The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic means that many of us will be working from home, or managing teams who are suddenly working remotely. A remote work situation can be a challenge in ordinary circumstances, but this is not ordinary.
How to Manage Remote Workers
The disruption people face in their daily lives was not planned, and companies are scrambling to change the way they do business. All of which means managers will have a much tougher time handling teams effectively.
The pandemic is thrusting people into situations they never imagined. Many workers who have never worked remotely now find themselves having to do it for the first time. It’s likely some of them never wanted to. And let’s remember many schools have closed, and the kids are home as well. This work situation is going to be a significant transition and an adjustment. As a manager, try to understand this and anticipate potential problems. Be proactive. Talk to your teams and see how they are doing, and that goes beyond simple work issues. Try to make sure they have what they need to get the job done. During your regular one-on-one, be sure to talk about any obstacles or challenges they are facing. This also will help identify teamwide problems.
Communication is key when managing remote workers. When you can’t walk over and chat with someone in the office, the communication dynamic changes drastically. But, just because your team is working remotely, it doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate and still be creative.
One great idea is to start the day with a video conference. This can be especially effective for a larger team. If you manage a smaller group, individual check-ins on the phone or through Skype might work best. The important thing is that you communicate priorities, keep projects on schedule, and keep ideas flowing.
Quality Use of Time
Leading a productive meeting that makes good use of time can be a challenge even when everyone is in the office. Doing it by conference call for video conference takes those challenges to another level. Be sure to have an agenda. Stick to the plan and keep things moving along, there’s nothing worse than a meandering conversation that’s hard to hear during a phone conference. Be sure to end the meeting with the pertinent takeaways and send a follow-up email.
Virtual Office Hours and Schedules
It is essential as a manager that you are available and online. When you and your team are working remotely, it can get a bit confusing. When are people online? When can people reach you? During the pandemic, life responsibilities may create distractions for you and your team. Virtual office hours can help your team, and you create some routine for the day. Also, it lets your team know when you are available and should help provide effective communication.
Use the Tools at Your Disposal
Project management tools like Trello, Workzone, and Zoho Projects become even more essential when managing a remote team. Everyone needs to be on board and use the resources your company has invested in. Other tools include videoconferencing tools, whether its Gotomeeting or Zoom or something else. If you have used a videoconferencing tool and it’s always been a bit of a nightmare to use, now might be a good time to change. The last thing you want is frustrated team members wasting time on something that doesn’t work very well. This goes for other tools as well – things that might have been a simple nuisance in the past could become crippling in an all-work remote scenario.
Don’t Over Use Email
It’s easy to send someone an email with a question. Too easy sometimes. The last thing you want is for your team to get hammered with nonstop, nonessential emails. It can take a toll to simply be answering emails rather than actually getting work done. If a person is online, chatting them might be the best way to get an answer to your question. Or, if you are going to send an email, make sure it’s an all-encompassing as possible. Lastly, don’t let emails you are receiving overstress you. Maybe you can send a quick response like “Hey, thanks for this, let’s discuss at our one-on-one.” Sometimes a simple response acknowledging receipt is all that’s needed.
Create an End to Your Workday
This is essential for you and your team. On the one hand you need virtual office hours and a schedule to make sure you are tackling work in a home environment. But, this is the flip side of that equation. People need to decompress and end their workday. Even if it’s a matter of just taking a break at 5 p.m. and getting online later to check email. It’s important for you and your team to set aside time for themselves and avoid burnout.
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