Managing remote workers successfully means managers must have the support of their organization’s IT and Human Resources Department in order to provide flexible work options and communication tools that will differ from the status-quo.
At this stage of the COVID-19 outbreak and with World Health Organization’s declaration of a pandemic, many essential and non-essential businesses around the globe have moved beyond their immediate business continuity and crisis management plans - and work from home directives have quickly become the widespread new and indefinite norm.
It’s a challenge for organizations from both a technology infrastructure and day-to-day operations perspective, and many managers like yourself are most likely facing a crash course in managing remote workers.
It’s also highly likely that most have never worked 100 per cent-remote before, let alone managed other teams in this environment. And managing remote teams during COVID-19 and the ensuing global unrest may seem like an overwhelming and daunting task.
Yet, effective management is essential now more than ever, and will require more than just the right technologies – managing a team remotely will require the right type of leadership too.
Here’s how great managers are successfully managing remote workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Get set up with the right remote tools
If your remote workers can't access or download files, struggle to hear on calls with bad reception or are receiving meeting invites in a timezone where they aren't even awake yet, there's work to do on your protocols and procedures. First and foremost, it's important to have reliable tools in place and then create a process to use them when working remote.
If your organization doesn't already have technologies in place, there are inexpensive ways to obtain simple versions of these tools as a short fix - many even have free trials. Always, however, connect with your organization's IT department first to ensure an appropriate level of data security is in place before using any free tools.
These tools should be used when managing five things:
• Project management (Office 365, Clarity PPM, ServiceNow,Basecamp, Asana)
• Team collaboration (Office 365's Teams, Slack)
• Cloud storage (Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive)
• Productivity measurement (Asana, DoDoist, trello, Evernote)
• Time management ( toggl, Scoro, Clarazin)
• Video conferencing (Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting)
When choosing tools for your remote team, you'll want to take the following into consideration:
• Do workers have a strong, secure internet network?
• Do workers require a VPN?
• Do workers have the right hardware, software and access to shared drives?
• Do workers have or need data security systems installed?
• Do workers have access to remote IT support should they require it?
Establish structured daily check-ins
Successful remote team management involves establishing a routine for daily check-ins with workers. This could take the form of one-on-one calls or a team call if the work is highly collaborative. Including video conferencing in your check-ins is a great way to engage workers while also assessing for any non-verbal cues that an individual may have any concerns about the situation.
The important part to remember is that the calls should be regular and predictable and that workers should feel comfortable in relating any of their concerns or issues while working remotely.
Use technology tools to build a virtual community and bring celebrations online
It's common and easy to feel disengaged from the people and culture of an organization when working remotely. Building an online community where remote workers can engage with their co-workers is essential to developing a connected workforce. Platforms like Microsoft's Yammer is a great tool for virtual gatherings and to celebrate special days (like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays), company milestones, as well as worker recognition. Creating this type of community will help develop a culture of connection, which, in turn, can create heightened productivity among workers.
Does your organization hold weekly or monthly town halls? Re-create those engagement moments by bringing them online via video conferencing in your digital community. Remote workers can opt-in to simply watch or participate via video as well.
Offer multiple different communication options
You can't rely on email alone. Remote workers need to feel engaged, and you should provide several different communication options for them to connect with you. Video conferencing has many advantages, especially for team meetings or for sensitive conversations. There are other times, however, when instant messaging is more important than personal communication. Tools like Office 365's Teams, Slack or Zoom have instant messaging features that are great for time-sensitive or quick day-to-day communications.
Build trust and accountability
The success of your remote team will depend heavily on how much you trust your workers to do their job even if you can't see them. You don't want to micromanage; however, it's easy to worry about lack of visibility into workflow and routines.
In fact, a recent study from Gartner reports that since the pandemic, 76 per cent of surveyed managers ranked “concerns about the productivity or engagement of their teams when remote" as a top worry.
To alleviate these fears, you can set work from-home guidelines, such as emails must be responded to within 24 hours or using text or instant messaging for urgent matters. It's also important to establish a routine and to plan a task for each goal you've set. Collaboration tools like shared calendars are a great way to set deadlines, where your workers can view projects and goals and be held accountable for delivering.
Control your digital volume
You'll also want to control the digital volume! For example, if you check in via video chat, hold back on relaying the same communication via email or requesting further updates through out the day on instant messaging.
When communicating with workers, it's important to be honest about expectations for productivity and to touch on whether expectations are realistic during your check-ins. If something isn't working out, you can adjust your expectations accordingly.
Communicate encouragement and emotional support
Now, more than ever, it's important to acknowledge stress or concerns teams may have and empathize with their struggles. To open the conversation, you can simply begin checking in with asking something like, "How is the remote work situation going so far?" This question can elicit important feedback that the worker otherwise may not have brought to your attention.
Use collaboration tools like shared docs, instant messaging and video chats to invest in the remote working relationship. It's important to demonstrate that you're supportive of their success rather than only engaging to get updates on their progress and numbers.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has presented a truly unprecedented situation that is affecting all of our families, our communities and our businesses. It is a trying time as we collectively navigate this new reality. First and foremost, we are all in this together, and Procom is here to help.
We have created a dedicated COVID-19 page for employers that will be updated with the latest information on the pandemic as updates are released.
You can access the page below.