Remote work certainly has its perks, but for many of us it also has its challenges. In this blog series, we’ll focus on the home office, discussing ways to adapt, and conquer—both as an employer and an employee. This is post one of the series. You can follow the rest of the series and read our additional posts here.
With the quick spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), much of the American workforce has been thrust into remote working. Even with much preparation, a team’s transition to remote work can be difficult—and there are sure to be issues along the way. If you unexpectedly find yourself managing a remote team, it is critical to your success that you are intentional in your actions, organization, and communication.
It’s important to note that large swaths of the workforce have been working remote for quite some time—and doing so successfully! If you’re charting new territory, there is a wealth of information available to help guide you in transitioning a team to a remote workforce. Read on to see how you can be an effective leader, whether your team is in the office or not.
Communication is key
Establishing clear and effective communication is the most critical—and most difficult—task when transitioning your team to remote work. As a manager, it is important that you start by setting clear communication guidelines. This includes:
- Regular meetings: When you’re unable to interact with team members face-to-face, it’s important to establish regular meetings on the calendar to facilitate that interaction. This includes team meetings, one-on-one meetings with each team member and their supervisor, as well as meetings amongst remote team members who are working on various projects together. While some of these meetings may not be necessary on a regular cadence, even holding a 10-minute meeting to catch up and speak with a team member can do wonders for both productivity and morale. Ensure that you stick to the calendar and keep everyone in the loop.
- Efficient meetings: In addition to regular meetings, managers must take a new approach to facilitating effective meetings. To do so, ensure that you can hold team meetings on video. This makes everyone more accountable and allows you to use additional facial expressions and visual cues from your team. Moreover, managers must work extra hard to ensure that everyone on the team feels they have a voice and can share their opinions. While this happens a little more organically when employees are in a room together, communicating over video can be more difficult. As a result, make sure everyone during a large meeting has a chance to speak.
- Instant messaging platforms: In an office environment, you may be accustomed to stopping by an employee’s desk or simply turning around to ask a question. Utilizing an instant messaging platform is the best way to recreate this virtually. In addition to utilizing a platform, ensure that you have clearly organized channels and that you’re available to remote team members when you’re messaged.
- Communication protocols: Like any manager, you have a number of high-priority items on your plate. And when you add multiple channels for communication, organizing your own workload and priorities can become more difficult. As a result, be sure that you set guidelines for yourself and your team. When they need something from you, they should know when to email, when to message, and when to call or video chat so that you can be most helpful to them. If not, you’ll wind up losing track and missing priorities from your team.
- Comprehensive written communication: When less time is spent in-person with your team, the way you communicate when you write emails and direct messages has a greater impact on your team. When you’re writing a message, be sure to over-explain as opposed to assuming everyone knows the details. Add reminders, and be purposeful in your tone. Remember, written communication comes with less context: no facial cues, no tone of voice, etc. As a result, you have to work harder to ensure that everyone reads your messages the way you intended.
- Emphasizing honesty: With less contact with your team, you’re less likely to know when an issue arises. Be sure to stress to your team that you’re available to talk if need be, and encourage an open and honest environment. This way, you can address issues head-on.
Consistent interaction + engagement
In addition to clear communication, consistency is key in maintaining an effective remote workforce. When there is a lack of routine to the day or week, employees will start to feel disconnected from the company. Having regular check-ins can keep them on track and focused on team goals. Plus, this interaction will give your team the sense of community they’re missing from the office. Make sure you:
- Utilize video chats often: When you’re working mostly by yourself, simply hearing and seeing a familiar face can have a great impact on your day. At every possible opportunity, utilize video chat technology to see your team members and interact with them, and encourage everyone on the team to do the same. This will help keep a sense of community, even when everyone is virtual.
- Have fun: While it’s tempting to stick to business on your communication channels, remember that office chit-chat is important for morale too. Be sure that you don’t miss out on opportunities to lighten the mood or have a laugh with your team. Sharing weekend plans, what you’re watching on tv, or even just a funny .gif can make all the difference.
- Celebrate wins: An important part of office culture is celebrating each other’s success. Even when you’re not in the same room, wins for the team, both big and small, should be celebrated. As a result, encourage your team to share good news and goal completions with everyone. This helps your whole team stay in the loop and motivated.
- Say hello: Don’t forget that you’re all still human and need interpersonal interaction! Be sure to check in with your team members. Ask about their day. Greet them in the morning, just as you would do in the office.
Trust your team
Especially when you’re new to remote work, managers must place a new level of trust in their team. However, there is no need to work yourself into overdrive to check in on your employees. While it will take some effort, here’s what you can do:
- Start from a place of trust: As a manager, you’ll never be successful if you don’t have trust in your employees. This is doubly important when managing a remote team. Show your team that you trust them to exercise good judgment, get their work done, and support their team. Unless a team member is missing deadlines or consistently unavailable during business hours, there’s no need to work yourself up over the “what ifs” of your team working from home.
- Offer resources: If you’re working with team members who are new to working remotely, offer resources to help them acclimate. Additionally, make yourself available to answer any questions and clarify any grey areas for your team.
- Focus on results: With a transition to a flexible workforce, this may mean that hours can be a little more flexible. Rather than spending your time making sure that your team is online right at 9am until 5pm, your time is probably better spent simply ensuring that deadlines and goals are met. So long as your team is on track, there’s no need to worry about what time someone logged onto their computer.
- Be flexible and patient: Especially for those new to remote work, it may take a bit of time to adjust. Plus, you’ll find that just like in the office, every team member will work a little differently. In order to adjust and maximize productivity for each team member, remain open to new ideas and listen to what employees need in order to be their most productive.
Technology is your friend
Whether you like it or not, remember that for remote working, technology is your friend. Check out some of these platforms (or similar ones) to help you get organized and communicate effectively:
- Zoom: Be sure that you have a great video conferencing tool for your team! Among many like Google hangouts or GoToMeeting, Zoom is a common tool among businesses for easy scheduling and efficient video chats. Be sure you find a tool where you can share screens and see who is speaking at any given time.
- Slack: Slack is likely the most popular instant messaging tool for companies, but there are several to choose from! Before you make a decision on which tool to use, be sure you consider the size and organization of your team; what kind of communication channels will be most effective?
- Asana: A task or project management platform like Asana, Trello, or Monday can help you visualize each team member’s workload and priorities. When you can’t see your employees working, tools like this can help you at least see what they’re focused on.Reliable
- WiFi: While many of us may take this for granted, ensure that each of your team members has access to reliable WiFi. Especially when an employee may need to work from home due to extenuating circumstances, it is your duty as a manager to ensure that your team members have everything they need to be successful.
Remember that humans are adaptable
Regardless of your views on remote work, keep in mind that humans are far more adaptable than they’re often given credit for. While your team may initially struggle with this kind of transition, they will learn how to work remotely quickly. As a manager, your patience and support will go a long way in ensuring that your remote team is successful.