Coronavirus has caused many office-based professionals to start working from home, which ~68% of the British public had never experienced prior to COVID-19 according to a YouGov survey. It’s now the ‘new normal’ for many Brits, and more than half of them (56%) are keen for remote working to continue at least some of the time after the pandemic.
Plenty of challenges are presented by working remotely. It is not something that comes naturally to everyone. Working remotely requires self-discipline, focus, increased levels of communication and the commitment to do one’s job to the best of one’s ability.
So, what needs to happen in order for home working to continue, and for businesses to effectively manage their remote working teams moving forward?
To effectively manage, you need to identify what you may need to mitigate. It’s important to be aware of the potential corners staff could cut without your watchful eye over them. Equally, you may wish to consider whether you want to rule with an iron fist with time tracking software or place more trust in your employees to get the job done no matter what.
Distractions around the home can come in the form of anything from pets to people, and managers need to recognise that their remote working teams could face these disruptions while away from the office.
However, not all distractions are involuntary. With televisions, games consoles, or a fully-stocked fridge just metres away, some staff simply won’t work as hard or as efficiently due to the temptations around them.
Equally, being isolated from colleagues can put a strain on people when working remotely. Loneliness is the number one complaint about working from home, with teams often missing the office banter, seeing people on their morning commute, or the post-work drinks after hours.
For those that live alone, no longer having an office environment to rely on for social interaction can cause great distress. Video conferencing software is great, but being sat behind a webcam all day can be mentally exhausting for many.
10 Tips for Successful Remote Working Teams
We’ve outlined some key pointers for getting the best out of your employees while working remotely. These recommendations are designed to mitigate some of the many challenges remote workers face, particularly amid the ongoing uncertainty around what the future of office-based working could look like.
1. Adopt A Buddy System
Socialising, coaching and collaborating are much more difficult to enact when working remotely. Assign buddies to each of your team members and make sure everyone stays motivated with daily diarised calls to lift team spirits. It works both ways too, and creates an environment in which everyone is in it together.
Catching up with your buddy needn’t be about work tasks either. These casual catch-ups present an opportunity to talk about anything from weekend plans to the latest celebrity gossip, and provide a level of ‘water cooler’ chat that office-based workers really crave when working from home.
2. Make Use Of Collaboration Tools
Services such as Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are fundamental tools that allow firms to effectively manage their workforces remotely.
Set-up individual group chats for each team and encourage a constant stream of communication between colleagues. Not only will this help to reduce email traffic, but it’ll give workers a bit of a pick-me-up from time to time. Being part of a group gives a sense of belonging and these chats are an easy and efficient way to solve issues or queries as a team.
3. Invest In Product Management Software
When working on product development projects, centralised team communications are essential for effective remote working. Services such as Slack are straightforward cloud-based systems that provide project managers with an overview of all project communications, files and outstanding actions.
To delegate tasks, Trello is the ideal list-making application that allows managers to easily drag and drop tasks to team members’ individual boards. Based on the Japanese manufacturing system known as ‘kanban’, Trello provides a visual way to manage workflows. Stick to these tools and you’re sure to keep your remote workers in check.
4. Discourage Presenteeism
Keeping spirits high is all part of effectively managing a remote team. If staff are ill, then allow them to rest up and take the day off. Encouraging presenteeism is damaging for remote workers’ as they don’t feel as though they can be trusted if they take time away from their desk.
Similarly, instill a degree of trust and flexibility in your employees. Just because everyone is working from home, that doesn’t mean they’re now also always available. Respect people’s personal lives after hours and let your team get the job done during the 9-5 – or give them the flexibility to work whenever fits them best.
5. Make Time To Socialise
Keep your remote team’s spirits alive with some scheduled time for socialising. A virtual get together will help to form bonds between colleagues and inspire better work as a result.
Remember, a lot of your team members could be feeling vulnerable, isolated or disorientated by this new way of working, so it’s important to put the time aside to have a bit of fun. The best way to establish a basic level of social interaction is to allow team members time to talk about non-work matters – and if you’re feeling generous, why not throw a fun virtual quiz?!
6. Use This Time For Training
Online learning platforms are one of the most common methods for delivering industry-standard training courses nowadays, and with remote workers enjoying a little more time in their day, why not use this time to upskill your employees?
With many training budgets cut as a result of the pandemic – if your firm can afford to – it makes sense to try and snap up a bargain and enrol your team onto a relevant course to boost their skills. Online learning communities such as Skillshare, Udemy, or Codecademy are the ideal services to enhance your remote team’s aptitudes.
7. Learn To Communicate Better
We’ve all received an email that feels a little short, or when read incorrectly, can cause a bit of offence. Not having an office environment to discuss matters in means that tricky conversations can be a bit more difficult to deliver virtually.
When giving feedback to your team, remember that some might see a sheet full of red amends and panic. It’s important to tailor your feedback to suit the style of each of your colleagues and ensure those same straightforward conversations can still be delivered over email or instant messenger.
8. Minimise Stress
Managers of remote teams must understand that amidst the backdrop of a pandemic, workers will have a lot going on in both their professional and personal lives. Getting work done remains important, but consider your employees’ mental health and really ask yourself what productivity means to your business.
Is clocking in for seven and a half hours a day essential, or is simply meeting client deadlines more important? Be flexible and allow your employees the freedom to work the hours that suit them while working remotely.
9: Meet Up In Person
For bigger projects, or tasks that are too tricky to carry out remotely, set aside one day a week to meet up with your team in person. If your business doesn’t have an office environment to fall back on, then consider hiring a co-working space provider to ensure your team is able to collaborate properly.
One of the top gripes about remote working is that everyday can end up consisting of back-to-back conference calls. Think about whether a meeting is really worth having next time, and if it is, whether it calls for an in-person arrangement? Although, ensure all your team are comfortable doing this and you all adhere to any local pandemic restrictions.
10. Encourage & Reward Great Work
Pandemics don’t have to put an end to promotions, identifying excellence, or rewarding your colleagues. Managers of remote workers should always be looking for opportunities to celebrate the same work milestones that would otherwise be commemorated in the office.
Just signed-up your 10,000th customer? Why not send a bottle of champagne to the homes of your employees and set up a Zoom call to share in the celebrations? It’ll feel a lot more personal than an email and make your team feel that little bit more valued.
Effectively managing a remote team isn’t easy. Challenges will always persist with certain employees, while others might begin to flourish thanks to this new way of working. Either way, it’s important to place even more focus than ever on your management style, because in times like this, people look to their leaders, and your job is to help your team through this.
We hope our top ten tips provide you with a comprehensive guide to altering your management style for remote working, and if you stick to them, there’s no reason why your business can’t be just as effective working remotely, as it is in the office.