Managing remote teams so BAU still happens as normal

While many businesses have already dipped or taken the plunge with remote working, for some organisations and their managers, this will be an entirely new experience. One thing we all have in common is the challenge of keeping sight of the day to day when so much of the wider landscape is changing by the hour.

We’ve put together some practical tips and key questions to ask your teams over the next few weeks.

Managing for productivity

So how can you support your teams in being productive?

  • Talk to them about flexibility

Every workplace is different, but if you can accommodate people moving their working hours around, now’s the time to do it. The reality is for lots of people that this is not their ideal WFH situation, so as a manager you can support with setting clear priorities, showing empathy, accommodating requests for changes to hours and reassuring your team that you trust them to do a great job – they don’t need to ‘prove’ to you they are working!

  • Check the basics

You guessed it. It’s very difficult to be productive if you don’t have the right set up, and sometimes we need a nudge to make that happen. You and the team need to complete DSE assessments for your new home office to make sure you are working safely and comfortably. You could also encourage your team to think about how they draw a line between ‘work’ and ‘life’ if they need to.

  • Agree boundaries and best approaches

What’s the best way to check-in with your team? We don’t have the answer – they do. Ask them how best they’d like you to touch base with them, whether that’s a daily call, Slack message each evening or a longer weekly chat. Similarly, facilitate a team discussion on this so that everyone is aware of each other’s preferences. Make use of various signalling options, like updating calendars or statuses, so teams can see at a glance whether people are available or not.

  • Pre-empt disruption

With pets, children, partners and more circulating at home while we’re working, weird things will inevitably happen. Re-assure your team that you expect this, and it won’t be a deal breaker- you trust them to be doing everything they can so it doesn’t but sometimes these things are unavoidable. Encourage people in similar situations to share ideas on how they are managing their ‘new colleagues’!

Managing communication

What can you do so that conversations and information sharing still happen?

  • Get stakeholder management back on the table

Regular communication – in the kitchen, corridor, popping between desks – probably happened organically in the office, keeping projects moving and reducing misunderstandings. In the new world of WFH, mapping/listing out all the people who need to be kept in the loop for things you are working on, and quickly ticking each person off when something on your shared work changes, will generate the same results.

  • Mind ‘the gap’

When working with your team, be conscious of ‘the gap’. This is the bit between ‘hey how are you’ and ‘right- what do we need to do’, and it’s often the space where unexplored issues surface and can be addressed. This is often an area to suffer when we’re under pressure and there are fewer opportunities for it to happen by chance when WFH.

  • All the feedback

Ever been in a meeting with your team, one of them knocks it out of the park and as you walk out you congratulate them? You’re probably delivering little nuggets of feedback all the time when face to face, often without even realising. Now you and the team are WFH, consciously relaying feedback, both good and bad will really reap rewards (and especially good! Studies have shown high-performing teams share 6 good to every 1 constructive piece of feedback).

  • Pause before sending

Now more than ever, the tone of our written communication is important. Take some time to ask your team for feedback on your communication, and whether you could do anything differently. One word responses may be efficient, but they’re sure not friendly!

Managing wellbeing

  • Be human

It can be tempting as a manager to try and be a pillar of strength for your team. And yes, it is important to keep things positive. But it’s ok to admit that you are finding the transition tough too- opening up about your vulnerabilities can create a safe space and build trust, which will enable your team to respond in kind. This will help you to help them, and address anything which is causing harm or reducing their ability to get day-to-day done.

Be mindful of other people’s unique situations. 99% of the time there is a very good reason for why people act the way they do, and now is a good time to ask why before responding too harshly.

  • Celebrate wins

Create your own positive news. Tough times bring out some of the greatest ideas and innovations, and can pull a team together like nothing else. Making space to celebrate some positives at the end of each day will help you and the team with your mental health too.

  • Signpost resources

It’s not all up to you. Remind your team (or create a one pager) outlining all the different avenues of support that are open at this time for the team to make use of. That could include the EAP, mental health apps, online workouts etc.

What all this looks like:

  • Agreeing longer lunch breaks with the time made up at the end of the day
  • Asking those with children at home what their ideal day would look like- do they need to start early because they nap in the afternoon? Or maybe they have support from a partner, but they work mornings
  • Doing a video call with the team where you share your home working space and one thing that gets you in the working groove each morning
  • Senior members of staff leading by example and telling teams when they are working earlier or late, or taking time out, and updating their Slack status when they do
  • Being available and answering queries from your team quickly
  • Revisiting team and individual goals/objectives/priorities
  • Team virtual coffee mornings or happy hours where work talk isn’t 100% of the agenda
  • Video calls>phone calls>instant messages>emails
  • People in the team taking time out to check-in with each other on how they’re doing
  • More calls than emails or messages between you and the team and within the team
  • Highlighting mental health first aiders and how they can be contacted

 

Questions for your team:

  • How are you feeling about the shift to home working? Is there anything I can do to make it easier?
  • How are you finding getting focussed at home? Would it help if we re-visited our objectives/priorities to make sure they’re still relevant?
  • Are there enough opportunities for us to connect as a team? Do we need anything else to support with this?
  • Who are the main people that are involved with what you are working on?
    • Can you split them into a ‘for info’ or ‘for input’
    • Have you agreed how you can keep them informed while we are out of the office?
  • What are your favourite things you’re working on at the moment? What is it about those you’ve enjoyed?
  • What wins have you had in the last week? What wins are you aiming for in the week to come?