Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many organisations have made the decision to allow employees to work from home. As a manager, being faced with an entirely virtual team in the blink of an eye can be disorienting. How do you maintain the same level of communication and collaboration in your team when everyone is working remotely?
Whether your company has allowed employees to work remotely for years or it’s a completely new dynamic, now is the perfect time to create a plan for leading your team remotely. Setting guidelines in place early on will help you clearly communicate the new protocol to your team and take a little uncertainty out of an otherwise uncertain time.
To help you, we went to the experts, many of whom are contracted by Fortune 500 companies to help with their remote working policies and who hold regular training sessions to help individuals thrive in remote work situations. They gave us their best advice so we could create for you a list of six actions every manager should take when leading their team remotely.
1. Check in with video calls
As any company that operates remotely will tell you, frequent interaction among employees is key. While those companies hire people who choose to work remotely and understand the implications, the current situation means that people who aren’t accustomed to working outside of an office environment must quickly adapt.
That’s why it’s important to maintain a high level of interaction like employees are used to in an office. According to our experts, the best way is through frequent, daily check-ins using audio and video to simulate real-world interactions:
2. Be Clear on Communication
In an office environment, employees and managers can signal their availability in a number of ways: opening your office door, taking off the noise-cancelling headphones, or making friendly eye contact to show you’re available for a chat. When these visual cues are removed, how do we virtually ‘open the door’ to communication?
Our experts say it’s important to set clear guidelines about when and how you want to be contacted. Whether that’s through frequent, scheduled or spontaneous video chats, a messaging platform like Slack, or just email, be firm with your decision so employees know when you’re available.
3. Make Clear Meeting Agendas
When collaborating remotely, it’s important to make each meeting count since quick chats or group meetings require more planning than in an office environment. Get the most out of every meeting by briefly sketching out the meeting agenda and goals and sending it to all participants. That way, everyone comes prepared and ready to present their ideas.
4. Keep Meetings Interesting and Engaging
If you want to keep your employees engaged and productive during your virtual meetings, it’s not enough to put everyone in front of a webcam and start talking. There are many virtual collaboration tools to keep meetings interesting and fun! From online polls to gauge group opinion to virtual whiteboards complete with post-its made of pixels, our experts recommend using creative visuals in your virtual presentations:
5. Show Employees That You Care
Sometimes, what employees miss most about going to the office everyday is the feeling of camaraderie and social interaction that happens spontaneously. If your employees are missing their coffee breaks or watercooler chats, it’s understandable. Let them know you care about them and their mental health. Uplifted moods are just as contagious as the coronavirus, so share little moments of joy and check in on each other. Our experts agree about the importance of making it clear you care:
6. Provide Positive Feedback
During this period of social distancing and working remotely, focusing on positive goals and achievements helps keep employees feel motivated. Acknowledging and celebrating your team’s wins boosts morale and helps employees strive to reach their goals. Many people feel worried or apprehensive now, but our experts know that a little positive feedback can go a long way.
If you’re a newly remote leader or leading newly remote team members, you can get support through virtual learning to help you and your team thrive from the experts who contributed their advice above. In the words of John Bruce, CEO of Performex: “How do you want your team to remember your leadership during this time of uncertainty?” Above all, lead by example and with care, compassion, and understanding.
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