Next Steps in Managing Your Remote Team

Staying in Touch, Even When You're Working From Home
Mar 26, 2020
Mita Patel
Mita Patel
Director
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If you’re like many businesses in the U.S. and around the world, you’re settling into your new work from home (WFH) office space, as part of the effort to slow the transmission of the coronavirus. In our last post, we talked about how to gear up your team to make this change.

For the past week or so, you likely focused on logistics—making sure everyone had a laptop and other equipment to work from home. You may have introduced some new technologies to make scheduling meetings or video conferencing easier.

And now, it’s time to get to work. There’s something restorative about getting back to business, especially when current times are unsettling. Work gives us something productive on which to focus, and during this time of physical distancing, it provides a way to connect socially. But even if the work responsibilities may be the same, the way you manage them—and your employees—will be different.

Keep in mind that even though remote working presents challenges, it also has a variety of advantages. According to a FlexJobs survey, people who work remotely are happier, save money and commuting time, are healthier and are more productive. 

An article in Forbes backs this up with these statistics:

  • Teleworkers are 35-40% more productive than those in similar office jobs
  • Remote workers produce 40% fewer quality defects
  • Employees who work remotely have 41% lower absenteeism
  • Remote working leads to a 12% turnover reduction

Helping Your Team Adjust to WFH

Unless you’ve always had a distributed team, your organization will have a learning curve. Some of your team members will have families at home and will have to juggle work with teaching your child how to solve for x. Some team members may struggle with being on their own and, without face-to-face interaction, may not reach out for help.

All this means is that your team may need to develop or exercise skills they haven’t needed to use as much in the past. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s critical to recognize that these abilities are needed. If an employee doesn’t have them, these are at the top of the list of abilities they’ll need to acquire.

  • Time management: Without the energy of the office and potential pressure of your boss walking by, it’s common to check your email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TicToc accounts once, twice, seven times a day, and that can quickly become a time suck. These days, that same time loss can occur from incessantly watching the news show of your choice. Employees need to be able to manage their day to stay productive.
  • Organization: It’s not just staying on task, but knowing which ones to tackle first...and second...and third. Your team needs to be self-motivated and be able to follow up, rather than wait for you to tell them the next steps. However, if you have newer employees who may not have had much self-management experience, you’ll need to provide more direction.
  • Communication: When working remotely, communication is essential. Not just top down, but within the team. A team member who may be an introvert in the office will need to expand their comfort zone to intentionally interact with colleagues on video meetings. Communicating through texts or emails can make it more difficult to “read” the emotions behind messages, so intersperse digital messages with a phone call or video chat.
  • Collaboration: It may feel easier to complete a task alone, without having to coordinate everyone’s schedules, but in many cases, work created by a team provides better perspectives and output than that from an individual. Use technology that makes it simpler to work together.
  • Balance: While some employees may spend too much time going down the rabbit hole of social media, some employees spend too much time on the job. Without having a defined space between work and home, employees can find themselves working late into the evenings and on weekends. While this amount of time spent at work may be necessary for a crunch project, it is ultimately unhealthy and can lead to burnout.

If you’re the leader of your team, talk with each person individually about how they’re handling those aspects and how they can improve any weaker skills. You may determine a plan for each person, based on their needs and abilities. One may need to give you an end-of-day report on what they’ve done, while another may only need to touch base with you each week.

Daily Managing of a Newly Remote Team

During the first weeks working remote, have your team establish a schedule, for their individual work and for the group. For example, if you haven’t already had daily stand up meetings or check in calls, initiate this. Ask everyone to go around and review the hot issues of the day and any concerns they have. 

You might have an evening check-in call with some or all of the staff. If you feel like you’re communicating too much, remember that you can never over-communicate, particularly during a transition time. Your team will be looking to you for leadership, so be sure to be as transparent as possible. 

In addition to managing the work of a virtual team, make time to manage the culture of one as well. When you’re in the office, it’s natural to stop in the hallway and chat about the weekend activities or a current event. So now, make sure to leave some space for small talk in your meetings. Schedule a virtual lunch or coffee date with team members. The in-office work environment has a significant social aspect that helps employees feel connected, and much of that social aspect occurs naturally, so when you’re remote, you’ll need to create that connection in other ways.

As you and your team adjust to working remotely, you will need to plan the next steps for your employees, such as holding performance reviews and creating and implementing development programs from afar.

 

For many people, remote work can be a significant change, but that change can also have many positives. The key to success: be aware of the stumbling blocks, stay flexible and communicate, communicate, communicate.

Mita Patel
Mita Patel
Director

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