2020 has seen a huge shift in our working patterns and routines; with the majority of people across the UK now working from home where they are able to do so – some for the very first time. Whilst there are many clear positives to be found from flexible, agile and remote working; it is not without it’s challenges. Many managers have suddenly found themselves managing their teams remotely; including iducting new starters from afar, having significantly reduced face to face interaction and looking after wellbeing and productivity without being able to offer the usual levels of encouragement and support.
With the future of the traditional office currently in limbo; it appears that working from home and managing a team remotely is something that we can expect to experience for some time, but how can you make remote team management more effective? Here are some tips for managing a remote team.
Communication is key – This may sound obvious; but for many home workers one of the biggest challenges is the lack of face-to-face interaction. From the coffee break chats to those simple water cooler moments; remote communication has a tendency to focus purely on the task in hand; forgetting that humans are, for the main at least; social beings. We rely on those simple social interactions to enhance our mood, our wellbeing and our overall mental health.
Whilst face-to-face interaction isn’t going to be possible, it’s important to make the most of the professional communication tools that are available to you and your team. Whether it’s a morning Zoom call, a weekly Teams meeting, or even simple messenger contact throughout the day; regular communication is not only important to ensure your team is productive and focused; but also to provide a sense of togetherness and retain a team culture that could otherwise start to diminish without a shared physical location.
Checking in with your colleagues regularly can also help managers identify who might be struggling or feeling frustrated, ensuring no one feels lost or out of touch and even provide an incentive for people to get physically dressed and make themselves presentable (which in itself can boost someone’s mood, no matter how tempting the pyjamas may be).
Wellbeing & Flexibilty
At the moment more than ever the focus for your team should be on emotional wellbeing and mental health.
When working from home it’s all too easy for your team members to experience what is known as work creep – where the home and work settings start to merge into one due to a lack of distinct separation.
Not everyone has a home office or separate room to work in and can close the office door at the end of the day. With the potential for children and partners at home; the normal 9 – 5 may not work and being flexible with your team around their individual needs (whilst at the same time meeting business requirements) can have a huge impact and improve their commitment and levels of engagement.
That said, it is also important to respect each others personal time. Just because one team member decides to work some hours in the evening; doesn’t mean that others are expected to be responsive at that time. A shared calendar to help others know when team members are likely to finish for the day can be really helpful.
There is a tendency for home workers to feel that they need to be available and respond instantly – almost to prove that they are present. The reality is, you wouldn’t work like that in the office; often blocking out time to fully focus on a task in hand.
Your team should still be encouraged to take breaks – whether it’s a quick walk around the block or simply going to grab a coffee.
Whether it’s a weekly to do list, a list of shared goals and objectives, or individualised goals for each quarter – having defined tasks to work towards can help remote workers set priorities and be more disciplined about their working day.
Whilst these goals may need to be relatively fluid and regularly reviewed, providing a clear view on what they should be working towards and a forum in where they can start a dialogue for clarification can really help focus and motivate remote workers.
Check the set up
Finally, one of the biggest frustrations around home working can be not having the equipment or connectivity they need to do their job effectively. From poor wifi connections to tech problems, or simply not understanding how to use the latest piece of software; these challenges can cause increased stress and tension.
Ensure your team have the equipment they need to work safely and productively. This could include simple things like a laptop raiser or mouse; wifi boosters or company mobile phones or additional training and support on new technology they are expected to use on a regular basis.
Overall, for now, the biggest priority should be to simply start a conversation. Ask someone how they’re doing and aim to create an open, honest dialogue of trust and support. The more you know and understand your team, their preferences and their ways of working; the easier you will find to adapt to their changing needs and circumstances.
Friday, 13th November, we are running a coaching session on how to implement wellbeing into a remote team, please secure your free place here.