The spread of COVID-19 has led to travel restrictions, school closures, and cities around the world moving towards lockdowns. Amid these new conditions, most of us still need to continue our day to day work. But the way we do this is rapidly changing, with many organisations implementing new social distancing guidelines including working from home measures.
Over the past few weeks several clients are reaching out with challenges around travel restrictions and leading remote employees. For many businesses, this is the first time their entire workforce is working from home and given how quickly these changes have come into place, many managers are finding themselves unprepared to lead a fully remote team.
Here are my top tips on managing newly remote teams.
1. Ensure the right tools are available
One of the biggest considerations for most companies when implementing remote work is technology. At the most basic level, this means everyone needs access to a computer and reliable internet connection. For teams who need to connect to remote servers, ensure your IT infrastructure can handle everyone joining at the same.
Since you can’t yell out across the room to each other, try using platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack or Asana to streamline communication and help with project management. Most of these collaboration tools are also free depending on how many employees you have.
2. Organise a daily catch up
When everyone is in the office, it’s easy to walk to someone’s desk if you have a question, ask the team for updates, or chat through any problems. With everyone working remotely, set up a daily team catch up so you can check in with the team, discuss any issues and make sure everyone knows what they are doing.
It’s best to do this in the morning, but you can also organise a quick call in the afternoon before everyone signs off. This gives everyone an opportunity to save up any non-urgent questions for the meeting and concentrate on getting important tasks done for the day. Daily catch ups should also include five minutes to chat about the weekend and anything else non-work related, helping ease the mood and relieve stress.
3. Be available and supportive
Since your employees aren’t seeing your face everyday, it can lead to the impression you aren’t as accessible as usual. Ensure that your team knows when you’re available and on which channels e.g. text, call, Slack or emails. Letting them know you are free and willing to chat through any concerns or issues will make them feel supported, particularly as they seek guidance and assurance during these uncertain times.
4. Keep communicating
We’re currently undergoing one of the most uncertain economic periods in our lifetime so far. This can lead to anxiety among your employees regarding budgets, timelines, clients and even their jobs. Be honest with them about what is going on, whether that means reassuring them that their jobs are safe, or being open about the reality of potential job losses. Keeping everyone informed will alleviate any sense of loneliness, and help the team unite towards a common cause.
5. Be flexible and trust your team
When you can’t physically see your team working hard at their desks, it can be tempting to micromanage. But it’s more important than ever to be flexible and trust your team as they try to navigate this new way of working. With schools closing and increased social distancing, families are increasingly at home together, so employees may need to shift around their working hours to suit.
Focus on outcomes rather than work hours, and trust your team to get their work done when they can. Not only does this reduce stress, particularly for parents trying to wrangle kids while they work, it will improve productivity in the long run.
Kris Grant is a management consultant and CEO at ASPL.