For those of us who haven’t really operated our businesses from a ‘remote’ environment before, the transition can be a little challenging, for us and for them. It’s easy to fall out of routines, lose track of time given you don’t need to commute or be distracted by the things around you…
Not only are you adjusting to operating in a ‘new normal’ business state, but you are also trying to delicately balance your customers, suppliers and team operating from multiple locations, as well as potentially partners, children and pets!
Working from home does require you to be a different kind of leader right now. If you don’t lead effectively, then you could face declines in staff engagement, team collaboration and potential falls in performance and productivity. Managing virtual teams requires you to connect on a human level, so think of it like sharing a coffee or lunch together, but instead of in your office kitchen, everyone is in front of their computers.
There is good news though! Setting up virtual teams does not require a huge investment in technology. Technology such as Zoom and Skype have free options, but also have quite reasonable paid options based on the size of your business.
To help you manage, here’s our 8 best tips to help make remote working more successful for your business:
Tip #1 – Provide Structure, More not less
Leaders need to be more structured and proactive than they would when managing face-to-face teams. Ways to form effective performance habits include:
- Encourage people to set themselves a daily routine including things such as exercise, breakfast, when they will sit down and login for work, coffee / lunch breaks, etc
- Remind people to look at their diaries and see what ‘virtual’ meetings they have on each day – when you are working from home and concentrating, it can be easy to forget the time and miss meetings
- Set meeting / catch up agendas
- Try to ensure that everyone is prepared and participates (this can be a time when your introverts can get a little camera shy and quiet and potentially disengage if they feel they are not being seen / heard)
- Set some rules / guidelines – for example, ask people to let others speak before they jump in with questions or comments; share wins or concerns, etc
- Before you begin your meetings, let people know what you want to achieve in the meeting
- At the end, recap the outcomes achieved and if there are tasks outstanding, who will be doing what and by when
Tip #2 – Communication is key!
When communicating virtually, it is easier to misunderstand each other. This is especially true if you’re using communication technology that doesn’t allow people to see each other’s faces, like email.
To address this, more effort needs to go into making sure everybody is on the same page. For example, on a conference call, the use of paraphrasing can help listeners check their understanding of what is being said (or not said).
Tip #3 – Responsibilities & Accountability is important
A lack of accountability can be an issue for virtual teams. Leaders need to be vigilant about defining and communicating responsibilities and deadlines and checking in with individuals to ensure they fully understand what’s required of them and when they need to complete things by.
Tip #4 – Relationship building takes time and effort
When operating virtually, it can be easy to forget to spend time engaging with your team, which usually happens face to face at the likes of the coffee machine, car park, etc. This can impact the ongoing development of relationships. Ways to get around this are: to send birthday cards, personalise conversations, and recognising contributions can help increase visibility of individuals and build team cohesion. Other options could be: regular video calls, over coffee or lunch with team members.
Tip #5 – Use video technology wherever possible
Video technology allows leaders and team members to pick up on non-verbal cues such as when a member is trying to have input or agreeing/disagreeing with what is being said. It also allows you to see how your workers are doing, for example, if someone who is usually quite bubbly and outgoing is withdrawn and quiet, check in with them individually afterwards to see if they are okay.
Tip #6 – Provide extra support to newbies
New people typically learn a lot about how to do their jobs through direct interaction with others in the office. However, to ensure these conversations can still happen, provide your newbie a buddy and also consider technology with ‘chat’ options for your teams, so that they can interact with each other throughout the day (Slack and Teamwork are a couple of options).
Tip #7 – Discourage ‘muting’ during meetings/catch-ups
Encourage team members not to mute calls as this creates a more typically conversational flow. calls also allows for jokes and shared laughter which fosters team morale and cohesion. Some background noise such as a kids’ busting into the room are a good reminder that people, not machines, are on the line. If your meeting has more than 10 people, then you may need to mute, to ensure the meeting is not too noisy.
Tip #8 – Record your meetings
One of the benefits of doing things virtually is that the conversations and decisions are recordable and searchable. You can do this through tools such as Slack, which integrates different kinds of files (such as Google docs, gmail, dropbox, video recordings and others) into one easily searchable file. Need to check what was agreed, no problem, just pull up the file. And, there’s no more need for someone to take minutes and notes and to transcribe them!