We’re heading into unchartered waters. COVID-19 has thrown a massive curve ball, and life as we know it is changing, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t manageable for business owners.
Thankfully for many businesses, their day-to-day operations can be taken online, but for managers this can pose new challenges with regards to how to lead a remote team.
To provide guidance as you’re getting ready to manage your team remotely, we’ve put together some tips on how to ensure your team not only remains productive but lessens the impacts of the isolation.
Develop and implement a Working from Home Policy
Whenever you lead a team, expectations regarding performance and other work-related matters need to be clear. However, this has never been more important than now as managers are now faced with managing their entire team or multiple personnel from multiple locations.
Having a clear policy enables managers to set clear expectations, especially in relation to the tasks that can be undertaken at home, communication protocols, recording of hours worked, performance metrics and WHS. Also including additional strategies to proactively manage mental health including ensuring team members take regular breaks, get exercise and going outside as part of their daily routine. You could even suggest that having a living plant in the office at home can add to a feeling of wellbeing.
Conduct a Home Office Audit
Employers WHS obligations and Duty of Care extends to employees working from home. Therefore, employees will need to provide their managers with details of their home ‘workplace’ by completing a home office audit of the space they will be working in. It’s important to keep in mind that even though they are working from home, they are still conducting business in a professional and safe manner.
The home working environment should be comfortable and conducive to a productive space. You may also need to consider purchasing additional equipment or downloading additional software to assist the home setup, e.g. video conferencing software or Cloud data storage options.
Develop a Team Communication Strategy
Ensure that you have a communication strategy that includes regular team catchups via video conferencing wherever possible.
Send out direction on what the team needs to prepare before each meeting. Ensure that you have an agenda to follow to keep the meeting on track, especially given the current climate and the stories that are coming from the media and personal experiences.
Manager and Employee Communication
One-on-one’s between Managers and employees will likely need to be more frequent.
Feedback is more important now than ever before. It needs to be regular and timely. Particularly in these trying times, constructive feedback should be provided as required but positive feedback should be provided regularly.
It is important to remember that working remotely is different and therefore it may take a day or two to get adjusted. Additionally, how work is done may have to be altered as the normal physical contact is no longer possible, so collaborating easily, a quick question here and there will be a little more tricky. On the flip side, less distractions from others in the workplace can also be a good thing, so you may find you and your team may be more productive in some areas too!
When there is business upheaval, especially in the current climate where it has happened very quickly, it can be difficult to monitor productivity particularly in the short term. If you are finding that you don’t have a clear line of sight with what your team members are doing, it is a great idea to develop a process to monitor productivity.
It doesn’t have to be over-complicated, it could be a spreadsheet, an online monitoring work-flow program a simple email with a summary of their plan and outcomes for the day.
Uncertain times can bring up so much angst for individuals and it’s not necessarily about the work itself but the circumstances. Whilst you’re not expected nor is it likely that you can solve all their problems, it is good to provide support to your team members. This may be as simple as ensuring they are aware of services they can access, both for financial and emotional support and check in with them on a personal basis and don’t discuss work, just have a ‘virtual coffee’ together.
Talk, Talk and More Talk
Keep communication open and honest with your team in relation to the business and impacts of this pandemic. Keep in mind that honesty and transparency in relation to how this current COVID-19 is impacting the business will prepare employees if changes are required to their hours of work in the future. Well developed communication is an essential tool for leaders during this time.
Above all, keep calm. Your team will take your lead in how they respond to the challenges that they are facing.