9 Strategies to Keep Your Virtual Team Productive During the COVID-19 Pandemic

If you’re finding that navigating the pandemic as a remote leader is challenging for you and your organization, you’re not alone. Many leaders are seeing that going fully remote has disrupted workflow in more ways than expected. Let’s explore some of the common challenges of working remotely and the disruptions to daily living caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We will also explore nine key ways to maintain your team’s productivity so that your organization can gain a competitive edge even in this uncertain market.

Team leader conducting virtual meeting with diverse colleagues.

Productivity Challenges Due to Coronavirus

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), employers have a big responsibility when it comes to helping slow the spread of COVID-19. For most of us, this means that non-essential employees are now working from home. These changes have left employees feeling understandably anxious.

Employers need to be aware of the strain their employees are under. According to CNBC’s Workforce Wire, COVID-19’s spread has taken a toll on employee mental health across America. As a result of the abrupt changes to daily workflow, employees are dealing with stress, anxiety, isolation and fear. In the coming weeks, this is expected to damage productivity in many industries.

Furthermore, the New York Times reports that many people across the globe feel that the pandemic has caused them worse anxiety than the threat of terrorist attacks. 57 percent of employees fear being laid off as a result of pandemic-related disruptions and 40.6 percent of employees are expecting hardships over the next 6 to 12 months. Many feel helpless and that all they can do is sit and wait, hoping that things won’t be too bad in the end. It’s important to anticipate that your employees may have unique needs that will need to be addressed to keep your organization productive. Be empathetic when interacting with employees. When they feel heard and valued, they’re more likely to stay productive.

Productivity Challenges of Working Remotely

Recognizing the pandemic-related challenges employees are facing is only half the battle. There are challenges that come specifically from teams going remote as well. Luckily, these problems are a bit more concrete and there are several ways to work on them! Here are some of the most common problems related to working from home:

  • Home spaces don’t feel conducive to doing work
  • It’s easy to start scrolling through Facebook, watching TV, reading the news, engaging with family members or pets, etc.
  • It’s hard to keep up with communication with your team
  • You forget to take care of yourself while not on work hours
  • You don’t create a schedule for yourself to help separate home and work life
  • Technology problems cause you to feel frustrated and distracted
  • You feel isolated from company culture

It may seem that there are endless complications from working remotely. However, if you stay focused on maintaining a positive attitude and remain dedicated to doing the best you can each day, these problems aren’t so hard to overcome. It’s mostly a matter of staying connected with your team, communicating well and encouraging the well-being of your group members.

How to Stay Productive During the Pandemic

As you can see, American workers are facing unprecedented challenges now, from mental health problems to staying focused working from home. These challenges are likely to get more difficult as the pandemic continues. Here are some ways you can encourage productivity in your team:

  1. Use your emotional intelligenceIf you have self-awareness and empathy, you will be able to anticipate not only your own needs, but also the needs of your team members. When your employees feel cared for and valued, they are more likely to produce high-quality work. Take time to revisit the concept of emotional intelligence, or EQ, and consider ways you could enhance your EQ to benefit yourself, your employees and your business. 
  1. Mitigate feelings of stress and anxietyAs we’ve mentioned, the anxieties coming up during the pandemic are unique and require specific attention. When you find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed, make sure to prioritize self-care and encourage your team members to do the same so that they can stay focused on work during work hours. 
  1. Enhance communication with remote employees – Try not to let any employees fall through the cracks just because you can’t physically keep up with them. It’s important to regularly reach out to remote employees and get feedback and updates. 
  1. Make your home workspace comfortableNot having a proper work environment at home can be disruptive. Choose a space where you can minimize distractions and feel comfortable sitting for long periods of time. Sprucing up your work space can even be a creative project that you can find some fun in! 
  1. Remove distractionsThis one can be tricky, but not impossible. Family members, household chores, email and instant messaging, phone calls, and social media are all common distractions when working from home. Identify which of these affect you the most and then try out ways to minimize their presence in your life during the workday. For example, you can ask family members not to call you during work hours unless there’s an emergency. You can also only check emails and text messages at various scheduled points throughout the day. Everyone is different, so be patient as you work to find a method that works best for you and your situation. 
  1. Set up regular virtual meetings with your team – Regular meetings with your team go a long way toward keeping everyone informed. Meetings will also help your employees feel connected to a common cause. Emphasize that you’re all working together to come out of this time stronger than before. Be understanding of those who are working in less-than-professional settings as well. For example, if an employee has a toddler that interrupts their work, understand that they are unable to change this right now. Encourage team members to be flexible and understanding of each other’s unique situations. When employees feel respected regardless of their challenges, they’re going to keep working hard. 
  1. Try not to bombard your employees with messages that could distract themIt can be tempting to send updates to the rest of your team as you receive them. However, sending out constant or irregular communications can distract your employees from their projects. Instead, send out regular memos or summaries at a rate that makes sense for you and your type of work. 
  1. Continue recognition of employees that perform well – Just because you’re all working from home doesn’t mean that your employees don’t want to be recognized. It’s important to recognize employee achievements just as you would if you were all in the office together. It can be helpful to schedule biweekly or monthly video chats that include recognition of great work. This will boost morale as employees will see their hard work receiving the praise it deserves. 
  1. Regularly reinforce company cultureKeep in mind that your team members are all working in vastly different environments, making it very easy for them to lose sight of your company culture. Leaders should actively work to continue sharing company culture, goals and values. When employees feel connected to a greater mission, they’re more likely to be engaged in their work. 

Next Steps

KnowledgeCity’s course “Leading Effective Teams” can help you understand what a successful team looks like, the challenges that teams can encounter and how your leadership style can either enhance or disrupt your team. Now more than ever, it’s important to bring your best self to your leadership role so that you can keep yourself and your employees productive and happy. This will help your organization gain a competitive edge during these trying times.

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