The lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 crisis has forced many businesses to adopt a remote and flexible working model at both scale and pace.
Jovana Marovic, Head of People for our Greater London region, shares her tips for managing teams remotely.
At crisis stage, most employers were focused on protecting their employees and ensuring the necessary operational responses to make sure business continuity was possible. As we settle into large scale remote working, how do you manage your team effectively?
Check in with your team often
Keeping in contact with your people remains vitally important. Most teams will, by now, have regular calls to discuss progress on work. It’s the day-to-day interaction that happens in a physical setting that is more difficult to replicate.
Having regular conversations that are a mix of team meetings, informal catch ups and open briefings where your people can voice concerns and raise issues, are more likely to ensure that you pick up the right signals. They should help to form a complete picture of how your team is coping and where additional support may be needed.
Set clear expectations
It is significantly harder to manage and measure activity during remote working. Most organisations, in some form, measure time spent or volume of output.
Now is a good opportunity to shift to managing outcomes. Defining priorities and setting specific objectives gives managers a framework in which to keep focused on productivity without micromanaging. It also gives teams clarity on the expectations.
Equip your people
Even where you have been able to deploy technology and tools to enable remote working, do not assume that people know how to, or are comfortable, operating virtual communications.
Coach your teams, share online learning, create examples of what ‘good’ looks like. Ask your team how they are coping with both the technology and new ways of working. Let them share with one another how they’ve overcome problems or barriers – ask for their opinions and suggestions.
During times of change and uncertainty, dialogue is key. Communicate with your employees, ask them for feedback, keep them engaged in conversations.
Place value on two-way communication. Giving your people a space to express their views enables them to have some control. Communicate way more than you usually would or than you think you need to!
Trust and recognition
Many managers may themselves be feeling that they’ve lost control – be it of performance, productivity or service delivery. This rapid process of digital working will mean you simply have to trust your people. Don’t micromanage.
Provide guidance on what the targets and expectations are and trust your team to deliver. Alongside trust goes recognition. Simple appreciation and acknowledgement can be a great motivator and provide reassurance for people at this time. Recognition is also an effective way to signal the behaviours you want others to model.
At times of large-scale disruption, it’s normal for people to seek reassurance. Provide regular opportunities to communicate, share successes and stories of what hasn’t gone so well. A shift to managing outcomes and recognising contributions will help you manage your teams and drive long-term employee engagement.
Don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Your team probably needs you now more than ever before while we all face uncertain personal situations. Avoid burnout during this time by ensuring you engage in some form of self-care regularly.
My top tips on how to be efficient working from home:
- Plan and structure your day with tasks, meetings and breaks.
- Ensure agreements with your family or housemates about when you are working and not working. This includes breaks, when your working day starts and finishes.
- Find a quiet place to work and have a dedicated working station set up
- Focus on your work when you are working (e.g. turn off notifications from social media and do the household chores in breaks).
- If you have children, put in time for being there with/for them during the day.
- Start and finish your day with some form of physical activity or meditation. It allows for consistency and routine, and helps to wind down the day.