The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has put us in an unprecedented situation. Many who normally commute to work are now suddenly being thrust into unexpected remote work situations, and managers are no exception. Where before monitoring your team and staying engaged was as simple as yelling down the hall or calling a quick team huddle, now your team is spread half way across town and meetings can quickly become a game of phone tag to get everyone organized. How do you keep your team productive and engaged from a distance? Here are 10 best practices we think can help you manage a newly remote workforce.
1. Technology is your friend
Adjusting your normal ways of communication will probably be one of your biggest challenges. Email isn’t likely to cut it as your sole source of contact. Your best solution will be to identify the technology that can help you stay in touch and keep communication flowing.
Productivity tools you can use include messaging, video conferencing, collaboration and project management applications. Beyond communication, consider how best to share files and documents smoothly and with as much real time collaboration as possible. Define which tools you want to use for different purposes (this may take some experimenting at first!) to find your happy medium.
2. Establish a virtual open door
Remote work often feels lonely for people, especially when they’re used to gathering around the proverbial water cooler and attending regular meetings. Statistics suggest 19% of remote workers find that loneliness is their biggest challenge when working remotely.
Try to alleviate these feelings by creating a virtual open-door policy. Use chat tools, such as Slack, and make yourself available to your team. Encourage them to stay in contact with each other, too.
3. Schedule regular meetings
Routine video conferences are also helpful. Applications you can use to accomplish this include Zoom, Skype and Google Hangouts, to name a few. We’ve found that touching base as a team regularly helps everyone remain cohesive and provides a sense of normalcy.
4. Set expectations
One of the best things you can do for your team is to outline your expectations from the get-go. If team members aren’t used to working remotely, they probably won’t intuitively understand how to succeed. Be sure to prioritize tasks, outline quality standards and set deadlines.
Explain which tools should be used for different types of communication and when to use them. Expectations are a great guideline and employees with no remote work experience will appreciate receiving direction.
5. Monitor metrics
To meet your organization’s goals, you’ll need metrics. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) so you can quantify the work being done remotely. But be careful: You’ll want to avoid metric overload. Too many metrics can turn out to be counterproductive. Essentially, monitor your KPIs as you normally would, but don’t focus on the number of hours your employees log in. Instead, look at what they’re producing.
6. Provide feedback
While you’re isolating, be sure you’re still available as a coach and mentor. Now more than ever, it’s important to individually reach out to your employees. Let them know what they’re doing great, and coach them by providing constructive criticism for areas needing improvement. Generally, employees are happier when they get routine feedback.
7. Remember compliance
Working remotely doesn’t mean compliance can fall to the wayside. You’ll need to ensure your remote processes comply with federal, state and local labor laws. At PuzzleHR, we’re well-versed on how to help you do this.
8. Avoid micromanaging
When transitioning to remote status, it’s tempting to try to virtually look over everyone’s shoulder to make sure they’re working. We don’t recommend it because if you manage your team with feelings of mistrust, they’ll lose morale when you need it to be at its highest.
COVID-19 has created massive disruption in our communities and it’s distracting to many of us. Kids are home and spouses or roommates are sharing work space. Members of your team may find it easier to concentrate if they work early mornings or late evenings. As long as they’re producing and meeting their goals, don’t worry about the nontraditional hours. Trust your employees to do their jobs and, chances are, they’ll appreciate the autonomy and deliver.
9. Ensure efficiency
Lack of efficiency is a problem many managers face. Experiment with different tools and procedures to figure out what works, and what doesn’t. In time, it’ll be easier to develop strategies to help your team be the most efficient it can be.
10. Keep employees motivated
Many of the above practices will help keep your employees motivated because you’ll be giving them direction, autonomy and structure. Still, your employees are most likely feeling the ripple effects of COVID-19. They’re suddenly isolated and working under conditions they aren’t used to; it might be hard for them to initially adjust. Let them know you’re there for them in this difficult time. Also, strive to find unique ways to motivate and/or reward them. For instance, since food delivery service is still operational for the most part, send everyone a pizza before a video conference and throw a virtual pizza party.
Managers leading teams that don’t already have remote work embedded in their organizational cultures will deal with challenges. If this sounds familiar, PuzzleHR can help make your difficult transition easier. We’re here to support our clients, prepare to manage a newly remote workforce, answer questions and help address any problems that arise. To learn more about the services we offer, contact us. We’re happy to help.