back to mission – which should be mirrored by both the company and team. Remind the team what is at stake and why it is important for the sustainability of the business.
  3. Communication. Communication. Communication. Whether a leader is using Cisco Jabber, Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts or simply picking up a telephone; maintaining connectivity with one’s colleagues can help facilitate collaboration and teamwork even from afar. A leader should definitely encourage colleagues to contact one another with the tools provided by the company. On a personal note, during a call this week, I was happy to be informed that 2 of my colleagues had set up their own personal, weekly touch base to review work and set goals as they worked collaboratively.
  4. Just stating facts, I would guess that many colleagues do not hold an undying allegiance to their employer. Completely understanding that reality, yet ensuring that the work at hand is performed, I encourage colleagues to focus on the team to achieve job success. Once when the team was inundated with work and the situation appeared hopeless, I bluntly told them that the cavalry was not coming to the rescue, we only had each other. I also encourage colleagues to view their jobs pridefully as a service to their customers or community. The way a colleague performs their duty is a barometer of how well we serve the public.
  5. In this time of uncertainty, it is paramount that a leader never loses grasp of the human element. Work is work. Nevertheless, that work is performed by individuals. And those individuals carry fear, nervousness, anger, anxiety, and much more. I make a genuine effort to ask my colleagues about non-work related topics. It is my belief that fostering sincere camaraderie amongst colleagues can drive them to work harder, again not for the company, but for each other and the community. And it demonstrates an honest attempt to view them more than just a worker – they are a person.

Daddy Diary – The Coronavirus Chronicles: 10 True Confessions of a Parent Working From Home

Perhaps contrary to widespread popular belief, working from home is not as glamorous as may be suspected. Please, do not misunderstand, I am very thankful for the capability to continue my employment remotely. Nevertheless, working remotely does pose unique challenges that cannot be easily dismissed. Every morning I board the struggle bus on the way to work. My patience, energy, and emotions wear critically thin as the day progresses. Sharing a workspace with 2 toddlers and a spouse (also working remotely) while trying to work effectively is truly demanding. And life does not stop simply because your work is now based out of your kitchen nook. One afternoon I was working in the dining room when I heard my daughter call out from upstairs. She was taking a nap and woke up with a nasty nosebleed.

Of course, I had to stop what I was doing and tend to my daughter. First, I stopped her nosebleed. Then I stripped her bed, blotted her mattress cover with hydrogen peroxide, cleaned up the blood that had trickled down the hallway & stairs, stain-treated her Frozen dress and sheets, and laundered both before returning to work at the table. Ah, I forgot, I prepared her afternoon snack after all that was completed. Nevertheless, I was proud to show her that the Frozen dress was clean. Each day presents its own adventure. So yes, working from home is a privilege for which I am truly thankful, but the battle for sanity ensues every time I open my eyes Monday through Friday. Below, you will find 10 “confessions” of a working dad just trying to remain productive in a Brooks Brothers button-up and Goodfellow pajamas from Target.

  1. Scenes from a pandemic – work from home edition.

    As perplexing and strange as it may appear, I confess that I actually miss certain aspects of the workplace. Trust me, I don’t miss the daily Michigan commute or intervening in petty office squabbles. However, I miss the daily soup and chili served in the cafeteria. I miss the adult conversation with a few colleagues, such as opinions about the latest episode of The Walking Dead or what team will reach the NBA Finals. These are conversations that cannot be had with toddlers.

  2. And speaking of toddlers, if you see my mouth moving on a video conference call, yet no sound is detected, the mute button is not unintentional. Most likely I am bellowing instructions at my children for quiet or attempting to quell a potential sibling fracas. Also, if my fingers are interlocked and positioned in front of my mouth in a thoughtful pose; you guessed correctly, I am bellowing instructions at my children for quiet or attempting to quell a potential sibling fracas. I just try to look intelligent doing it.
  3. If at any time my computer screen goes unexpectedly “dark” during a video conference call; the bald eagle is on the move. Whether it is preparing lunch for the children, breaking up a fight already in progress, or tending to a toilet clogged with Charmin Ultra Soft – some situations require hands-on attention. Generally, I have my mobile phone in tow so I can keep up with the group conversation and chime in when needed.
  4. Cisco Jabber is a vital tool for communicating at my job. Cisco Jabber is an application that provides instant messaging, conferencing, voice messaging, and desktop sharing. When utilizing the instant message function, there are various statuses that can be displayed to designate a user’s current condition. Now, when my status transitions from “available” to “away”, nature is probably calling and I have to settle a bit of business. And no, my mobile phone is not in tow. A brother has to set some boundaries.
  5. True, I write about style and dress for gentlemen, but working from home has changed up everything regarding dress code. To state that the dress code is relaxed in my home office would be an understatement. Yeah, you may see my rocking a sport shirt during a video conference call, but a brother is sporting pajama bottoms – clear out of sight of the camera. Now, my director did surprise one afternoon with a video call. He caught me wrapped up in a blanket. Look damn it, Michigan decided to pretend it was early February, and it was cold in my basement! At least it wasn’t a Snuggie.
  6. Sometimes I skip showers. There I said it. I literally roll out of bed and log in. And I do not care. For years now, I would awaken at the crack of dawn and perform the following duties: get both children showered & clothed, prepare their breakfast, pack their lunch, get myself showered and clothed, drive them to school, and then continue my commute to work. Now mornings are not as hectic. I can multitask better. So, yeah, sometimes I may not hit the shower until late afternoon or evening. And I seriously don’t give a damn. Nope. And I can’t be shower-shamed either.
  7. Prior to video conference calls, I ensure my background is painfully plain. Just because I’m rocking pajama bottoms and won’t shower until 5pm, it doesn’t mean I want people to spy random items strewn around the house. I always do a quick room check before turning on the camera.
  8. I desperately attempt to find areas of isolation to work undisturbed, but there aren’t many viable locations in my home. My children always find me. Of course, they have no idea that Daddy is on a video call, so they will casually stroll into the room behind me doing kid stuff – like having a dance party. As you can see in one of the pictures above, my daughter decided to whip out her sleeping bag and set up a spot to chill behind me.
  9. With my office setup essentially in my basement, sometimes it is hard to disconnect from work. Sometimes I find myself logging back in after my family has retired for the night. So generally, I am the last person to go to bed, but one of the first up – Ava usually beats me by a few minutes. She is even so kind as to wander to my side of the bed and hand me my glasses. That’s her way of telling me to get up and get going.
  10. All things considered, there has been a benefit that I admit has been welcome. I am not eating fast food because I don’t drive anywhere. I am saving a lot of money on gasoline. Since school has been canceled, I have received a temporary reprieve from school tuition. And even though they drive me up the wall, I am spending more time with the kids since I am not getting home late from work. Sure, I am slowly losing my grip on reality, but there are some positives to glean from the experience.
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