Rebekah Valero-Lee Professional Services
As managers and leaders we may have flown through these past 3 weeks by the seat of our pants, however as we likely move into a phase of extended lockdown, it's important to consider the longer term engagement techniques that will ensure your team remain motivated and productive whilst working remotely.
Leaders whose teams usually share an office, now find themselves in the throes of a global pandemic and facing a host of challenges around how to effectively manage, support and stay connected with their employees who are remote working.
Despite COVID-19 altering the way companies operate, managers should see the present-day situation as a new opportunity.
From personal experiences of managing newly remote teams, we discuss the challenges and shine a spotlight on the opportunties for keeping employees happy and inspired, whilst driving productivity during this uncertain time.
Before focusing on the proactive measures and recommended tactics, managers must first understand the inherent challenges that remote working has the potential to present.
- A lack of face-to-face supervision means that some managers may fear that their team isn’t working as efficiently or as hard as it could be. Remote working studies show that home-based employees also risk feeling that their managers are out of touch with their needs.
- Failure to provide important information is a major barrier, including gaining answers to even simple questions.
- Loneliness is one of the most common complaints when remote working, with employees craving the interaction that they gain from an office setting. Over time, this can lead to a disconnect amongst staff, with employees feeling less of a belonging to their organisation.
- At home distractions can impede remote working, with many employees contenting with suboptimal workspaces and the need to juggle office responsibilities with home-schooling and care requirements.
Opportunities for success
Whilst remote working has the potential to be fraught with challenges, those who revert to the fundamentals of good leadership can garner real success.
- Managers must set clear goals and expectations amongst the team. This is crucial for preventing burnout, as employees run the risk of having a workday that never ends and which subsequently sets them up for failure, exhaustion and resentment. Without a physical presence, managers can also no longer judge an employee’s effectiveness in-person. Instead, try to focus your efforts on what is being accomplished and the bigger picture goals.
- Establish team norms. With the normal working day turned somewhat upside down, these norms are a set of practices to adopt whilst working remotely, which could take the form of a series of individual or team video calls. If is fundamental that these check-ins are regular, that they provide an open forum for people’s questions and concerns to be heard, and that you ensure those who are attending are present and aren’t multi-tasking.
- Provide several lines of communication as relying solely on email at such times is insufficient. Today’s suite of technology options provides team members with the same visual cues as if they were meeting face-to-face, which helps to reduce any sense of isolation. Communication is of paramount importance when working remotely. Such methods of communication also prove useful for the sharing of complex or sensitive information, as well as troubleshooting problems or conducting difficult conversations that would otherwise be had face-to-face.
- With many employees having been thrown into remote working requirements almost overnight, there runs the risk of people quickly becoming disconnected and lonely. Don’t forget to prioritise the personal conversations and foster real-time human connection by providing opportunities for rich social interaction. Such a technique is crucial for all remote working employees but particularly important in today’s situation whereby many workforces have been swiftly transitioned out of the office. It helps to foster and maintain team morale, whilst ensuring your team feel valued.
- Working from home is also a fantastic opportunity to cover the basics. Ensure that everyone in the team understands their purpose, their objectives and how they contribute to the overall outcomes. Understanding their role helps to reduce feelings of isolation and in fact, promotes a sense of belonging when delivered correctly. It also helps to build a trusting culture from the ground up and works to prevent micromanagement.
Many businesses have had remote working thrust upon them without the proper time to prepare and implement robust working practices. But removing the physical location of an office has opened a world of management opportunities, with leaders able to discover new ways to lead and inspire.
In many instances, these activities were already present in the workplace but COVID-19 has given us the chance to find new ways of thinking and doing.