Over the past two months, many businesses that previously had staff working full-time and in-house were forced to adjust to a new reality: Most (if not all) of their staff was suddenly working from home, potentially spread out across a wider geographic region.
It wasn’t just freelancers, consultants, and third-party vendors that you had to work remotely with anymore; it was everyone.
There’s good news: Plenty of businesses have been working with entirely remote teams for years. Working remotely definitely has its own unique set of perks. Team members enjoy the flexibility, it costs businesses less overhead, and in times like these, it allows everyone to stay safe.
The challenges that come with remote working, however, are what businesses are currently struggling with. Managing newly remote teams in particular can be a little chaotic, especially when the shift is sudden and maybe a little unexpected.
In this post, we’re going to take a close look at how to manage a newly remote team so that your team can keep their stride and be just as effective as if they were together in the office.
Get the Right Communication Platforms ASAP
Communication tools that can help your team stay in touch and on the same page are more important than ever before. Even if you weren’t using these tools previously, sign up for them right now. If your team isn’t able to communicate as effectively as they would standing side by side, then you don’t have the right tools, and everything will become a lot more complicated.
Start with virtual business phone lines, like what we offer here at Tresta. These business lines can be added to your team’s existing personal smartphones by simply downloading an app, and allowing your team to take any work calls from a work number, but on their phone. They can jump on work meetings and answer incoming calls from clients and vendors, turning their home office (or their kitchen, or living room) into a remote customer service department. Since Tresta also offers texting, you can stay in touch with your team quickly without needing to even make a call.
Instant chat communication tools like Slack are also important. They’re faster than email, and allow you to create easy-to-follow threads with the right team members so everyone is on the same page throughout the day. Slack allows you to attach files to messages, and integrates with other software. There’s a mobile app and a desktop version, and both allow you to enable notifications so your team never misses an urgent message.
Set Expectations and Communicate Them Clearly
Being flexible but firm is the name of the game right now, especially since during unpredictable events like a coronavirus outbreak, everyone’s normal is a little off.
Parents may have young children at home that they’re trying to supervise. Even someone having a loud roommate, a needy dog, or even just their spouse also trying to learn how to work from home can offer distractions that are difficult to tackle when this is all brand new for everyone.
You should be reasonable in your expectations, and flexible, but you can and should still be firm about what needs to be done.
Set expectations with your staff, and communicate them clearly. Maybe you don’t mind if they take an hour at lunch or start an hour later, but you absolutely want them to be on the Monday and Wednesday morning calls. You might have certain tasks that need to be completed, and it doesn’t matter what time of day they’re doing the bulk of their work as long as they’re able to answer messages from other team members from 10 to 4.
Think about what your business needs from each team member to continue running smoothly, and build your expectations around that. Let your team know what these expectations are, and reach out to staff seemingly struggling to uphold or remember them. There’s a learning curve for everyone, but there’s still a job to get done. In a week or so, this can become the new normal.
Focus on Task Completion Over Hours Worked
Think about what your team needs to accomplish. Does it matter about how long they work, or what actually gets done?
In many cases, it’s more important that specific tasks get done than it is to have a set number of hours worked by each employee. It doesn’t matter if your accountant takes six hours to approve payroll or one hour, as long as it’s done well and on time.
Write out a list of tasks that need to be accomplished each week, or (if needed) each day. Prioritize them, and explain that these are the tasks that must be done within a set period of time. This can increase productivity, and as long as the job is done, it helps businesses focus on the fact that the time spent in front of a computer doesn’t matter quite as much.
Touch Base With Your Team Regularly
When your team isn’t all in the office, you can’t do a quick “Hey, doing okay on that report?” as you walk by someone’s desk and get a quick nod in response.
If your team is experienced and well-trained, they likely won’t need a ton of direction on their typical day-to-day projects, but it’s still good to check in regularly.
Miscommunication is easier when everyone is working remotely, and people may have questions that they don’t know if it’s worth “bothering” you with.
Proactively checking in with your team can prevent small issues from turning into larger ones, and it can help everyone stay on track. Make it a habit to check in with each employee on your team (and have your business’ other leaders do the same) so that everyone has the support and information they need.
Make Time for Relationship Building
Relationship building is something that often falls by the wayside when businesses shift to remote working, but it shouldn’t.
This is true now more than ever. We’re all forced into sudden isolation, and social contact and relationship building is important for our morale and workplace satisfaction.
Consider having a weekly call where the entire team is able to talk for a bit, and people can catch up with small talk and offer support to those who need it. You can also ask each employee how they’re doing and how their family is during private chats. Even small, quick exchanges can go a long way.
Set Up a Standard Operating Procedure
Right now, everything is new, and that makes managing a newly remote team a little more challenging.
Make this easier by letting people how what the new normal is, and set a standard operating procedure for how things will be done.
Let’s say you’ve shifted to using Asana, or another similar project management software, to keep track of your team’s work. Let your team know exactly how this will work. You might want them to tag a team member when they need assistance on the card, for example, or to have extensive checklists on each card with certain team members assigned.
Even if you had a standard operating procedure before, there’s a good chance that this might look a little different now. Think about the differences between remote work and in-office work, and consider how to close that gap.
There are plenty of businesses that have been working on an entirely remote basis for several years now, proving that this is absolutely a possibility for those who aren’t physically in an office to tackle all of their tasks at a high level.
It all comes down to having the right strategies, the right expectations, and the right communication tools to keep everyone on the same page. If you start there, everything else will fall into place.