2020 has had a drastic impact on everyone’s lives, professionally and personally. Entire industries as well as the global economy have been disrupted and have left us with very few certainties. Several months and thousands of new at-home setups down the line, remote team management has proven to be the new skill that managers rapidly need to add to their skillset.
Although there are many benefits to remote working like no more commuting or fear of someone pinching your lunch from the office fridge, it also poses a variety of unique challenges. Leading people you don’t see on a day-to-day basis could negatively affect productivity and communication. How do we optimise the working environment to create pre-lockdown levels of communication, efficiency and success?
Now more than ever, regular meetings and checking in is imperative for positive collaboration. Each employee has their own individual requirements and needs. By outlining these at the start, and checking to see if they are working, you will avoid micromanaging some of your team and neglecting others.
Whether your team has shifted to remote working, or you have built a new company, communication as a group is just as important as one-to-ones. Consider adding regular team video meetings to the working schedule, either at the start or the day or even the start of the week – this can be adapted once people have adjusted and become more comfortable.
Remote working poses an array of issues, with communication being the most obvious. Not only will you deal with technical difficulties and time zone disruptions, but you miss out on the small moments that build a team.
Intent and emotion can be lost when communication is limited to messages and emails. It is easy for messages to appear cold or snide without the smiling face or other non-verbal cues alongside it.
Can that conversation be taken as a phone call or even video call? We are lucky to exist in a time with an abundance of technology at our fingertips. Although we can’t literally be face-to-face, video conferencing is not only useful in reducing the feeling of isolation amongst the team but is a far more personal way to approach complex or sensitive matters.
Many teams will also benefit from adding five or ten minutes at the start of a meeting, or a virtual lunch, to socialise and ask each other about their weekends. Bonding is a crucial part of the job and collaboration can become challenging with physical separation. Successful teams are built on meaningful connection and trust.
Working remotely has provided many people with a better work-life balance, allowing more time for exercise, family time and a calmer pace of life. For some, however, this means they are always ‘available’ and can struggle to set a rhythm as well as boundaries. By setting expectations for the frequency of communication, and even the form i.e. daily summary meetings or emails and WhatsApp messages if urgent, you can relieve the pressure for individuals to set their own.
Likewise, setting yourself windows of time where your team can call you can help introduce structure to your day. Each team member is an individual and has their own unique needs and workload management, however, there must be a minimum set of expectations set and adhered to.
Several factors create positive wellbeing. From logistical details including a proper desk set up to ensure physical wellbeing, as well as having a private, quiet space – ideally separate from your bedroom – to work in. Speaking of which, the action of ‘going to work’ and establishing a proper work routine, including getting dressed appropriately rather than rolling out of bed, is key to keeping you in a working and professional mindset. Although at the start of lockdown some might have enjoyed working from bed and surrounded by all of their pets, it is now time to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and formalise the working from home dynamic. By establishing this, it is easier to distinguish your working day at home from relaxing and having downtime at home. Simple gestures like having a ‘work mug’ to drink from when you’re working might help too.
As a manager, it is important to regularly check in on your team’s wellbeing and being prepared to constructively act to improve their situation. Remaining positive and encouraging, you will act as a form of stability for your team – remember each employee will have their own individual needs. You will undoubtedly be facing many of the same issues your team. By tackling these and ensuring you have a great support system you will prevent a ‘trickle-down’ and help you to be the best manager when your team looks to you for guidance.
You have got this!