Supporting Your Team When They’re Working Remotely
The status of the Coronavirus has now reached the level of a pandemic. Major sports leagues, concerts, schools and businesses are all shutting down as a precautionary measure to stop the spread of this virus. This means that, if it hasn’t happened already, employees will likely be working remotely.
We have some experience in this arena, as we’ve had a pretty flexible work from home policy since 2005 and over the years we’ve shifted and adjusted our policy to adapt and help our team to be as productive as possible. For companies who primarily work in an office together, this “new normal” may prove to be a huge adjustment.
Leaders, managers and directors are key players in ensuring that operations continue as they normally would, and it all starts with the proper support of team members they’re in charge of.
Being veterans of remote operations, we wanted to share some things we learned over the years to help others with this transition.
Start this process by setting clear expectations
Leaders setting clear expectations from the start is vital to successfully managing the transition from the office to working remotely. Team members must know what is expected from them so there are no surprises or miscommunications which could hinder productivity. By doing this, team members can better prepare themselves for the change in their work environment. Remember, for some team members, working remotely may be completely new. Expectations will help them feel more comfortable and adjust to the situation at a quicker rate.
Be engaging with your team
It’s really important that your team knows you’re there to support them. Check in with team members regularly to see how they’re doing and if they need any help from you. Try not to be overbearing, though. You want your team to understand that you trust them, and you don’t want to add additional stress to the situation.
Have daily check-ins
Morning check-in meetings are a great way to bring everyone together and to see if anyone has any questions or concerns that need to be discussed. With each team member, quickly review what they accomplished the previous day and what their plan is for the current day. Perhaps most importantly, our Project Managers always ask the team members if they have any “blockers”. These help the team to call out any “waiting on Susan” or “need assets from the client” type delays that are holding them back from completing a task.This will keep everyone on the same page as well as hold the team accountable in a non-threatening way.
Stress the need for excellent communication
Excellent communication between team members is extremely important. It’s much easier to collaborate when everyone is in the same place, so stress the importance of why team members should message one another often, whether it’s to notify others of updates, progress, issues, or anything else relevant. Whether it be with our clients or within our team, we often tell new team members to adopt a policy of “over-communication” for a time, as they adjust. You can always back off as time goes on, but it’s much harder to adapt from less to more.
Be sure everyone knows to be easily accessible during normal work hours
Communication between remote employees will take more effort and time compared to office settings. This can be delayed even further when people are not responding in a timely manner, especially regarding time-sensitive issues or projects. If you happen to foresee any issues regarding accessibility, address it immediately so it doesn’t affect the rest of the team. If you’re currently not using a messaging system like Slack, implement one to make communication easier. These programs allow multiple team members to speak with each other in a single channel or one-on-one and can be much more efficient that email.
Moving from an office setting to working remotely, especially in the current coronavirus situation, can take some getting used to. The bottom line is that you need to trust your team. They were hired for a reason after all! Constantly second guessing team members and what they are doing will hurt morale and cause unneeded stress. Be sure to set expectations, communicate often and be there for support. Everything should adjust quickly, and before you know it, work life will be back to normal.