As “Work from home” becomes the new norm, many companies have ensured their employees are ready for this with all the required tools. Although, it can’t be ignored that our usual ‘WFH’ which hardly lasts for a few days, has now separated the associates and their managers for a long time. The Covid-19 crisis is still in an unforeseeable stage, so its time we put together a checklist to follow with our teams in order to ensure everyone feels most connected and engaged during the remote working. Here are a few tips which can be used during this lockdown and they will be with us for any such extended WFHs in the future.

  1. Be flexible
    • Be flexible with the schedule – Let your team members decide what time suits them best during the day. Don’t forget, everybody’s in the same boat! With kids at home and no additional support, people are experiencing lot of pressure already. So, as long as possible, let your team decide what time is most comfortable for them, be it to start work, lunch breaks, meetings, almost everything!

      If changes in schedule is really not possible, explain them the reasons and help them setup the best schedule.

    • Let them take breaks – Allow the team to take generous amounts of breaks during the day. Most people are responsible to report back on time or complete their work within timelines. So, managers need to be more flexible in allowing few breaks during the day as far as work is not impacted. Micro-management will really not help here!
    • Allow PTOs once in a while – Sometimes project timelines are so rigid that employees end up working many hours continuously and this may lead to serious mental, health and social problems. To avoid this, either plan your deadlines with a little buffer considering the current situation, or occasionally give a day-off for the team to rest.

      As long as work or deadlines are not affected, try to be more flexible in timelines, schedules and breaks for your team.

  2. Make sure to meet often
    • Setup more online meetings - Instead of just weekly meetings, this time we will need at least twice-a-week meetings with the entire team. Discuss with your team and setup time with everybody’s preference. Make sure these meetings don’t add more pressure on the team, but rather make them feel more involved. Turning on video will give face-to-face experience of meetings
    • Surprise phone calls or messages – Without disturbing your associates’ schedule, if you can manage to call them on phone occasionally, message them on internal communicators, or leave a watsapp note, even just for a simple “Hello..”, it works wonders! It makes them more comfortable with the manager and sometimes even helps initiate conversations over topics that were never discussed before.
    • Have friendly discussions – During meetings try to be more friendly with your team. Keeping a light mood will help your team members come out easily with their problems, or suggestions. Try to have individual discussions more often because most people don’t open up during team meetings
  3. Set clear expectations
    • Share specific timelines - Since everybody’s working remotely and not always readily available, its important that expectations around work, processes, behavior, learning, etc. are set very clearly. For example, if someone is expected to complete authoring test cases today, let them know in advance. Even better is to tell them the time you are expecting to see the completed test cases. Its great being flexible, but people should also understand priorities.
    • Send occasional Reminders - Keep talking about all kinds of standard expectations you have with the team in your meetings, so they don’t deflect from them. Because this situation of remote working is very different from a normal scenario, we must understand that people may forget sometimes. Gentle reminders are good! They help the person prioritize his/her task and deadlines are not affected.
    • Setup few protocols – As much as we want to help our team in every situation, sometimes its just not that easy. So before they get into trouble, setup some guidelines or protocols that the team needs to always follow during work. These guidelines shouldn’t disturb the flexible work culture but should rather be an approach to avoid difficulties during work. For example, for a QA, it could be, “attach screenshots in all defects”. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but many QAs don’t follow this rule. You need to list down such things for your team and make sure they follow.
    • Identify the rule-breakers – Once you have the checklist of protocols in place, you will be able to find people who are not following them diligently. That means, these people are not able to follow processes, are making more mistakes, or are intentionally taking things too lightly. Have a one on one meeting with such rule-breakers and explain them why its important. Gently explain how this wrong practice can be disastrous for the individual, the team or the project.
  4. Keep team motivated
    • Appreciate often - Keep appreciating the team when they do well. Don’t hesitate or look at how the individual did in the past. Appreciations always help in motivating an individual or team. If someone is not able to perform well, guide them, give them tips to do better.
    • Be empathetic – During online meetings try to get every team member talk. Let them speak about how they are managing their day-to-day activities. Share your experiences and tell real-time stories/examples which will make them feel they are not alone in this situation. Keep telling them how they are doing their best even in these difficult times and be very empathetic about whatever they share.
  5. Engage team in self-development
    • Learning and Development can’t be ignored - We don’t know when COVID-19 will completely vanish from the world. With more and more companies trying to make their employees “stay home and stay safe” for as long as it takes, it cannot be predicted when situation will be “back to normal”-like before! That’s the reason, self-learning and development is something that can’t be ignored! It must go on. All trainings nowadays can be arranged online.
    • Arrange online trainings - Identify which trainings are important for your team. Try to arrange online trainings as much as you can. Encourage peer-to-peer trainings or engage a professional trainer to do so.
    • Self-Learning - If online classroom trainings cannot be done, don’t stop there! Encourage team to take self-learning initiatives. Guide every individual, if required, to begin with their self-learning, help them find training materials or show them how they can find everything on the internet. Its important to keep a track of such trainings regularly or again people may drift away from this activity.
    • Track and support self-learning - In your one-on-one meetings try to ask small questions which will help you understand the actual progress of the individual, without letting the other person feel down. Be very dynamic and supportive for the training, because not everyone is a. responsible enough to take self-learning seriously, or b. smart enough to be able to find all the help online.

As a conclusion, this time is actually a testing period for all managers. This is the time when you can prove to be an “understanding and supportive manager” and bring out the best from your team. The key thing to remember is to keep “constant communication” with your team. It is important to maintain work relationships and keep up productivity. So try best to balance the load amongst your team members. And keep the team informed and involved always! Read relevant blog: 5 tips to manage your teams during the "Lockdown"

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Deepa Prajapati

QA Team Lead

Deepa is a QA Team Lead. She has 10+ years of experience in the Software Testing field. Most of her experience lies in Functional Testing, Agile and ServiceNow.

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