Hi, I’m Nicola from The People Mentor.
I hope you are all staying safe and well.
Well, where do I start?
The coronavirus had a huge impact on many areas of our lives; towns and cities virtually shut down, our movements have been restricted, and businesses deemed ‘non-essential’ have shut their doors.
All of this means that many businesses are now getting a crash course in remote working. What a time to be a business owner or manager, especially if you’ve never managed a remote team before!
If you’re a manager who feels overwhelmed at entering uncharted territory, I hope this podcast will help. I’m going to look at why remote working is so crucial right now, the potential pitfalls you might face, and how to make it all work.
So let’s start by looking at why remote working is essential during this crisis.
Remote working also allows businesses to keep going throughout crises and minimises disruption.
So allowing teams to work from home makes sense, but the transition from the workplace to a home office can be a tricky one for many people. Of course, there are benefits for employee work/life balance, but for businesses and team managers, there are some big challenges to face.
Like managing communication with your team for example. For remote working and staying connected to be successful, there needs to be some sort of technology infrastructure in place, and a backup plan in case things break down.
Managing productivity is another concern.
While some employees will be self-motivated enough to plan their days and work through tasks, others will find that productivity goes out the window once they are amid all the distractions of home. You need to think about how you will keep your team on track.
Working remotely can also affect creativity-think about it, nobody comes up with their best ideas when they are stressed out and isolated. So you have to be prepared for how you are going to deal with this sort of challenge.
So how can you navigate remote working successfully?
Many businesses have the tools they need to work remotely, they just lack the experience of doing it.
The first thing you have to get right is making sure there is some sort of technology infrastructure in place to help things run smoothly. If you don’t already have a task management system in place, look at using something like Trello or Asana so you can monitor tasks and everyone knows what they are doing.
Time tracking software like Toggl is great for maintaining productivity, and Google Drive or Dropbox make it easy to collaborate on documents and share files.
And of course, video conferencing is an essential part of staying connected with your team, so make good use of Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.
Once you feel prepared with managing the technology side of things, then it’s time to start managing your people.
The first thing to do is to set goals and expectations about what you expect from your team while they are working remotely. Setting clear goals will help people stay motivated and productive; they may not be in the office, but it’s not a holiday, so make it clear that you expect the same level of commitment.
However, resist the urge to micromanage your team and trust them to do their jobs. They might not be under your watchful eye, but show them that you have faith in them, set expectations, and stay in touch regularly to allay some of your fears.
After you have set some ground rules, make sure you let your team know how you are going to stay connected. Maybe you’ll have a virtual team meeting once per week and daily catch-ups with individual team members.
Emails are fine but don’t use them as your sole method of communication. Remember that many people are going to be struggling with isolation at this time so it’s more important than ever to stay connected.
It’s a good idea to introduce some fun ways of connecting too like having a virtual coffee break together or virtual after-work drinks on a Friday. This will go some way to helping people feel less isolated and will reinforce the sense of being a team.
When it comes to any way of working that feels a little too different or disruptive, especially at first, it can be too easy to think about the potential negative implications. But actually, there are opportunities for remote working.
Successful remote working demands that employees have specific skills like managing their time, staying motivated, being organised, and using technologies that they may not be used to. Remote working can show you where these skills are lacking so you know where further training and development are needed. Once things return to normal, you could look into developing employees’ skill sets in these areas to future-proof the business and maybe even expand remote working opportunities for some workers.
While many things have come to a halt during this crisis, the things you do to develop, motivate, and engage your team shouldn’t. In fact, they are even more important during this time, so keep offering feedback, do virtual appraisals, and make plans for employee growth and development. This will keep people motivated and show them that you’re positive about the future, and they should be too.
Now, more than any other time, you have to show up as a human, not just as a manager. Now is not the time to be laying down the law or put pressure on people; you need to show compassion. Your team (and most likely you) are probably dealing with anxieties about money, health, family, and life in general at the moment, so you need to act with empathy and consideration.
If people aren’t as productive or focused in the initial transition from the office to home working, don’t be too hard on them. Everyone is getting used to the ‘new normal.’
Make a point of checking in to ask how people are, not just to talk about work. Encourage them to take regular breaks, stay active when they can, and stick to regular working hours. All of this will benefit mental and physical health, and it will show your team that you care about them, which, believe me, they will remember.
Nobody knows how long crises will last and whether there will be more occurrences in the future. But rather than seeing this as a threat to businesses, we could view this as an opportunity.
Managing remote teams is a challenge, however, why not treat this as an experiment?
Could remote working more extensively be an option for the business in the future? Will it make businesses more agile and more attractive to work for, for those who want a better work/life balance? What could you potentially learn from it?
I hope you have found this podcast helpful and I’ll see you again soon.
Feeling like you need more support then book a free call to explore how I can support you.