The current COVID-19 outbreak has changed the way firms and teams work internally. Most companies across the USA, and the world, have instructed their staff to work from home until this pandemic is under control.
Now, this work-from-home setup has brought up several challenges for the professionals to keep up with their daily tasks. And one of them is managing their teams remotely.
It is one thing to manage a team when all are present physically at one specific location; office. However, overlooking the tasks assigned to each individual in the team, remotely, can be slightly challenging; especially, when this kind of routine is something completely new for either you or your team members.
So, if you, too, are facing some real-time challenges in managing your team remotely during this lockdown period, or are not sure how to go about it, we bring you some helpful tips to make this an easier ride for you; and your team members.
Please Note: This article is not intended to replace or supersede any guidance available from your HR or senior management teams in relation to your organization’s specific business contingency planning, but is intended to offer some helpful suggestions and advice on how to support your team if home working is implemented for the first time.
The first and foremost thing which you should be doing as the team leader is to chalk out clear and straightforward working policies.
Each of your team members must be aware of their roles and responsibilities and should stick with it even in the new working environment.
It may so happen in remote working conditions that employees might not know the best channels to get in touch with their manager, the right colleagues to go to with questions, or the volume of work they are expected to accomplish in a day.
So, as the team manager, it is your responsibility to establish specific norms upfront so that the team can define its expectations around team behavior, communication practices, project management processes, and collaboration practices.
If the team members are clear with the instructions and the fact that nothing in terms of the working style has changed – only the location of work has – it would be easier for you as the team manager to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Use effective online tools
In the past few weeks, we have seen the emergence of several cloud-based conferencing tools that are being used and applied by firms to conduct their business meetings, as well as internal team meetings.
Tools like GoToMeeting, Zoom Meetings, and Cisco WebEx, are some of the many such cloud-based apps which offer video conferencing, video chat, real-time and private chat, presentation streaming, and screen-sharing.
Using such video conferencing tools can help you stay connected with your team members, not just for projects, but also to discuss the general company-wide topics and events.
Similarly, you have tools like Google's G Suite, Dropbox, OneDrive, NextCloud, etc. at your disposal for file sharing and synchronizing on other data-based work.
Now, we have already discussed setting up the working policies and norms of working from home with your team members to start with. However, when it comes to keeping clear and effective communication with your team members, it involves several other things as well.
As the team manager, you need to create trust within the team regarding their work progress and submission by showing faith. However, at the same, time let them know clearly that you’ll need to be able to reach them consistently during working hours.
They should keep you informed about their break timings so that you can align your calls with them accordingly. Make it clear that emails should be answered as quickly as possible, and voicemails returned on the same day.
Let them know that you would require a daily work report from each of them at the end of the day in order to maintain transparency and that you are available if any of them require any help with a task.
This is a very important tip to manage your team remotely during these times when it is almost impossible to set up physical meetings and interactions.
While in an office setup it is ensured that employees do not face any technical challenges or other issues, while executing their tasks, it should be understood that there may be some roadblocks in a work-from-home setup that would interfere with the smooth functioning of work.
These challenges could be technical, logistical, or even personal.
As a team leader, it is your responsibility to ensure each member of your team is transparent and open with you regarding any work-related challenges that they may be facing.
A good way to do that is by spending time with your team just talking, and not necessarily about work. Person- to-person interactions are the building blocks of culture.
Remind your employees of resources that are available through your organization, including communication, tools, and services. Also, remind them that the best thing possible is to use this support before their stress gets too high. Taking self-care is equally important, especially in this time of crisis. The care you show for them in your behavior, and the self-care you model, both make a difference.
Managing a team remotely can surely be a challenge but, if appropriate steps are taken it can be made into an easier ride to sail through. How are you managing your teams remotely? Share your experiences and tips in the comment box below.