How is remote working going for you and your team?

Since the government’s announcement on 20th March, to increase social distancing measures to delay the spread of the coronavirus, thousands of businesses across the UK found themselves sending their employees home to work remotely. For most, this is a brand-new way of working and you may be settling into it now but if you are managing a team remotely for the first time ever, well honestly that can be quite scary.

Is that what has happened to you?

It may be the first time ever you have worked from home yourself and now you are expected to communicate, structure, monitor and motivate your team as they all work from home. Woah –putting it like that it does sound a little scary, so we have accumulated some of the best advice we have come across online from trusted resources and also use this blog to share tips from our Force Four Leadership Trainers who are a little more used to this style of working.

Ann Francke, CEO of The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) spoke recently about how she believes leaders must behave in the coming months:

“We must be clear and transparent. People’s lives and livelihoods are at risk here. They need to be able to trust what they’re hearing. When in doubt, over-communicate.”

It goes without saying that you should be in regular communication with your team, maybe you are now a master at scheduling calls on Zoom or you have branded your Whereby chat rooms? If you are not there yet don’t worry, the main thing here is to communicate regularly and effectively in whatever way works for you and your team. Face-to-face video calls are important to reduce the sense of isolation we will all feel at times.

Sometimes poor online connections can cause us frustrations but remember that your staff are not robots, so encourage general chit chat because just like you they will be missing the social interaction they are used to from going into work each day.

We believe that remote work becomes more efficient when leaders set expectations for communications with their team. This is known as establishing the ‘rules of engagement’. For example, within Force Four we are using video chat for daily check-in meetings and job prioritisation. Additionally, we have other chat rooms for 1-2-1’s or training support with our learners. Let your team know the best times to reach you each day and also confirm the best form of contact to use in an emergency, for example: ‘Send me a text and I will call you back as soon as possible if the matter is urgent”’.

Every business has expectations whether working remotely or virtually. Being clear with employees from the outset will keep them focused and working towards personal and team goals.

You should set clear expectations for:

  • Work hours
  • Availability
  • Communication system
  • Timely meetings
  • Key projects and deadlines
  • Scheduled meetings
  • Responding to emails

You are now the ultimate ‘helping hand’ to your employee working in isolation at home. Though you may be out of sight, don’t ever let them be out of your mind. If something is really bothering your employees or they are feeling under the weather, understand the clues they might be giving you. Learn more in our recent blog: How do I keep my team happy and productive while working from home?

Make sure to agree set goals and deadlines for particular tasks. Keep a close eye on how well the targets are being met and give feedback promptly and sensitively if things go wrong. You could also think about offering your staff some online training (link to online training page) while they work from home, this can prepare employees and help them develop the skills they need. Make sure this is focused and relevant to their job role to avoid members of staff seeing it as a hoop to jump through or a way of being kept busy for little practical reason.

You could even decide to set your team refresher training challenges each week to keep them engaged and focused. Motivating your staff at this time is crucial, so make sure you keep up with housekeeping tasks, like employee reviews and one-to-ones. These can be done over video calls, for example, so you can ensure professional goals are still being met, and any issues are dealt with properly.

NEWSFLASH!!! It’s not possible to manage every aspect of the work done by a remote team. Instead of focusing on activity or hours worked, focus on the outcomes and measure your team performance accordingly. Right now, your team has a lot going on, that doesn’t excuse any slacking off but it’s worth thinking about what productivity means. Regular work hours are going to difficult for some members of your team with children, pets and other responsibilities. We need to trust our teams to work to a flexible schedule that helps them to be the most productive.

We are in uncharted territory here and it could go on for some time, so let’s continue to ‘over-communicate’ with our teams and work together to manage the change positively and with sensitivity to everyone’s individual situation.

“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” – Superman

Oh come on… we are running with a theme here!

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