Managing Remote Work During & After COVID-19
An unprecedented number of organizations across the world transitioned to a Work from Home (WFH) program on very short notice recently due to the coronavirus. What counts for “business as usual” changed completely in a matter of weeks, and that upending of routines presents an ongoing challenge for many leaders.
Just like all of you, we are also in the same situation. And as it seems, this will be the new normal for many.
We also worked around managing stuff like communication, distance and deadlines etc. Here are some tips to manage work from home during and after COVID-19-
Communication is the key
Do we even need to elaborate on the importance of effective communication while managing a team remotely? Social distancing and isolation can be the biggest hurdle when it comes to communicating with a team who is working from home. Because effective communication depends on a lot of factors like connectivity, availability etc. So, keep all platforms of communication open be it through chats or phone calls.
Establish a process/protocol (and stick to it)
When everything’s turned upside down, it’s immensely helpful to have protocols in place that people can trust in. Even something as simple as a steady communication cadence can provide support and a sense of normalcy in an otherwise bewildering situation.
You won’t be bumping into each other in the office, so it’s crucial to have a process established for regular face-to-face (or screen-to-screen) communication.
Dave Lewis, VP of Marketing at LINQ, and a 12-year veteran of distributed team leadership shares some of his strategies here:
“I have had remote teams as large as 10 and as small as 4. For me, I have found that I need both a weekly team meeting and a weekly one-on-one.
Slack has been great for those needed conversations you’d usually get by stopping by another employee’s office or cubicle. You can share your work, quickly get answers to those simple questions and even better you can create specific channels in which to communicate with specific groups so you can share and discuss projects with multiple people at the same time.”
Weekly Team Meetings
“In our team meeting, my goal is to ensure that the entire team is on the same page with everyone’s individual projects. I will make sure that everyone is clear about who is working on what, and when things are due.
I like to give each team member five to seven minutes to provide an update on their projects and to remind other team members about any deliverables owed.
I use Google Docs to not only store our work in an organized way, but my team is able to share and comment on projects.”
“In our weekly one-on-one, I will go into the specifics about every project and gain agreement on priorities and due dates. For these meetings, I have found that video conferencing is unquestionably the best method.
I feel that seeing your team helps you feel more connected. And with most video conferencing technology you have the ability to share your work. So now my team and I can share our work, timelines, priority lists, and more during our weekly meetings.
There’s no better way to keep your remote teams connected and engaged than simply meeting at the same time on the same day every week. Everyone has a voice, thus everyone feels like they are part of the team.”
Use technology to be virtually present
While talking over phone calls or using social media platforms to chat can be a powerful medium to stay in touch, but nothing compares to the physical presence of the manager or the team leader. So make use of technology to have group video calls or one-on-one video calls with employees. This can help them feel motivated and in turn, increase their productivity.
Set the agenda and keep sharing your feedback frequently
Just like everyone follows a schedule in office, it’s equally important to have an agenda while working from home. However, just having a schedule and completing the task isn’t enough. To make sure that the team is also doing their job according to deadlines, the manager needs to share his or her feedback regularly. Otherwise, how would the team member, who is working distantly, know when he needs to improve or change his way of working?
Keep taking regular updates
One of the best ways to ensure that the team is on track is by taking regular updates. If the team members are chasing a big target that might involve multiple days of work, it will be wiser to break it down into smaller goals spread over the days so that there are no last-minute hurdles. Also, keeping a track on the team’s progress through regular update motivates the colleagues to stick to the schedule.
Be a little flexible
While working from home, it’s not possible to micro-manage everything. Also, the other team members who are working remotely might have challenges like connectivity, technical issues etc., which might make it difficult for them to do everything like they do in office. And given the current situation, the productivity of a person can be affected. While this cannot be an excuse to not get the job done, but being a team leader it’s your responsibility to be a little flexible and sympathetic. Instead of focusing on activities, it would be better if you concentrate more on the outcome.
Delegating ownership is one of the core skills any good leader must-have, but it’s especially important for WFH teams. When people aren’t encountering one another in the office, learning about what each other is working on, it’s easy for things to get lost in the mix.
Outfitting your team and investing in WFH success
While a distributed work environment can lead to some meaningful savings in real estate, snacks, and a litany of other costs associated with a co-located office, it’s important to make sure you’re still providing the best possible work habitat for your team.
So while a remote team may indeed provide cost savings, your remote work program is one of the last places to look when cutting costs. Instead, consider re-investing some of the resources saved by not co-locating into a stellar WFH setup.
Something as small as an extra monitor or a mouse and keyboard can mean the difference between a comfortable, productive setup, and one where you’re just “making do.”
In addition to hardware, some companies provide a stipend for internet and phone service, so they know their employees always have a solid connection.
Having good software can mean the difference between an excellent WFH experience, and a non-starter. Even with the best software, remote teams still face some unique challenges, so please, try not to add to those challenges by skimping on your software budget.
Find out what your team needs to be effective as a distributed force, and do your best to make it happen.
With that, let’s review some of the technology you can use to build an outstanding experience for your remote team.
Even just a few years ago, managing a remote team posed a greater challenge because there were less purpose-built tools available to serve this need; however, there are hundreds today — each with its own strengths.
The communication/collaboration tool you choose is one of the most crucial decisions you have to make as a WFH team leader. Luckily, there are a few excellent options, depending on what ecosystem you’re already working in.
Slack brought a whole new way of collaboration to teams across the world. It’s a place for employees to chat, collaborate, share documents, and more. In addition to these features, Slack’s app directory makes it possible for you to extend its native toolset by bringing third-party tools directly into your workspace. Take a look to see which of your favourite software tools have a Slack app, and of course, check out Polly while you’re there! We’ve built native Slack experiences geared toward keeping remote teams together and on the same page.
Microsoft Teams is another priceless communication tool — one which you and your teammates may already have a license for if you’re Office365 users. Teams also has a full-featured video chat feature and a library of third-party functionality to unlock within App Source. If you need a tool for gathering continuous insights on your people-driven processes, check out Polly. If you need a tool geared toward running efficient check-ins and standups in Teams, check out AgilePolly.
Zoom is the bellwether for video communication. Even if you have video calling capabilities included as part of another software, it may still be worth giving Zoom a try.