Businesses big and small have had to shift to remote working, and now leaders and their teams are scrambling to adjust to an entirely new management style while attempting to keep a sense of normality
Even before the global pandemic, remote working was becoming an essential component of the modern business world. Recent research suggests that the long term implications of Covid-19 could result in as many as 50% of the UK workforce working remotely by 2021, therefore if you are in a leadership role it is essential you master remote management.
To help you transition, Butler Ross has put together some tips that we hope will help if you are increasingly finding yourself managing your team remotely. They are designed around helping you communicate effectively, calming fears and keeping your departments running smoothly.
Ultimately it comes down to one key skill; COMMUNICATION, and will require developing a new communication strategy, calming fears, managing expectations, and figuring out how to make roles that are not typically suited to remote work function in the short, medium, and long term.
1. Increase communication and transparency
The best thing you can do for your teams as they transition to remote working, is to be as transparent as possible and maintain regular communication. Schedule regular meetings to encourage collaboration and reduce feelings of isolation. In addition to group meetings check in with each member of your team on a one to one basis to set expectations and find out what they need from you.
In such turbulent times, one of the best things you can do is to be transparent and forthcoming with your team. Your newly remote employees are uncertain about a lot right now, (how long they will be working remotely or on Furlough, when will their children return to school, if their relatives are healthy and safe), you can be most helpful to them by communicating with them openly and often.
People need to know all they can in order to make the best decisions for themselves and their personal situations. This does not mean, however, that you need to be overly transparent and share confidential information about the company or talk about everything going on in the news to properly manage remote teams. Don’t take the communication too far but informing people of the real risks they face is responsible and ethical leadership.
As for what to say to your team, think about your company's or department’s focus and how this crisis might impact those goals. Explain clearly to your team what will change, what will not change and what might change, as well as what you expect from them. You can also share details of what your company is doing in response to COVID-19.
Keep an optimistic tone, the last thing you want to do is spread fear, allowing employees to see the full picture of the situation will help them to see what they can do to take control of what they are accountable for.
What you think is obvious may not be obvious to everyone else, you need to be as clear as possible in all of your communications.
2. Hire carefully
During the hiring process, it's important to ask potential employees if they have worked remotely before. Ask them how they will manage the logistics and explain how you plan to hold them accountable for their work. It is important to establish a two-way agreement between yourself and the team member.
Set expectations, you need to clearly explain how often you expect updates and how frequently you expect to communicate with them. Establishing expected work hours and other details in writing upfront eliminates the need to micromanage with constant check-ins later.
3. Encourage Collaboration
The reality is when you are not in the same place, informal communication doesn't happen organically. As such you should anticipate spending more time and energy to keep employees engaged and motivated. Find ways to encourage relationships amongst your teams even when they are working apart. Setting aside a few minutes during a conference call so team members can chat and learn about each other. This will make it easier for them to interact about business.
The most successful leaders truly care about their employees and want to include them in the business. Leaders who think about their team members often and share updates help their employees feel included in all aspects of the business rather than feeling like they're in a transactional relationship. You should be a role model for building relationships and start calls with questions about employees' families and personal life. People appreciate that effort, especially if someone remembers a detail about their life.
4. Make yourself accessible
Many remote employees like to have a standing weekly call as a minimum. Make sure your team know you are accessible during specific hours or always by mobile phone in an emergency. Following through and getting back to people quickly builds trust among your team. It's smart to schedule one-on-one calls each week and create a group chat system so that team members can reach you and collaborate with others.
5. Be understanding
Leaders need to understand that their employees have different schedules and currently different challenges to overcome whilst working from home. You need to commit to respect your teams work hours and the challenges they are facing. Offer flexibility to their working hours. This also means keeping communication to times that fit in with these hours.
6. Ask for feedback
Like anything in life, you should constantly be looking to improve, and to do that, you need to be asking for feedback. Take the time to speak to each team member separately and regularly, to get feedback on how the relationship and communication channels are working for them. Ask if they need more or less communication, when that communication should be and via what format.
Not everyone needs the same approach so act and adapt to each team members needs accordingly. Whether you are communicating by video, phone or email, leaders of remote teams need to flexible. You need to learn to read between the lines when communicating with your team, the more physical separation there is, the more sensitivity is required.