Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, leadership teams have had to make rapid adjustments to their existing operating model and streamline a massive shift of remote workforce. From enabling their teams to work remotely at scale to resetting business goals and realigning operations, the highest-ranking leaders are dealing with economic and management hurdles.
Leaders often face challenges inherent in remote work such as the lack of face-to-face communication, coaching and relationship building with employees as well as keeping them productive and well connected. On the other hand, with reduced access to managerial support and communication, employees also face struggles working productively. Many also face loneliness due to the lack of informal social interaction of an office setting and it can also result in an employee feeling less “belonging” to the organisation.
There are three important ingredients to make remote work successful: guidelines, tools & technology, and connect & grow.
Remote working offers employees an incredible degree of freedom to work and perform their best. But how can leaders ensure that their employees are doing their work and delivering the tasks on time? With the lack of visibility and control, the following sets of guidelines help in setting transparency and accountability.
(1) Set clear goals and communicate effectively- It’s best to first centrally prepare a clear set of goals, deliverables and priorities and execute them with a high degree of sub-managerial autonomy. Communicate with your team about what those priorities are, set expectations and review them on a regular basis.
(2) Host meetings to stay updated- Schedule regular face-to-face video meetings and invite the entire team to share on their work progress and concerns that they are facing. It is also a good channel to share management updates and progress. This helps establish better team relatability and a strong correlation.
(3) Focus on Outcomes, Not Activity – It can be highly taxing to manage every aspect of the work done by a remote team. For what it’s worth, you shouldn’t be trying to manage every aspect of your team’s work especially when your team is distributed across different locations. Instead of focusing on activity or hours worked, focus on the outcomes and measure your team accordingly.
(4) Give proper feedback- Feedback and constructive criticism are key components for managing workflow, employee growth and satisfaction. However, giving feedback to remote workers comes with special challenges as it needs a bit more “conscious” effect. Focus on the constructive aspect of feedback – give meaningful and helpful feedback for the employee to learn how to improve and be open to listen to their challenges. Have one-on-one meetings via video call whenever possible as seeing each other’s faces is much more powerful as compared to a phone call.
Tools and Technology
While in an office-like environment, it’s easier for leaders to check up on the work being done by the team, the same process can get a lot trickier in a remote setup. Then, keeping a track of what each team member is working on daily can be difficult and cumbersome for any leader. Moreover, if not done using the right tools, this can create misunderstandings, hamper productivity and give way to work chaos. After setting up guidelines for work from home, the next step for leaders is to use the right combination of tools and technology that can establish transparency and boost productivity within the team.
Here are some tools we’ve found handy for a rapidly growing remote team
(5) Video Conferencing and Collaboration Tools – We are now in times when technology advancements such as video conferencing and web meetings are more important than ever for remote working. Video conferencing provides “visual cues” for increased mutual understanding among coworkers. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than a written or audio-only communication. Pick a software that is secure, scalable, flexible and allows your team to participate and remain engaged
(6) Chat Room– Create chat rooms for each team where team members can raise issues or discuss work among themselves within that team that they are part of. It’s essential to keep these chats alive but not distracting. It is also good to create a company-wide chat room open for non-business related chat. Employees can share their food recipe, jokes, movies and whatever that is fun and interesting. This minimises social loneliness and increases a feeling of social connection.
(7) Productivity Tools- Maintaining high productivity can turn out challenging when working from home. You can suggest your team to use productivity tools like Sketch, Trello, Evernote, etc. that help you focus on the task and maintain high productivity.
Connect & Grow
Remote workforce is growing by leaps and bounds, and so is the significance of keeping employees happy and productive. The secret to a motivated team also depends on how compassionate they are with one another and the organisation in which they are putting their soul in. For this, it’s important that you practice the following:
(8) Trust your employees – It’s important to foster a culture of trust for your team to thrive and perform better. Micromanagement at times can exhaust you while making the employees overstressed and unproductive. This is why it’s best to have faith that your team is working diligently and you don’t have to make an extra effort of monitoring them with a microscopic eye. Eventually, the end-results of the project will speak for itself.
(9) Keep the team’s spirit high- To ensure your team is motivated and engaged even when they are away from the traditional work environment, take initiatives such as virtual coffee breaks or host a game of cards session. This helps evacuate the feeling of separation and forms oneness within the team.
(10) Allow to take charge- Give your employees enough freedom to discover their own potential by letting them take the lead of their own task. This helps them perform to the best of their abilities. Not only will it make them feel trusted but encourages them to create a significant impact.
(11) Ask for inputs- Having a two-way conversation about a project can motivate your team to share their own ideas that can be fruitful as a practice in the longer run. This is especially important for a remote team where you don’t see your team day to day. You need to make a conscientious effort to ask for feedback and suggestions during your video meeting.