HR · 8 April 2020

How to successfully manage a remote team

Remote working is a common practice chosen by businesses across the world. However, over the last few weeks, employers around the country are facing the reality of enforced remote working, with the government advising staff to work from home due to the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

The pandemic is causing global disruption, and for many businesses, changing ways of working is the only solution. Remote working is a tried and tested method, however, for many, it’s proving to be an alien process. With the amount of uncertainty and constantly changing information about what people can and cannot do, along with an unclear timeline on when things will start to change, managing expectations is a critical first step towards remote working, both for managers and employees.

1. Set clear expectations

It’s important to set clear expectations; from working hours to frequency of communication, to what the impact of the virus might be on the company, it’s important to get ahead of the zillion questions that people will have. By taking the questions and concerns on the table from the beginning demonstrates that the company is doing its best to manage to keep things moving forward. Communication is often the first thing to suffer when it comes to remote working. Email alone won’t cut it, as maintaining communication through other channels is essential.

2. Make use of tech

Use the tech available to your advantage, there are several inexpensive and easy-to-use services available for staying connected and keeping people informed. It can also serve as a great way to rethink how you create a greater team bond through virtual meet-ups and fun social challenges. Take your pick from messaging platforms like Slack, BlueJeans, Zoom or WhatsApp, to on-camera options such as Google Hangouts.

3. Be flexible

Demonstrating flexibility is also key for business leaders during this turbulent time. Employees are facing a number of challenges in their personal lives as well as experimenting with this new way of working, so it’s vital for employers to consider this when managing a remote team. Think about how best to distribute work fairly and share the workload to take some of the pressure of those who may be facing non-work-related issues.

A great way to do this is by rethinking working hours. Despite what many might assume, remote working can be very demanding; people often find themselves feeling psychological pressure to be constantly switched on when working remotely, which can lead to burnout. Business leaders can tackle this by offering people the chance to work during hours that suit them best, for example, an earlier start or a later finish, and then encourage their team to stick to those hours. Work should not spill over into evenings and weekends unless absolutely necessary.

4. Be supportive

The mental impact of remote working and self-isolation has yet to be fully explored. People are now going about their day-to-day lives in a way they have perhaps never experienced before, and it’s natural for loneliness and anxiety to take hold.

These issues can affect your staff and business as a result, therefore it’s crucial to put mental well-being at the top of your agenda. Managers can help to minimise issues by checking in with individuals to see how they are on a regular basis. This is simply human interaction, but in these stressful times, it will be invaluable. Whether this is a simple text, email or even a video call, it’s important to check-in and see how people are coping outside of work.

5. Be a motivator

In addition, managers can help their staff by keeping them as motivated as possible. There are a number of ways to do this: set up a team-wide messaging group, set individual goals to encourage personal development, encourage staff to keep up non-work-related communication to support each other. Staying positive is a key part of preserving a team’s motivation. Thank them for their hard work, reassure them that what they do matters and give them something to strive for.

If you’re a senior manager, contact your team and encourage them to replicate these steps with their own teams. As a leader, set the example you want to be known for, whether it’s keeping in touch with staff about their mental health or sharing tips for effective working. You need to make sure it works well for you first, then pass on your advice to others.

My last piece of advice is for business leaders and managers is simply this…trust your team. You’ve employed these individuals for a reason; they know what to do and will want to work hard to help their colleagues through this difficult period. Trust is the key aspect to successfully working from home. Allow your people to do what they do best. Trust me, it will reap great benefits.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rita Trehan is a sought-after international speaker, global business transformation expert and CEO of transformation consultancy Dare Worldwide. She’s helped companies ranging from Fortune 200, large corporations worldwide through to start-ups transform their organisations, creating workplace cultures and developing leadership capabilities that result in sustainable performance. Although she cut her teeth in the realm of HR, her ambition and imagination have driven her beyond such parameters to become the strategy guru, and often the energy, behind a host of successful CEOs worldwide.

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