If your team has been asked to work remotely during quarantine, and you’ve never worked or managed a team remotely before — it can be incredibly overwhelming. However, with a few tips, patience, flexibility, and establishing boundaries — working from home with your team can actually go a lot more smoothly than you think.
Because there is a lack of connection due to working from home — you must improvise how you communicate with your team. Although emails are quick and effective, there are instances when you should opt for a different type of communication. If you’re having a team meeting — utilize video chat so you can read body language, see expressions, and hear people’s tone. If you’re going to join a video call — turn on your camera. Certain team members may want to leave their camera off on occasion, and that’s ok too. Being on camera can feel uncomfortable if you’re not used to it. Express that it is understandable and acceptable for your team to have distractions, for example, kids, significant others, pets, etc going on at home so they can feel more comfortable utilizing video chat.
Working remotely can create an easy habit of micromanaging your team in order to feel you’re in control and know what everyone is doing at all times. However, this can be overwhelming and counterproductive for both parties. One way to ensure everyone is on task is by overcommunicating. Reiterate schedules, meetings, projects and send emails recapping instructions. Doing so will reiterate the tasks, projects, etc, without making them feel incapable of doing their job.
This leads us to the next point which is trusting your team. “Trust your employees to manage their time effectively. If that means they take a ten-minute break to get their laundry in the dryer, it’s no problem — as long as they’re still getting the work done” If your employees are working remotely or are asked to work remotely due to the current circumstances, they’re trying to understand and navigate their new schedule just the same as everyone else. Feeling trusted is a key ingredient to productivity. “Employees in a trusting environment felt 76% more engaged than those in ‘low-trust workplaces’”. Employees who feel trusted, go the extra mile, feel a deeper sense of connection to their work, and that they’re valuable. “For flexible or remote working to flourish, employers need to trust their staff to work unsupervised, wherever they are”.
Which brings us empathy. Working remotely results in us solely relying on technology to communicate, which means we need to listen more and try to be better at understanding. It should come to no surprise that technology is not always reliable. Programs crash, updates occur randomly, and sometimes our phones/computers don’t work when we need them with no reason at all. When these issues arise — lead with empathy. Projecting frustrations amongst the team or employees projecting frustration on each other is counterproductive. You should also be empathetic in other ways as well. Take time during the workdays to recognize how your staff is feeling. Are you sensing signs of burn out? Are you sensing team members feel misheard, misunderstood, or do you sense any issues arising? This is a time to be flexible, empathetic and understanding.
To help with organization and communication, setting expectations, boundaries and clear schedules is crucial. Knowing when each team member starts and ends their “shift”, their lunch break, setting due dates for projects or discussing deadlines for things to be completed will help with efficiency and productivity.
With setting boundaries and schedules, you should also encourage your team to take short breaks when needed. With a lack of distraction and interaction, employees who are working remotely can feel burnt out more easily or feel that they have to be glued to their desks at all times. Just like when we are in the office, we take breaks, we grab a snack, we interact with a coworker, share a work update — etc. So, if you encourage your staff to take breaks as needed — this will improve productivity, mental health, and overall success.
You should also prioritize 1:1 calls with your team. Check-ins give team members the chance to ask questions individually — as well as get 1:1 feedback. They’ll be able to express questions, concerns, and successes in a private and safe manner.
When working remotely or managing a team that works remotely — try to incorporate virtual social “get-togethers” when possible. Whether it be once a week, or a randomly scheduled call. Meet during work hours to give your team a break, or schedule a “happy hour” once a week for people to voluntarily join, and chat about anything besides work. Give your team a chance to open up, share what’s going on in their lives, talk about shows, sports, games, you name it. This will encourage connection, and improve relationships — even when you’re not on site.
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