Working from home is nothing new for the minority. Yet, in 2020, in response to the coronavirus, it became something new for the majority. This is the new reality for many workplaces — whether they like it or not. Keeping remote teams productive became the new leadership priority. And it has challenged many established modes of management thinking.
To help you get the most out of your team, we’re going to run down the main areas to focus on. We’re going to give you some insights to maximise productivity. We’re going to summarise the boundaries and responsibilities of both managers and employees in this new work world where both geographic spread and digital nearness are increased.
1. Team communication and project management tools
Project management tools are essential for keeping employees on target and connected. The channels and platforms you use will depend on both managerial and team member needs. There will be a diversity of ways this is done – embrace it! Don’t try to force everyone into the same modes.
The right mode for a certain communication is a function of how the recipient needs to receive the information. For some, it will be a video conference; for others, it will be seeing items checked off on a shared checklist.
You may find some team members really need public deadlines, while others are able to work through their tasks largely unmonitored. It’s just like a physical office where some people want to chat, while others prefer written messages.
In sum, project management and communications channels and platforms are tools, not resources. That is, they can only make a team more productive if it’s already managed well.
2. Keeping operations humming when the tune changes
Ideally, you’d have the tools and flexibility in place before a remote working situation is thrust upon your “business as usual”. However, coronavirus showed many were unprepared. When your organisation must move to work-from-home reactively, there are still on-the-fly things you can do that’ll have long-term benefits.
For example, simple “how do I do this?” questions between officemates are often easily and efficiently resolved through scooting chairs over and doing an impromptu demo. A remote team can’t engage in this “tacit learning”. This gap in ad hoc, yet case specific, training catches out many newly “remote” organisations.
To tackle this, we suggest creating a learning resource to answer every routine question. Make this easily accessible to your team. So, the next time you hear “how do I do this?”, that’s your trigger to create a step-by-step guide or training demo.
Make it easy for your team to search for and find the resources, otherwise you risk turning a knowledge capture problem into a knowledge management one.
3. Remember the humanity behind the technology
A manager’s role goes well beyond keeping projects on track, it also involves being a nurturing and supportive leader. Effective actions can be as small as bringing everyone together for a daily digital huddle or having a “good morning” meme that goes out each day.
Create a little fun in your workday
Don’t be afraid to encourage (or instigate) funny emails and messages that can get shared around on the appropriate communications channels – usually the office chat system. If it feels like “time wasting”, try seeing it rather as an operating cost of morale.
Create remote social events
Understanding the different personalities in your team will help guide the right morale-building efforts. For example, during the initial coronavirus lockdown, our Cymax team had virtual social drinks. It was well received and may work for your team.
Add a personal touch where you can
Showing you care can even be in little touches (these often work with clients too). If you’re physically separated, there is no reason you cannot get coffee or lunch delivered to an office or home of your colleagues/clients so that you can “share” a meal or cuppa during a videoconference.
There are so many innovative ways to reach out and show care. Technology makes care and connection possible, but it takes intention, soft skills and creative thinking to get the best from it.
Working from home employee/employer responsibilities.
When working remotely, you’re still working. Employees must understand this – and it can take some self-discipline. Yet, as a manager, you must remember that you’re not trying to catch your people out. Any undercurrent of distrust will be sensed and staff won’t react in a way that suits anyone’s KPIs.
To help, here are a few basic responsibilities for both managers and employees to remember:
Remote doesn’t mean distant
Change isn’t a bad thing, but it often upsets the applecart. With the remote work thrust upon so many, the best advice might be to roll with it. Set up the right support network, training resources and technologies. Even as remote work presents new challenges, these assets usually forge stronger and more effective teams – regardless of whether you stay remote or switch back to in-house as yet more change comes.
To learn more about the technological aspects of adapting to remote work, get in contact with Cymax.