I want to start out this post by acknowledging how incredibly fortunate I am to still have a job during these unprecedented times. I am very lucky that the biggest impact this situation has had on my life is that I just don’t leave my house anymore and I do not take that for granted. I want to thank all the essential workers doing everything they can and who are sacrificing so much to help those in need.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic spreading across the world, just about every non-essential business has either shut down or moved their workforce to the digital space. Quicken Loans is one of those companies that moved over 20,000 team members from our high-rise Detroit buildings to our own homes. For some areas of the company, like mine, this was something we had never done before.

Before these events started unfolding, I think I could count on one hand the amount of times I personally worked from home. Our department maintained that the in-person collaboration was crucial to our projects and working from home was to be used as an exception, not the norm. With that said, the move to working exclusively from home was incredibly challenging. Not only did we have to figure out new routines, but leaders like myself had to figure out how to lead our teams without physically seeing them anymore.

This change forced a different leadership style and I have picked up some tips and tricks over the past 4 weeks that has made me and my team just as communicative as when we were in the office. Let’s dig in.

Trust. I want trust to be the first thing I discuss because it became super important very early on. Now, this is not to say I didn’t trust my team members before we started working remotely but it undeniably had to grow even more. I have to trust that my team members are doing the work they are doing without having to micro-manage throughout the day and week. No one likes that and that’s certainly not the leader I want to be. Set timelines, communicate frequently, and trust they are doing what they need to get it done.

Flexibility. One of the big things we have discussed at Quicken Loans is the need to take breaks. Most of us don’t have the luxury of a dedicated office space to mimic the idea of ‘going to work.’ We are working in the exact same location as we work and cannot leave. This makes it incredibly taxing on your mental health and a flexible work schedule has become critical. Communicate to your team that they can and should take breaks. Especially those with kids. Encourage them to take a longer lunch. If it’s nice out, go for a walk and get away from the computer.

Team Chats. My team is incredibly sarcastic and one of the things I was worried we would lose working from home is the banter between each other. However, one of the first days of working from home, I set up a dedicated chat in Microsoft Teams just for them to go back and forth. Throughout the day, we check-in with one another and even throw a few jabs here and there (in the best way) to keep up the team dynamic we had in the office. At times it can get a little out of hand but as the leader, I let it happen because it’s nothing different than what would be discussed in the office and that to me is important.

Daily Video Chats. One of the things I initially was super uncomfortable with was video chats. For whatever reason, I wasn’t super thrilled with having my camera on for conversations and I know that my team felt the same way. However, we have since set up daily video chats in the morning to check in and actually see each other. During these calls we run down our plan for the day to keep everyone in the loop and my team seems to really enjoy it. Recently, I had a conflict and couldn’t attend/host and they still met to just catch up and chat. What once was super uncomfortable has now become normal and preferred.

Leading remotely, for someone who has never done it before, was a challenge, but through these 4 things, and several more not discussed, the transition has been incredibly smooth. In some ways, we are more efficient than we were in the office. Through all of the darkness this situation has brought, we have been able to really streamline our team and come up with great tips to implement even when we get back in the office.