Coronavirus uncertainty finds many companies making decisions about remote work – some for the first time. The bad news is we are all facing some degree of disruption of business as usual. But the good news is that there has never been a better time – in terms of tools available, communication infrastructure, and workplace cultural acceptance – for entire teams to work remotely.
Here are twelve tips on how you can effectively manage suddenly remote staff:
1. Set work hours and define availability, response time, and productivity expectations.
2. Establish a check-in time in the morning by messenger or text so that everyone knows that everyone is ‘in’ and ready to work. Ask people to check out the same way. If staff is hourly, have them track their hours and what was completed in that time.
3. Use online calendars more fastidiously. When team members step away from their desks – at lunch, for example – expect them to note it on the calendar so that it’s clear they are not available.
4. Institute a weekly video conference call with the team, in addition to one-on-ones with direct reports. Hold these virtual meetings at either the end of the week or beginning, providing an opportunity to touch base on project progress, and clarifying the next steps for the upcoming or following week.
5. Make video call software available for the team when they need to meet between themselves. Consider it as accessible as the in-real-life conference room down the hall for quick gatherings or more extended conversations about projects where a shared screen would be helpful. Most companies already have an account with a video call vendor, but if not, there are plenty of services that offer limited feature free trial periods. Take advantage.
6. Establish where urgent team communication will be posted or transmitted. Is it email? Messenger? Text? Phone call? The point is to clearly identify how Code Red info is disseminated to the team.
7. If teams are in multiple time zones, make sure that there are overlapping hours for when group work gets done.
8. Use document sharing and collaboration programs more robustly. It may be more efficient to use Google Docs, Microsoft Teams, or Sharepoint for collaborative documents rather than circulating a word document with track changes, for example.
9. If you haven’t had one already, set up an instant messaging application like Slack, to keep conversation flowing, while keeping phone lines open.
10. Project management software helps to keep everyone one the same page and moving forward on a joint initiative. These programs also make it easy to understand high, medium, and low priority tasks and who is responsible.
11. Be mindful of email and message onslaughts – don’t sacrifice productivity by sending multiple communications when an end of day summary will suffice.
12. As the manager, there’s an even greater onus on you to stay accessible and responsive. Make it clear when and how it’s easiest to get a hold of you should a roadblock need removing, or information need clarifying, or a direct report simply needs to talk. Communication skills are perhaps the most critical soft skill a manager brings to the table, and in uncertain or disruptive times, that soft skill becomes a superpower.
With a bit of planning ahead, regular communication, well-established procedures and timelines, keeping a newly remote team on track is achievable even under the most unforeseen and stressful circumstances. Looking for additional resources to share with your team on working remote? Click here. If you need assistance with freelance recruitment or digital marketing recruitment, we can help you find talent.