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Remote Management: Running a Remote Team During the Coronavirus

Recent events have forced organizations and companies worldwide to innovate and forward their efforts in bringing processes online. Digital transformation is the name of the game, and if anything good comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic for businesses, we realize that most office-based employees’ workload can be done even at home with remote management. A study by the Owl Labs shows employees who work from home are equally or sometimes even more productive and happier than those who work in an office environment. Working from home has its benefits. For one, employees will no longer spend time commuting. They also get to spend more time with their families in-between breaks.  However, there are also downsides to the work-from-home set-up. The temptation to delay tasks is high, and being always available for conversation and other distractions from family members can derail employees’ focus. There are also challenges in not being able to communicate with teammates in person. Let’s talk about some ideas you can apply to your current working set-up that you can benefit from both in the short and long term.

Be In The Right Mindset

Successful businesses thrive through adaptability and being proactive, no matter the situation. As a manager, you need to rethink and adjust your approach to team management amidst the new normal. While there is no one solution to improving how you navigate your remote team, there are specific general actions you can take to get there faster. There are several ways teams can continue collaborating and working efficiently despite the distance between them. Technology has allowed us to do teleconference and other methods of meeting through online software. However, the tools we have will only be useful if we are prepared and have the right mindset for the task.

Update Your Software

Since most of the time, you and your employees will be spending time working through the internet; you must check if your software is up to date. One of the crucial items teams need to look out for are the tools used in the work-from-home set-up.  Updating your telecommunication software will lessen security issues that may come up. Security is crucial, especially so during meetings that include sensitive information about the company, its business, and the extensive database hackers can exploit and use against your company. Make sure your team is also knowledgeable in using these telecommunication softwares. If you can, request your company a set of remote work tools, e.g., camera, microphone, or personal laptops. Some companies even provide a faster internet connection for employees. Through these tools, you can assure the quality of the conversations your team can have.

Coordinate Meetings Properly and Keep Them Fruitful

Meeting coordination is harder for teams that do not live in the same time zone. Due to the Coronavirus, some employees might have returned/moved to cities/locations that pose the least risk to their health. As part of boosting morale for your team, you need to be considerate of everyone, or at the very least, do what is best for the majority. Take note that the goal of meetings is not to micromanage teams but rather to delegate work and exchange ideas, which consequently will increase your team’s ability to be more productive and do actual work. You may be familiar with the phrase, “that meeting should’ve been an email.” As a manager, you need to distinguish which of the items on your checklist needs discussion as a group and which ones you can communicate through chat, email, or other messaging tools. It would be beneficial if you set a specific time for the day you meet as a group online to delegate work, receive updates, and discuss other items on your list.

Keep The Working Environment Collaborative and Fun

One of your jobs as a team leader is to keep employees engaged and motivated. However, not being able to check up on them and encourage them personally poses a challenge. Here are a few ways to keep them happy and productive.

Create A Virtual Room For Casual Conversations

Having a place where employees can engage in watercooler conversations, crack jokes, and talk about things outside work is helpful. It relieves stress and makes employees feel more connected despite the physical distance.  It would also be beneficial to have a chat room where everyone is present, a chat room where they can send motivation photos, morning greetings, congratulatory messages, etc. Make sure you clearly label which ones are for work and formal conversations and which ones are for non-work related items.

Start The Day With A Short Activity

Most employees probably wake up 10 minutes before working hours start, and that’s okay! To liven up the room, you can choose to create a short activity where everyone can join. Treat this activity as an icebreaker. Have fun with the first few minutes of the working day. As long as your employees are comfortable with the activity, go for it!

Have An Open Line And Give Emphasis To Communication

Your employees must know and feel that they can freely talk to you. Support your team by keeping an open line and let them know what you are doing. One way to do this is to share your work calendar. Knowing what time you are open for one-on-ones and other urgent conversations help a team’s productivity. Another essential item to note in remote team management is to over-communicate. It is easier to misinterpret conversations and meeting details when you cannot read people’s body language. It also poses a challenge for your team if they cannot meet with you. Be clear and specific in your instructions. Before sending out emails and other messages, re-read the content and make sure it is easy to understand. Confirm with your team if they understood what you meant or not, and circle back on items that are unclear for you and them.

Final Thoughts

Remote team management has its own set of problems. However, the manager’s role is simple – keep employees productive and drive results. Work environment changes like these, while inevitable, don’t have to be more challenging. Keep the light load by being more empathetic and learn from the challenges you and your team might encounter along the way.  

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