Opportunity Talent faces unique challenges when it comes to working remotely.
Here are 5 things that managers should do to help them thrive in our new reality.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, thousands of companies have shifted their operations to a remote setting with astounding speed, keeping as many people working as possible while continuing to serve clients and customers in need. These are remarkable achievements and point to the continued strength and leadership of U.S. employers and the American workforce.
As it becomes clear that workplaces will remain remote for the foreseeable future, and that some may stay that way long after this crisis, managers must be equipped to continue supporting their teams even as how they do so looks different.
Working remotely is not just about setting up the technology and moving forward with “business as usual.” Leaders must rebuild and develop a workplace culture that helps everyone thrive in a new setting under stressful and uncertain conditions.
Opportunity Talent – people who have been traditionally overlooked by employers such as Opportunity Youth, formerly incarcerated individuals, and people with disabilities – are one of the most vulnerable segments of the workforce, especially as we shift to virtual environments.
Opportunity Talent has a demonstrated track record of resilience and overcoming obstacles – critical skills during times of uncertainty. They also are more likely to have distractions, responsibilities, and challenges at home; and, many have never worked from home before.
As a manager, it is more critical than ever to understand each of your team member’s unique needs and pay special attention to how you set up your remote teams to manage those needs over time.
5 Things Managers Should Do: Despite the many challenges that Opportunity Talent is facing at this time, skilled managers can help them navigate this crisis and thrive in the current work environment. Managers should:
1) Lead with Relationships: Without the organic “water cooler” moments we have at work, it can be hard for managers to pick up more subtle insights about how their team is doing. It’s important to create the time and space for personal moments to make sure your relationship with your team members remains strong.
Ask each team member about how they are doing and what support they need from you, separately from conversations about work. Doing so builds a strong foundation for the remote work environment, and helps you understand the challenges that each team member is facing so you can support them over time.
2) Assess Their Unique Needs: As you build/strengthen your relationship with each team member, it is important to assess their unique telecommuting situation.
Do they have resources to support them through technology challenges? Does their role allow for flexibility in their schedule? What other responsibilities or challenges are they facing at home? Consider how you or your organization can help your team members balance the expectations of their role with the realities of their home life.
3) Develop a Personalized Management Plan for the Short-Term and Long-Term: A robust management plan becomes more important when managing remotely. In the short term, check-in to ensure that your team members are safe, healthy, and know exactly what your expectations are for them and their work.
As many Opportunity Talent are new to working from home, nuances that seasoned professionals may take for granted will not be instinctual to them, so be sure to offer specific guidance. Make sure your team members know best practices for working remotely — how to show up professionally from home, that they can take breaks, and should not work 24/7. Over the long-term, it is important to set up sustainable systems and structures to help the young person thrive in the remote workforce.
4) Conduct Short, Fast, and Frequent Check-ins: For the first month or so, it is important to conduct short, fast, and frequent check-ins with each team member. These check-ins should happen at least once per day and can take on multiple forms (i.e. Zoom, Slack, email, text, etc.).
The point of these check-ins is to reinforce your relationship with each team member, help guide their work, and create the space for them to raise any issues they might be facing. As you and your team member adjust to working remotely, these check-ins can become less frequent and more targeted to a specific need or issue.
5) Help Build a Remote Support System: It is likely that you (as a professional, a manager, and a person) also have a lot going on in your life. You cannot “do it all” (nor should you). So, it is important to help each one of your team members develop a “remote” support system at work.
Try to help your team members build a web of support which can include peers, colleagues, and informal workplace mentors (which you can help set up). Encourage each team member to proactively reach out to colleagues to schedule “virtual coffees” and build their own support systems. Doing so will help empower your team members to deepen and develop their own workplace relationships for the long-term.
Despite the unprecedented challenge we are all facing, people in the US are adjusting and finding new ways to work, to learn, and to connect with others. As workplaces creatively adjust to the new reality, it is critical to pay special attention to the needs of Opportunity Talent to ensure they are set up for both personal and professional success.