Every so often, there comes a time in history that completely changes the way the world functions. From an operational point of view, the COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly such a moment.
In a matter of a few weeks, the entire planet has gone from business as usual to trying to adapt to the measures implemented to keep us and our families safe. Those of us lucky enough to be able to do our jobs remotely (or even still have jobs) are now facing the challenge of adapting to new routines with little or no preparation. But for leaders and managers, this new reality means finding efficient ways to keep remote teams productive, engaged, and motivated, all the while navigating the everyday stress and uncertainty of a global health crisis.
Before we get into the challenges of remote management, we must point out that the current state of things comes with many variables we can’t influence. However, there are some we can. We do have power over how we react to the circumstances. We can choose to feel victimized, or we can take this situation and turn it into a growth opportunity.
Which do we choose? It’s simple: we’ll go with a growth mindset!
The challenges of working with remote teams
When it comes to managing remotely, there are a few things that will inevitably be more difficult to handle than if we were operating from the office.
Although remote teams do tend to be more productive, employees who work from home 100% of the time have higher chances of feeling isolated and estranged. For managers, this is pretty straightforward advice. Work on communication, collaboration, and build trust within your team.
According to the FranklinCovey Institute, building trust within remote teams needs to be step number one. Prioritize one-on-one communication, get familiar with your team members, and listen to their feedback. Make sure that you’re clear with your instructions and expectations, and don’t shy away from interactive communication tools.
Practical tips for remote managers
When it comes to managing remote teams, it’s important to know that there’s no single formula that will work for everyone. Much of what you have to do will depend on the existing company culture, as well as the relationships you’ve built at the office. But, that isn’t to say that there aren’t a few ground rules you should follow when switching to a remote way of working.
Set up easy to use ways of communication that will allow you to keep your email inbox decluttered, and information flowing as close to real-time as possible. Some companies already use Slack, others have gone with Google Hangouts. If you haven’t set any of these up, you can even opt for Skype. Just make sure it’s convenient for everyone.
Video is your friend.
Written communication is second nature to most of us in this day and age. But, it’s not always the most effective way of doing things. You’ll find that video calls) work especially well for one-on-one, as well as group meetings. If you’re afraid of misunderstandings, you can still send a summarizing email with a few key bullet points after you’ve ended your call. The principles of running an efficient online meeting are the same as for face to face ones. Be mindful of the way you conduct them, and don’t forget about the importance of your webcam. Video adds a human touch, but can also give you important clues about your team’s thoughts on a subject.
Don’t be afraid of losing control.
It’s impossible to keep track of every single moment of your team’s work. Accept this. Pushing too hard can do more harm than good, so put your energy into building trust and effectively communicating instead. Try to shift your focus from controlling to following up with your employees and continually supporting their engagement.
Don’t forget about emotional support.
These are difficult times for a lot of us. Our thoughts might be scattered. We might be feeling overwhelmed. Many of us will be dealing with stress or anxiety. Check in with your colleagues regularly. Be mindful of their emotional wellbeing. Do your best to help – even if that means playing a virtual game of Hangman to get their mind off the Coronavirus.
Be prepared for an adjustment period.
If you haven’t worked remotely before, and are faced with sudden environmental changes, know that they can hurt productivity. Stress, which there’s plenty of at the moment, does the same. Your employees are going from streamlined offices to working from their dining room tables, probably surrounded by family members. Keep this in mind while transitioning. Give your team time to settle into their new routines.
The silver lining
Although switching to a work-from-home way of doing business comes with pretty big challenges, it can also be a blessing in disguise. Just think of all the opportunities remote work is giving you. You are:
- Doing your part in keeping your team and their families safe.
- Finding new and creative ways to do your jobs from home.
- Making changes that will allow your team to work remotely in the future (opening up space for increased job satisfaction and productivity).
- Gaining invaluable experience that will make you into a better leader.
- Lowering office utility costs!
- And anything else that comes to mind!
What has been your experience with managing remote teams so far? Have you come across any particular struggles? Send me an email, I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject!
And remember, it’s completely normal not to feel at home in a novel situation like the one we’re currently facing. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Communicate with your team, your superiors, and your family. And if you feel like you need the support of a coach, you can schedule a session with me by clicking HERE.