As long as COVID-secure measures are in place, companies are now able to ask employees to return to work in an office for non-essential work.
But after months of working remotely, it’s understandable for employers and employees to have a preference for working from home, even though it’s no longer required.
Whether your teams are continuing to work from home full time or splitting their time between locations, it’s important to know how to lead your teams, ensure people are supported and make sure everything is running smoothly.
After all, managing a remote team requires a different approach to managing people who would normally be in the same room; it requires new methods and techniques to get the best from each other and to maintain business performance, the role of people manager has never been more important.
The first step to creating a reliable, supportive and productive system is to agree how things are going to work. Make sure every team member is clear on how they will work together, how you’ll keep each other updated, and you should keep the team informed of any changes in their colleagues’ working arrangements.
You should also remind your team of the big picture and how their work fits into it. If some members can’t carry out all of their usual duties, consider the skills they can lend to others to meet team goals.
You should be clear about the mutual expectations within the team and trust each individual to get on, without micromanaging.
Don’t bombard your team with messages and try to focus on results, rather than activity, but don’t be an absent boss. Try and get the right balance, which might be different for each of your colleagues depending on how they like to work.
Make sure your team has the support and equipment they need. This might include second screens and plug in keyboards to make their laptops more comfortable to use, or it could be coaching and training they need to reach their full potential.
Working from home can be isolating and while some revel in this, others will miss the social interaction of an office. There are personal and practical reasons why this needs to be overcome in order to maintain productivity. You should aim to have a regular, daily meeting or a virtual huddle to stay connected, check in on each other’s wellbeing and keep work on track. These meetings needn’t be long, but regularity is the key.
On a similar note, as a manager, you should make yourself accessible to your team, whether it’s by phone, web chat or email. It will also help to let your team see your virtual calendar, so they know when they can reach you if needed.
Although you’re working remotely, it’s important to keep the rhyme of your 1-2-1s and team meetings to maintain a sense of structure and continuity, to review performance and to support team member development.
If colleagues are feeling isolated or anxious, it’s important to remember that they can be sensitive so you should take this into account when talking or writing to them. For this reason, it’s important to communicate regularly, not just when things go wrong. Sharing information and giving constructive feedback or praise is important when people are working remotely
Another thing that is lost when you’re not working face to face is the ability to read body language or tone to sense what a person is thinking or feeling. Read between the lines, pay attention to what is not said and ask questions to clarify what a person really means. Don’t assume that you have been understood all the time either. Spend time to make sure that your communication is clear and check understanding before you finish a call. Video chat will help with this, but it’s still easy to misinterpret what’s said or miss signals.
Some other tips to improve your team’s remote working include encouraging a few basic points of etiquette:
Remote working lends itself well to flexibility in working hours, but make sure everyone is clear on what is expected of them and when. For example, should they be available on the phone during normal office hours, whether they’re working or not? Are there specific times of day when they must be working?
Make sure your team members know whether they’re expected to be available on web chat all day, or whether you’re happy with occasional check-ins. Similarly, discuss which way people get in touch with each other - are video calls, web chat, phone calls or emails preferable?
Now that the option of returning to the office for non-essential work is available, it might be tempting to bring everyone back, but with a few simple steps, remote working can work very well for a wide range of office-based businesses.
If you’d like help or advice in managing your team remotely, please contact us.