As businesses across the world are quickly shifting to virtual workforces in order to reduce risks associated with COVID-19, we recognize and empathize with the challenges you may be experiencing. We’ve compiled the below list (also offered as a PDF here) to help you navigate managing a remote workforce:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Whereas you may be used to bumping into your employees in the hallway or dropping by their desks, managing a remote workforce requires you to be more proactive and intentional.
Schedule 1-on-1s ahead of time in order to touch base. Allow time during those meetings for chit chat that would normally happen during in-person encounters.
Share calendars so that everyone is on the same page as to who is available and when.
If you normally have weekly or bi-weekly team meetings, consider scheduling them more frequently so that everyone feels connected and a part of the team. Host a 15-minute stand-up meeting at the start of each day to get aligned and an end-of-day call to share successes. In addition to checking in on team goals and progress, check in on how everyone is doing to build comradery.
Encourage ongoing conversations via instant messenger and/or text.
2. Establish work-from-home operating norms.
What hours is everyone expected to be online? Do all emails need to be responded to within 24 hours? What communication channel (e.g., email, calls or text) should be used for urgent matters? What times are calls acceptable versus not (with the exception of emergencies)?
Clarity on these points will relieve uncertainties and ensure your teams know when they can “log off”. Remote work has its perks in that it often allows us to work when we’re most productive. That said, it also comes with its challenges in that work/life distinctions become more blurred.
In addition, extend—and ask for—grace as everyone figures out their new norm. Some may struggle to figure out childcare, while others may not have the ideal wifi connection or proper technology. It may take a while for everyone to get back in the groove, and that’s OK. The important thing is that you’re all in this together, and you’ll figure it out together.
3. Focus on team building.
Your team needs you and each other more than ever. Physical distance can quickly turn into emotional distance.
Find extra ways to connect on a personal level to show your team that you’re all in this together. This could include ice breaker questions like “What was your very first job?” or “What was your weirdest dream ever?”, as well as other virtual non-work-related games and activities (e.g., give tours of your remote workspaces àla MTV Cribs, post pictures of your pets, take team coffee and lunch breaks, host virtual “Lunch n’ Learns,” etc.).
Your team may also appreciate the opportunity to come together virtually for more formal team building and/or training as a way to build community and navigate your new norm together.
4. Take advantage of technology.
Research shows that 93% of message meaning comes from non-verbal communication. In other words, our tone, inflection, facial expressions, eye contact and posture are essential elements of effective communication. When we stick to just email or even phone calls, we remove many of these elements and increase the risk of miscommunication.
Use video technology (e.g., Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc.) to keep employees engaged, reduce multi-tasking and ensure effective communication.
Beyond video technology, there are a number of great tools out there to help you encourage continued collaboration and teamwork (e.g., SharePoint, Google Docs). You may not be able to sit side-by-side, but you can use these tools to create the next best scenario.
You can also use tools like Yammer, which is a social networking service—essentially Facebook for companies—that allows you to post team updates, give kudos and share tips & tricks.
5. Set everyone up for success.
Encourage your team to create an organized, ergonomic workspace that is free of distractions. For most of us, this is not slouched on the couch in our PJs with the TV on in the background. For others, it’s also not sitting in clear view of the dishes or laundry that will remind of us of all the things on our weekly to-do list.
Direct your employees to set clear start and stop times. Urge them to take breaks to infuse energy and keep their minds clear and body flexible. For instance, inserting a 15-minute walk into their morning and afternoon routines can increase oxygen to the brain and improve productivity.
Also, suggest that your employees minimize multi-tasking (e.g., answering emails or handling other tasks when on group calls) in order to be fully present and reduce misunderstandings.
Share our Tips for Overcoming Remote Work Challenges to reinforce the above suggestions and more.
As mentioned above, virtual team building and/or training is a great way to build connection and community. We’re happy to help.