Managing Your Team Remotely

The move from offices and familiar supported working environment to working from home was swift and left little time to adapt. The home office, kitchen table or spare room may now be your new place of work, whilst you double up as a school teacher. We have lost instant access to managers and co-workers. Gone has the chat at the coffee machine and the chatter when returning from a meeting, with its instant answers, information streams, feedback and informal coaching. Manager distancing can have the effect of frustrating employees and stalling work, increasing anxiety and stress.

Managers are finding it difficult too, as employees try to reach their manager, managers are attempting to remain connected to their direct reports, whilst still trying to get direction from their own boss. Currently a manager’s biggest challenge is how to stay connected with each team member to maintain team morale and motivation, helping them to reduce their stress, run engaged meetings as well as track and communicate progress.

Coping strategies

Stay connected – instead of asking direct reports to contact you, message or call them at least once a day, you may not have a specific agenda but just checking to see if they need anything from you, or have specific questions. This will help keep your finger on the pulse of the team and also help those team members who are hesitant to reach out during a crisis.

Hold online short availability meetings – As a manager you make dozens a decisions daily which are communicated to your direct reports through a host of informal chats and not necessarily requiring a formal meeting. You could trying setting aside an hour a day when you are available on an online video conferencing app when team members can speak privately to you for 10 to 15 minutes.

Provide some stability – As we face unpredictability, constant change and uncertainty, it’s important to provide some predictability and structure through some daily routines, an early morning online coffee team meeting to discuss overnight developments and establish the course for the day. It’s important as a manager you foster a sense of connection as your team may feel threatened leading to anxiety, stress and reduced productivity.
Setting boundaries – it’s important to set clear boundaries as increasing your availability as a manager may have a negative effect both on yourself and members of your team, some may not welcome frequent connection as they deal with their new situation and the emotions that delivers. It will be important to establish who needs space to make connection when it’s required. You will also need to make your team aware which times you are not available for little chats.

Stay ahead of the game – as the rules of engagement have changed, invite your team to come to you with problems even if they don’t yet have a workable solution. In the current world this may help calm troubled waters before serious problems develop. You will be able to work on solutions together and design a way forward to tackle the challenge.
Important feedback – the subtleties of nonverbal communication are lost in remote working, peoples need for recognition and some good news is exacerbated in difficult times. Be quick to provide positive feedback and praise each day if possible to help smooth the discomfort of the disruption. It is also important to provide corrective feedback before shortfalls begin to aggravate your problem pile. Everyone is working hard and wants to feel appreciated in these very difficult and uncertain times a good manager will keep their team engaged and motivated ready for when the times comes to head back to the office.

© IT Leaders