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How to be a leader in a flexible workspace

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

During the past few weeks, we’ve talked about the perks and difficulties of working in a flexible workspace. We also shared our best tips for being efficient when working from home

However, working from home is not an individual task, and you still need to be a leader, even if from a distance. This is challenging, as most of your usual strategies and routines to keep up with your Dream Team will need to be readjusted. Below we discuss strategies for being an effective  leader while working in a flexible workspace. 

  • Find ways to maintain team cohesion 

Since you are now all working from home, you may want to revisit your team’s communication procedures. These need to take into account that people are not chatting informally to each other by the water cooler, so you’ll need to work harder to maintain team cohesion and cooperation.

If before you had only a weekly team meeting, consider adding a short (15 minutes maximum) daily “standup” virtual meeting where everybody says what they accomplished the previous day and what they will work on today, and ask for any help they need from others. 

Can you organize a virtual friday after-work? Since chatting several at a time over video-conference doesnt work very well, it may be easier to propose an organized activity, such as a fun quiz, during these virtual get-togethers. 

Ensure you establish a clear channel for daily short communications (Slack, Teams, Whatsapp group, SMS group or other). To make it feel more like the office space, encourage its use not only for work purposes but also for greeting people every day, sharing successes, praising others, and even the occasional joke. 

  • Establish schedules and deadlines. 

Working from home means that you don’t have to show up at your workspace everyday at 9.00 a.m. However, it’s still important to set clear routines for you and your team, and make sure everyone respects them. 

Ensure you have a minimum of shared “online” hours, where you expect the whole team to be available and connected. Apart from those hours, however, be flexible and allow people to work whenever it is more convenient for them, as long as deadlines are being met.

Establish boundaries for yourself and others. If you want to work until midnight, that’s fine, but respect your team’s working hours and make clear you don’t expect them to answer your emails past a reasonable time (and, of course, don’t call). Consider using tools to schedule such texts, so your team members can receive them early in the morning. 

Make also very clear the communication channels where they should contact you for urgent and non-urgent matters and let them know about your own working schedule. 

You also need to make sure you are very clear about when you need to have things done. Create a shared calendar or use other project management tools  to keep everyone accountable. Use daily standups or weekly team meetings to ask about progress and solve roadblocks. 

  •  Be specific with the feedback you give. 

A few months ago, I wrote a post about how to share negative feedback in a constructive way. It included tips such as giving feedback regularly so it wouldn’t pile up, sharing examples of how to do it right the next time and asking for reciprocity. 

When communication happens through a screen on a daily basis it is crucial to put this in practice with more frequency. Be more sensitive than usual and remember that it's harder to read people when on video than face to face. 

If you’ve just started working with a new team it’s useful to create a set of agreed ways of working and sharing feedback. Have these “rules of the game” on a shared document where it is accessible to all. This is beneficial for new members that may join the team afterwards and for all of the team members to check when in doubt. 

  • Check in on your team members.

In my book Build Your Dream Team: Leadership based on a passion for people, one of the leadership characteristics I discuss is to be caring. Caring doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends with your team members. It’s about being interested in their personal life. 

This is particularly crucial in these quarantine times. Anxiety is high and people are juggling home-work and child care responsibilities, all while distanced from their loved ones and friends and in a general ambience of incertitude and fear.

Ask regularly how they are doing. Check if  they have kids or elders that they need to take care of. You can specifically ask how they are coping and what strategies they are using to maintain their mental wellbeing. This allows you to fathom who in your team has good coping skills and who may need more support. Although you may not be able to do much for them, knowing that you are understanding of their situation will probably help them feel less stressed if they can’t give their 100% at work at some point. 

Also ask about how they are managing the online virtual work environment, what works, and what is challenging, as well as any suggestions they may have for improvement. 

How do you handle being a leader in these virtual working times? Let us know your tips in the comments or in any of our social media at @sekkanleadership!



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