When it comes to managing our teams, the coronavirus pandemic has brought a whole host of unique challenges and obstacles we couldn’t have predicted. The priority for all of us is to ensure the health and safety of our people. But, how do we as managers and leaders, when faced with extended periods of lockdown and into the new era of work that will include increased remote working, help ensure our teams are productive, engaged, inspired and supported.
Right now, people are looking to you for consistency and support. You can provide this to them by being increasingly self-aware and self-reflective of your actions. You can also provide the support and consistency they’re looking for by forming new personal habits and rituals that you personally commit to when managing your remote team from here on out.
To help you, here are eight simple steps you can take to ensure your remote team is as happy, engaged and productive as possible while working from home during lockdown and beyond.
Step 1: Get your team’s technology right
The last few weeks of working remotely have allowed you to test which technologies work best for your team. So, you now need to ensure each staff member has access to the preferred technology they need to do their jobs effectively and provide training and support to help them make good use of these tools. To make sure you integrate new technology into your workstreams effectively, set formal rules about which technology you use for specific purposes.
Be patient and understanding about any technical issues, everybody’s home setup will be different. Provide support wherever possible.
Step 2: Be purpose-driven in your actions
Work with your senior leadership team to redefine the purpose of your organisation in light of the new world we find ourselves in. This will help the people within your business find meaning in their work and see the bigger picture.
Give virtual shout-outs to members of your team who live up to the purpose and values of your organisation, and when you set out your team’s overarching strategic objectives, make sure they link back to helping your organisation to deliver on its wider purpose.
Step 3: Set relevant and realistic goals
Each morning, or however frequently you think best, set your remote team new goals they can meet. It’s a good idea also to provide your team with the autonomy to set their own, which you can then sense-check and tweak if needed. If setting targets, be clear about your expectations, including who is responsible for what, and when you expect work to be delivered by. If possible, ask team members to block out time in their calendars to focus on specific tasks, and then share those calendars with the wider team. To create a sense of achievement and positivity, celebrate these goals when they’re met and share them with other teams.
Step 4: Communicate, communicate, communicate
Double down on the time you would ordinarily spend communicating with your team. As well as regular team meetings, you should also be having frequent one-to-ones. However, ensure meetings are punctual and try to keep them under 45 minutes. They should function as an opportunity for you to share the bigger picture, including company news and announcements, as transparently as possible.
Try not to cancel or reschedule team catch-ups that have already been set – as mentioned, consistency is key. Also, to put them at ease, try to communicate with each member of the team in the way they prefer, whether that is via phone, video, instant messenger or email.
Step 5: Practice inclusivity
Before all remote meetings, set an agenda and ensure everyone has a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions. Try to avoid early morning or late afternoon remote meetings, as they may not be conducive to the personal responsibilities of each member of your team and make sure everyone has an equal voice on the discussion. Invite feedback and ideas on how remote working and projects are going, listen to your team members and make sure any potential problem points are raised, discussed and rectified.
At all times, appreciate the unique challenges your team members are contending with which might impact on the way that they work at this time – such as childcare responsibilities or the need to look after vulnerable relatives. Let your team members know you are there for them if they want to talk about their worries or anxieties - our recent blog offers tips to help manage working from home with children.
Step 6: Encourage autonomy, regular upskilling and job crafting
It may be tempting to check in too often – worse yet, micromanage. But this won’t help your team, instead, empower them to think about their skills gaps, and support their efforts to proactively upskill in the areas where they may feel they are lacking. Provide regular feedback to each team member on their performance. Give autonomy to team members to encourage them to craft their roles, support other departments where possible and develop their skill sets where relevant.
Step 7: Role model a strong work-life balance
Give your team the autonomy to set their own schedules to help them manage any other responsibilities they have, and lead by example by setting clear boundaries between work-time and home-time. Also, you need to vocalise the importance of wellbeing, including the need to take regular breaks, avoid taking lunch at their desks and get outside to exercise at a time that suits them. You can help encourage this behaviour by telling your team when you are popping out for a walk, taking lunch or teaching your children – showcasing your own flexible and open approach will help your people feel they can do the same.
Step 8: Focus on maintaining your team culture remotely
It’s important to keep sight of your workplace culture when you’re remote working. Try using collaboration platforms like Skype or Zoom to initiate casual discussion and inject moments of fun during the day. Remember to use more casual discussions to celebrate achievement and share positive feedback.
The lockdown won’t last forever, and while the rules may relax and workers feel safe to get back to the workplace, remote working practices are here to stay, and will be more integrated than ever before. By proactively establishing new management habits now, you’ll be in the best position you can be to lead your team in the new era of work.
For more advice on managing remotely, and incorporating remote working into the new era of work, visit our Inspire Me in the New Era of Work Hub.
About this author
Mark joined Hays in 1985 as a trainee consultant and has been in various roles, sectors and locations during his time at Hays. He is a Board member and in 2019 his responsibilities extended to Hays Ireland.