Many businesses already have some form of remote working as an option for staff, that might be working from home occasionally or possibly one day a week. But that is very different to managing teams from afar for long periods. How you keep staff engaged, motivated and productive will affect their well-being and your business.
Here are some tips to making remote working for sustained periods a success:
Set up, support and equip
Ensure that people have a work space with any equipment they might need, access to systems and the knowledge to use them. Make sure that you are accessible by keeping your office door ‘open’ (virtually). Ensure the team know how to contact IT, HR, line manager etc.
Ways of working
Agreeing ways of working will make the transition smoother. Depending on your business, you may already use online platforms such as Slack or Trello, Microsoft is now offering FREE use of Microsoft Teams during the Coronavirus crisis (kudos to them). Whatever you decide works for you, ensure all team members know how you’ll be working and encourage communication.
Flexible business as usual
It will be very difficult for people to maintain business as usual in these unknown times, many will have children at home, many will become sick and therefore will need some flexibility to manage their workload or take time off. Keeping business objectives in mind will help focus, but it may be necessary to agree alternative hours for some, upskilling others to cover sickness, cross working to support others. Having a motivated team with an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach will ensure success.
Set expectations, then trust your team
You shouldn’t have anyone working for you who you don’t trust! So, with new ways of working, set expectations around hours, meetings, workloads etc, then trust them. No-one likes a micro-manager. Be focused on delivery rather than how or when they got there.
Keep in regular contact
To ensure projects/work remains on track, have a daily meeting – this will also allow you to check that everyone is OK, maintain team spirit and a sense of community – you can do this at the beginning or end of each day to set priorities, move work around as needed or to share updates. It might only need be for 10 minutes.
Keep 1-2-1s and appraisals
In order to maintain a sense of normality and continuity, keep to your regular 1-2-1s or appraisals. It will be more important than ever for managers to have time with individuals from a well-being point of view and to enable them to air anything that’s concerning them.
Sharing is caring
The day-to-day opportunities to overhear or see new information, hear about projects or learn new things when in the office will no longer be available, so be sure to share what you’re working on and encourage your teams to do the same.
Communication is always key, we all know this. But how we communicate when managing a team remotely is paramount. Right now, people will be worried, isolated and very sensitive, they may read things differently than how it’s meant, so communicate appropriately taking this into account. Reassurance, praise and celebrating success (even the small things) will go a long way. Do this regularly and consistently. Deal with any issues as they arise. Enabling an open forum will ensure people feel they can speak up about anything that may be worrying them.
The unspoken language
We use body language, audio cues and silence as ways of communicating how we’re feeling, much more so than verbal language. So, listen up, and look out. Ask questions, notice differences in behaviour, mood, attitude. Managing teams remotely means you need to pay even more attention during conversations with your team. Isolation, stress and change will ultimately increase mental health problems, picking up on this early will enable you to act to support your team. The Happiness Index are currently giving business FREE access to their Employee Voice platform, find out more and sign up here.
Have some fun
Being remote doesn’t mean you can’t have a bit of fun, I’m loving all the creative ways that people are staying connected, having fun and keeping social. Encouraging exercise, maybe you can do walk and talk (by phone) meetings, share an online exercise class, have a PJ day, create a company play list of everyone’s favourite upbeat songs to share, maintain Friday drinks if you have them, fund (if you can) pizza/cake meetings, have a quiz etc. These things will all go a long way to beating isolation, building team spirit and boosting morale.
Let me know what others you come up with, we’re all adapting.
See tips on successful working from home here.
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