Managing Remote Teams Well during COVID-19

Recent events have brought about many changes for businesses with a large number of people working from home.  For a business this means thinking about how to create a new way of managing a team remotely.  For some organisations this is “business as usual” and for others this is new territory, but we can learn from the tried and tested approaches.

How do you go about managing remote teams well?

Working from home brings its own challenges for individuals, our routine working days travelling to a place of work give us a number of support systems that need to be replicated when working remotely.  Going into work gives us a lot of contact with people and an opportunity for informal communication – over coffee, passing in the corridor, meetings, working next to other people, being able to ask “a quick question” and so on.  These are opportunities for support, reassurance, encouragement, sharing ideas and clarifying information and instructions.  When people work from home, we need to think about how to put systems in place so that people can feel supported, reassured, part of a team and clear about expectations and their contribution.

Here are some simple tips to think about how to achieve managing remote teams well:

  • Prioritise virtual face to face contact whenever possible
  • Delegation
  • Give regular feedback (even more then in a shared workspace)
  • Have a coaching style to communication and meetings
  • Give and make time for checking in with people and recognise their efforts and concerns
  • Remember the fun stuff!

1. Prioritise virtual face to face contact whenever possible.

We are social beings and we are not used to being isolated.  Connecting virtually with each other face to face is an opportunity for us to see how people are doing as well as hear how they are doing.  Ideally, we should try to make face to face contact with our work colleagues each day.  We can support this contact with phone calls and emails, but face to face is always the most productive and valuable.

This can work in many ways using online platforms – Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and others.   All have the flexibility to connect 1:1 or with groups.   You may want to set up a daily check-in at the start or end of each day to see and hear from your team.  Encourage your team to connect to each other and your clients in the same way.

2. Delegation

Clear delegation with clear stated standards and outcomes is key to helping your teams stay focussed and work with purpose.  Here 5 steps to create a clear process for delegation:

  1. Explain what you want the person to do.
  2. Explain why it needs to be done.
  3. Explain why you would like this person to do the task (rather than someone else).
  4. Describe what outcomes are required and by when.
  5. Describe what reporting back to you is needed and how frequently.

Don’t be tempted to skip any of the steps.  This tool can be used in a conversation and/or put into an email.  Offer the opportunity for clarification.

3. Give regular feedback (even more than in a shared workspace).

Working remotely means that people miss the informal input and moments of feedback that they receive from “the boss” and their colleagues.  Double-down on making sure you offer feedback to your team so that they are clear that they are working effectively.  Be specific about what the team are doing well.  Offer feedback face to face, on the phone or by email.

4. Have a coaching style and approach to communication/meetings.

Coaching people means helping others to find the answers for themselves.  This means helping people think creatively to find solutions to their challenges.  In the current climate creative thinking and resourcefulness is invaluable.  This means asking people questions – “How, Where, What, When” …. “and what else”.  Use these questions when you are connecting with your remote team and then support their ideas by agreeing a plan of action with them.

5. Give and make time for checking in with people and recognise their efforts and concerns.

Working remotely means that it isn’t possible for people to pop over to your desk or office and “ask a quick question”, nor is it easy for you to give quick and responsive positive feedback.  Managing a remote team means that you need to make the time to do it and give the time specifically to it.  Share praise 1:1 and with the wider team in virtual meetings, on the phone or on email.  Take time to listen to concerns that people have, not just working remotely from home but some of the other challenges they are facing in their life and new daily routine.  Help the team find solutions together.

6. Remember the fun stuff.

Being together at work is where we also share life milestones – birthdays, anniversaries, personal achievements.  Keep it going, it really matters it is part of what makes us human at work.

If you would like any help implementing any of these changes on managing remote teams well, talk through your concerns or to discuss any other aspect regarding your business and your people. Please contact us here and one of our team of highly qualified Associates will be in touch.

Elizabeth Adlington
SYLO | Beyond HR.
March 2020