The neighbor has returned with two pallets of toilet paper. March used to shower your spirit in the sheer joy of busting your brother’s NCAA tournament bracket. Things are looking a lot different, and they’re changing in your workplace too. In a continued effort to slow the spread of Coronavirus, many companies are taking a fresh look at how they organize and manage remote teams.
Some companies scoff at the abrupt changes that come with this managerial shift. They think home offices are challenging to implement and gripe at the prospect of communicating with remote staff. But remote work doesn’t have to be a daunting task—it can actually drive innovation and growth in your organization. Here are five ways you can make it happen.
Start off slow.
Removed from the typical work structure, not everyone has the industrious spirit needed to jumpstart and organize their own day. While some personalities instantly flourish in remote environments, others find it challenging to navigate the newfound flexibility.
Shifting into a new workspace—especially your own home—can take time for some people. New distractions like family members, pets, or just a front-row seat to unfinished chores make it a challenge to maintain focus. How can you help work-from-home newbies learn the ropes of self-management?
Stack your team with proactive members that have experience maintaining productivity without supervision. To avoid overcooked micromanaging, you can split large teams or departments into smaller circles. Assign a productivity powerhouse to each circle and have these leaders check in on project status throughout the day or provide short bursts of motivation.
Coronavirus containment bestows new challenges on even your top performers. Keep in mind shuttered schools mean added disruptions from children. Elderly relatives might need an extra helping hand. Always be ready to answer questions from your team, and if possible, allow for more flexible work hours outside of your typical schedule.
Instead of long, drawn-out gatherings in the conference room, adopt regular yet quick virtual check-ins with your distributed workforce. This is the perfect time for your company to figure out which video or instant messaging app works best for you.
Bear in mind that not every team member operates identically. Some might prefer Slack or HipChat where they can fire off quick questions throughout the day. Another might appreciate a face-to-face Zoom or Google Hangout. Strike the right balance of communication styles for each team member.
Does your workflow require many levels of approval? Don’t let administrative back-and-forth consume the day. Workflow automation tools like ProcessMaker can make it easy to follow-up and make sure important steps are completed.
Once you get the hang of managing a remote workforce, it can be a great time to grow your team. Have a system that requires 24/7 oversight? Need a few extra team members to meet an important deadline? Expand your search radius. Adding new team members across time zones (and the world!) can send productivity skyrocketing.
Don’t forget to motivate your team.
So you’ve got a dream team of remote workers. It’s time to figure out how to keep everyone engaged. Pizza parties and happy hours kept spirits high in the office, but now what? Just because people are dispersed doesn’t mean you can’t bring them together.
Leverage your video conferencing tools for more than just meetings. Celebrate workplace successes and birthdays with a virtual happy hour. Host unstructured meetings over coffee just to check-in.
Once you’re able to get back in the ring, don’t forget to bring people together offline. If you’ve hired new remote workers in the region, host a special get together to officially welcome them to the team.
With a remote workforce, you need to double down on measuring employee output. Ask employees to provide an updated project status every few hours. Some services allow you to track time or snap time stamped screenshots throughout the day.
One unchecked pitfall of remote work: workers that do operate on independent auto-pilot can also quickly burn out. Their computer is always nearby so they’re eager to check just one more email or finish-up just one more project. Before you know it, your powerhouses of productivity are extinguished.
If you start seeing too many emails come in after midnight, take the time to check-in to make sure they’re not overdoing it. Rebalance responsibilities or implement an evening check-in to serve as a hard-stop bookend for their day. You’ll need your all-stars to help manage the rest of your team, so keep an eye on their mindset throughout the week.
While some companies cower in COVID fear, you can use this as an opportunity to sharpen your remote managerial tool set. With the right team players and the right productivity tools, you can make the best of these challenges to empower your company for future growth.