Some of the biggest challenges for employers managing remote teams, often for the first time, include workers struggling with loneliness, managing their time, and communication among staff members. What’s more, as schools, colleges and universities start to shut down across the UK due to the Coronavirus, working parents must juggle company and family priorities.
While this all can be tough, finding a practical strategy that works can help you and your team make it through these trying times.
Here are a few points that some of our homeworking managers have shared with us that might offer some much needed wisdom!
Set Clear Expectations
Make no mistake, inexperienced remote workers have been suddenly thrust into unfamiliar working environments and their daily routines are all over the place. With that in mind, ensure you give your team crystal clear expectations of what you want them to achieve. Clear direction from you takes the pressure off them and helps everyone to know what success looks like to you. It may be worthwhile weighting their job descriptions if the balance has shifted due to home working so your team understands what aspects of their role takes priority.
Treat Homeworkers as though they were in the office
If your team where in the office, would they have regular access to you? If that is the case, things should not change for them when working from home. Employees should not be made to feel alone and in the early days expect more calls and communication from them until things settle down and it becomes more normal. People need to feel part of the team, now more than ever.
We are very lucky nowadays to have so many communication options available to us. Using video conferencing is a really inclusive way of holding a meeting with your team Microsoft 365’s Team, Zoom, and Google Meet amongst many others are great ways of very easily holding a face to face team meeting. Telephone Conference calls, Facetime and Skype are other ways to keep in touch when you can’t physically meet with your team. Whatever you choose, try to forge an inclusive contact plan that offers everyone consistency, routine and the chance to be heard.
Notice one of your team is not themselves? Follow up with a call and use Video-Based Coaching to help them, regular contact will help you spot such issues. Working alone from home is not for everyone. For some, being alone all day is their idea of hell while others are more than happy in their own company. Keep in mind that everyone tends to offer a brave face – be careful not to ignore the signs.
Maintain focus by setting objectives and use a progress monitoring system to keep people on track. Its vital your team understand why you need to follow their progress to avoid feelings of distrust. Instead, this is about the business remaining on course for success while helping you to foresee any issues, offer extra support or opportunities to improve the process.
Trust Your Team
You might feel unsure as to whether the work will get done to the same standard as if they were in the office. To cope with this, set up work-from-home guidelines, e.g. emails must be responded to within 24 hours e.g. use text for urgent matters, e.g. no calls between certain hours to make sure teammates are not working around the clock e.g. limiting social media usage etc. Set the rules and trust the team to follow them. If they don’t, its easy to refer to the rule and avoid conflict and negativity.
Make It Feel Inclusive
Ensure that any news in the business is always circulated to home workers at the same time that the rest of the team are being made aware. There is nothing quite as demotivating as finding out a business critical decision from someone else in the business who was made aware before you – frankly it just makes people feel second class.
Remember Company Vision
Ensure that home workers still feel part of the overall company vision and how they fit in. To work productively people need to know that their efforts are contributing towards the overall goal. Yes, this crisis might have thrown a cat amongst the pigeons and changed the short/medium term vision, however that change needs to be properly communicated to maintain motivation and focus.
Have Reliable Tools First
Ensure your team have the tools to do the job. Broadband is absolutely critical for most of us however, connection reliability may be an issue, especially in more rural areas. Suggest alternative venues for employees struggling with this issue such as working with other colleagues, friends or family. Look for alternatives like Dongles, mobile phone hotspots, etc and try to offer solutions instead of problems for your staff to solve.
Create A Team to Manager and Visa Versa Communication Strategy
Managing a productive team remotely begins with a strategy for communication. Be aware of how disruptive ‘over communication’ can be to your day and set out a process so your team knows when its appropriate to call you. First, arrange for the appropriate number of weekly formal “report-ins.” Second, set guidelines about daily needs. Some people work better with a shopping list of questions and thoughts while others like a trickle. An understanding of what is urgent will further mitigate inefficiency, allowing ultimate productivity, maybe asking team members to question “ Is it Urgent?” or can it wait. Encourage email or instant messages for less urgent issues reserving phone call interruptions for the meaningful stuff. That all said, be aware that some of your team may need reassurance or guidance to be productive so assess on a case by case basis.
Establish Close Bonds, Help And Support Frequently
Empathise and appreciate your team member’s life by discussing family, commonalities and shared beliefs you employees would normally discuss this in the office with their colleagues, its worthwhile investing this time in getting to know them. Show you are supportive of their success by using inquiry to help them achieve their goals rather than check on their progress and numbers. Avoid closed questions like, have you done X?, or did you manage to call Y? You have no idea what they have had to deal with and so, if something has interfered with the plan the only answer they can give is negative resulting in humiliation and defensive confrontation. Instead ask, What progress have you made on X? or, How’s your morning been? Qualify the situation first and they ask more detailed questions.
Share Success of the team
Ensure that everyone gets to know about achievements and make a real fuss, it will create a team feel good factor and let us face it we all need some good news at this unusual time!
So, there you have it. Some really useful advice from people who’ve been through the highs and lows of remote working before. Welcome to the new normal!
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