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For years, experts and specialists have been talking about how technology is changing the way we work. Although some have been working remotely for years, the pandemic has caused many companies to shift to remote working overnight. Managing a team of remote workers isn’t too different from managing in-office employees, but it does require a slightly different approach. Here are some tips to on how to adjust to maintain culture, communication, team work, and productivity even with remote teams.
One of the biggest mistakes managers make with remote teams is not putting processes or expectations in place from day one. It’s important to connect with all your team members around projects, priorities and metrics. Like with an in-office team, ensure that everyone knows what is expected around roles and responsibilities.
Communication becomes even more critical when you have remote employees. Keep in mind, that the majority of your communication will take place without body language or tone, so schedule a few video conference calls or pick up the phone. Schedule daily or weekly check-ins to catch up individually on projects, pain points and just everyday happenings.
Beyond scheduled calls, it's important that your employees have an easy way of communicating with the whole team. Many companies use communication tools like Slack or Trello to keep everyone connect in an easy messaging format other than email. If you have a mix of remote and in-office employees, don’t forget to include remote workers on last minute office meetings or events. Remote workers shouldn’t have to ‘catch-up’ on what has happened. There are lots of ways to include remote workers in all meetings and planned events that pertain to the work they do. Try using software like Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams to help team members in other locations feel like part of the office.
According to Bloomberg, during the pandemic, people working from home in the US are logging an extra three hours of work per day. Although productivity has improved, decreased work-life balance could quickly lead to a higher burnout rate.
The line between work life and home life can easy become blurred when working from home, so it’s important to encourage your employees to set boundaries. Set working hours and guidelines for communication so that your team feels comfortable disconnecting from work. Lead by example with these practices by honoring their working hours and setting your own.
Make sure your remote team understands the company’s culture. All team members should read through onboarding and culture documents and adhere to the same company policies. But beyond onboarding and paperwork, it’s your job to encourage culture around the office…no matter the location. Just because you’re not in an office anymore or a few members of your team are remote, doesn’t mean you have to put an end to your usual office traditions. You may have to adjust them slightly to be inclusive, but with technology it’s almost impossible to not make things work for everyone no matter where they are located.
Since many people have never needed a dedicated workspace in their homes, encourage team members to set up a separate area to help them stay organized and focused. Having a space dedicated for work also helps remote employees separate work life and home life. As a manager, make sure your teams have the equipment needed to successfully complete their tasks. Be sure to check in with your remote employees regularly to ensure they have the equipment they need to stay productive.
This is a great chance to also encourage team culture, even from miles away. Shipping your remote workers items that reflect the company brand or culture is a great way for them to feel connected and a welcomed part of the team. Consider sending them things they’d put to use like branded coffee mugs, notebooks or mouse pads.
During these unprecedented times, it’s key to remember that your team is juggling a lot right now - from new workspaces, to new “coworkers” in their home to just completely new work standards. For many during this time, regular work hours aren’t the most advantageous and it might be time to reconsider what productivity looks like for your team. Give your teams the flexibility to complete their tasks on a schedule that is most conducive to them, especially since traditional 9-5 hours maybe out of the question. Be open to discuss, adjust and improve on a continual basis.
Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic is a turning point that will change the way we work. To succeed, we will need to learn skills to adapt to the new normal because it is likely we will never go back to exactly how things were before.