Considerations for leaders: managing teams remotely
Following last week’s announcement by the World Health Organisation that the spread of Covid-19 has officially reached ‘pandemic’ status, more and more companies are asking employees to work remotely as a measure against the rapidly spreading disease. Last week, major companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Hitachi and Chevron have all been rolling out mandatory work from home policies and today the UK Government asked for people to start working from home where possible. It is reasonable to assume that this will become the new norm for many of us, at least for the foreseeable future.
Being a global organisation, we have been successfully adopting remote working methods and policies for years and nearly all the people we deal with will be experienced in working at home. The new challenge for many company leaders will be how to manage teams when they are all at home too. So we have set out a few simple suggestions.
Make a clear plan for each day
Ensuring your employees have a clear list of tasks each day will increase productivity and make sure nothing is forgotten and left incomplete. Providing realistic targets and checking in on progress will keep the team focused, even with the possible distractions of working in a home-based environment. Online task management platforms are a great way to assign responsibility, set deadlines and monitor progress.
Crank up communication
The amount you communicate with your colleagues face-to-face can often be underestimated until you aren’t in the same place. Checking in on progress, sharing ideas and working together are all essential in a successful workplace. Set up regular calls, both as a team and with individuals, to assign tasks, monitor progress, deal with queries and maintain communications channels. Weekly or daily conference calls with the whole team are essential to keep everyone in the loop about projects and priorities. Social interaction between colleagues is also important in maintaining a strong working dynamic, so casual conversation during conference calls is also important. Chat platforms also provide a great way to share minor queries and maintain a positive atmosphere. Employees should feel that they are able to contact you just as easily as they would in the office.
Have the right technology
We all know how frustrating, and limiting, it is when technology goes wrong. It’s important to make sure all your team has access to the software and hardware they need from home. Make sure any remote access platforms are set up to handle an increase in load and that any additional software, such as conference call facilities, are installed in advance. Sufficient internet access for every team member should be the top priority so they can participate in conference calls. Encourage team members to speak up with any problems and help them to provide a solution if they do run into any issues. Access to technology help desks is an important consideration to keep the cogs turning.
Use videos for meetings
We’ve all been on a call and allowed focus to slip when we’re not directly involved in the discussion, muting microphones and working on something else. Using video is a great way to maintain engagement and monitor your team’s focus. The ability to share screens is also a useful way to collaborate on projects remotely.
Communication and flexibility are key
Remote working adds a new level of difficulty to managing your team. Remember, communication is key, even just to stop you all getting bored in isolation! Your established workflows may not cope well with the shift, so flexibility is also important. Listen to your team, keep them engaged and hopefully we’ll all be back in our offices soon.