For many CEOs and managers, COVID-19 has catapulted their businesses into a forced global experiment of working from home.
Companies are now scrambling to change the way they conduct business. In fact, how to set up an effective remote working environment for your team has not only become essential, but in many cases, existential.
Case in point: we were recently hired by a multinational B2B brand to help their executive team adjust to this new day-to-day and codify best practices that facilitate remote high-performance teams.
Here are a few tips about what works and what doesn’t when managing remote teams. Hopefully, these will help you to maintain a successful business and keep your employees connected and inspired.
1) Communicate! I know, obvious, right? But you’d be surprised how often we get wrapped up in our own heads and forget about our people until we need answers.
What’s most important here is keeping a steady rhythm of communication that’s right for your team or company.
For example, daily check-ins with team members help in more ways than one: they allow you to know what everyone is working on, and what direction they’re headed. The latter is key to ensuring projects are done on time. And certainly, the morale boost you can give your remote team with a casual conversation can’t be overstated.
Remember, interaction with your team is more than just communicating. It is about sharing ideas and discussing new projects. Try some team-building exercises, such as having them list a few facts about themselves, or even just talk about their likes and dislikes. The goal here is to get your team to interact in this new remote environment and to know each other better.
One note of caution about emails: It easy for managers to simply rely on emails as their main channel of communication. The last thing you want is for your team to get hammered with nonstop, nonessential emails. Pick your spots.
Key takeaway: the more often you effectively interact with your team, the more trust and sense of collaboration you build, which is essential for achieving goals.
2) Relate! COVID-19 has taken health officials, governments and all of us by surprise. It has restricted our movements and closed schools. As a result, we are all stressed.
And your employees, who may have never worked remotely, now find themselves having to do it for the first time.
This adds up to being a significant transition and an adjustment for everyone.
As a manager, practice empathy. Try to understand these dynamics from their perspective and anticipate potential problems. Be proactive. Talk to your teams and see how they are doing, and that goes beyond simple work issues. Try to make sure they have what they need to get the job done. Establish regular one-on-one calls with department heads to review any obstacles or challenges they are facing. This could also be very helpful in identifying team-wide problems.
3) Time Management: As challenging as it may be at times to ensure office-based meetings are productive, doing them remotely can take this challenge to another level. To be most effective, consider the following in your preparation:
* Choose the right platform: whether Zoom, Livestorm or GoToMeeting, the last thing you want to do is frustrate your team by wasting time on something that doesn’t work very well for your needs;
* Set the schedule: it is important to set expected work hours. Create a specific time frame for when employees are required to be responsive and check-in with each other. This can be your normal business day hours;
* Agenda: be sure to have an agenda that you can alert team members to ahead of time;
* Stick to your plan: keep things moving along. There’s nothing worse than a meandering conversation that’s hard to hear during a video or phone conference;
* Tools: consider using project management tools like Trello to help you track projects and tasks with ease. These allow for your team members to add their tasks onto the relevant projects/boards, ensure tasks have deadlines and create a system where your employees can comment on any project roadblocks;
* Finish: end the meeting promptly and make sure to summarize your key takeaways; and
* Follow up: send a post-meeting email that summarizes these key points in writing
Here’s the unspoken truth: managing your teams remotely can be as easy or as difficult as you make it. The secret is preparation. These challenging times don’t have to be about fear and panic, especially in your organization. Certainly, there’s a lot out of our control, but there are things you can still do.
You can lead.
And that means creating new structures and routines that enable your employees to quickly adapt to the remote workplace.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or wish to share any comments.