As the Coronavirus spreads, your business may be struggling to move to a work-from-home format.
You may also find yourself struggling to answer new questions, such as:
- How do I make my team members feel supported?
- How do I streamline communication?
- What if important details fall through the cracks?
Learning how to manage a remote team and transition your operations to the web-only is a major change that requires intentionality and diligence.
There are many advantages to virtual work, but it also presents new challenges that affect workplace culture, performance and morale.
Here are 6 best practices for leading a remote team, staying organized, and helping your people feel connected (even if they are working in isolation):
1. Centralize Communication
As a business owner, it’s important to decide right away how you will communicate with your remote team and how they should communicate with each other.
Without large staff meetings, or quick pop-ins to somebody’s office, how will you disseminate information?
Digital communication is hard to get right. Factor in the myriad modes of communication — email, Slack, text message, phone call, video message, etc. — and it’s downright overwhelming.
Our best advice is to pick two to three channels, and communicate your expectations around them.
For example, use Slack for all internal communication and Zoom for virtual meetings.
Advise that email be used with clients and third-party vendors only, and that all employees be available for phone calls in case of an emergency.
Discourage intra-office texting unless it is an emergency.
After years of leading and advising virtual teams, we developed the “Two-Strike” rule, which says that if something requires more than two emails or Slack messages to get your point across, hop on the phone or conduct a Zoom meeting.
Being consistent with the channels you use keeps operations organized and creates a process for your team to follow.
2. Communicate Expectations
Working from home may be a brand new experience for you and your team members.
To reduce confusion and increase team performance, communicate your expectations early and often to keep everybody on the same page.
Remember, your business’ vision, values, rules of conduct and culture all still apply to remote work.
Make sure your team knows this, and knows how to translate your expectations online.
If any business practices do not translate into the remote space, clarify those processes and communicate any new expectations with your team.
Here are some questions to consider:
Do you expect your team to “show up” online the same way they would in an office? Do they need to be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or usual business hours., or are they allowed to time-shift and work as they are available?
What are your expectations with response rates with customers and clients? Should messages be responded to within 24 hours, or longer to account for any roadblocks?
If a team member receives a message after hours, are they required to respond? How should your team reach out to you or others in the event of an emergency?
Are team members required to attend virtual meetings in business attire and in an appropriate environment? Or can they work in casual clothes from their couch or Starbucks, rather than a home office?
With that in mind…
3. Maintain Structure, but Allow Flexibility
One of the biggest advantages of remote work is your ability to be productive, but also flexible.
During this time of mass closures and quarantine, kids are home. Schools are closed. You may be trying to keep things business-as-usual, but this is not business as usual.
Many of your team members are likely juggling work and childcare.
As a Leader, your job now more than ever is to encourage, support and equip your team.
Their routine is as disrupted as yours. You need to make allowances where possible so they can prioritize their family’s wellbeing and health, while still able to get their job done.
This may mean drafting a Coronavirus-specific policy that outlines any new mandates about sick days, paid-time off or company expectations.
Remember that many parents at home are likely working alongside their child doing eLearning. They may not have their typical response rate, or may not be able to work until evening or very early morning hours.
Now is a time to be a comforting support and resource to your team that is likely feeling stressed.
4. Prioritize Team Building
As nice as it is to not sit in traffic and lose precious time in a commute, working from home is lonely.
Many people function best when they are surrounded by others clicking on their keyboards and getting things done. But remote work does not provide that kind of environment.
During this time of transition, it’s extremely important to prioritize team building.
Let’s be honest. Your team is stressed right now (to put it lightly). They may even be suffering, or know somebody who is. They are watching the news a lot and are glued to their email and phone for updates from schools and local businesses.
Fear and isolation are not a good combination.
How are you combating their fear and loneliness as a leader?
You may not be able to get together in-person for a while, but you can create a Slack channel dedicated to “high fives” to share when someone on the team does something exceptional. Or a “watercooler” channel where you can shoot the breeze.
You can even invite your team to participate in Coronavirus bingo (it’s a thing) during a Zoom meeting. Or agree to eat lunch together even if it’s over video chat.
If budget allows, you might also consider offering your team members a small work-from-home stipend so they can decorate or furnish their home office.
The goal is to help your people feel empowered and connected during a time that is frenzied and fear-based.
5. Keep the Vision
Remote workers not only feel isolated when they work from home, they often lose sight of how they, or their work, contributes to the bigger picture.
Everybody wants to feel like they are contributing to something important.
As you transition your office to web-only, be mindful that your team may need more feedback or praise on work.
This small acknowledgement of hard work and extra effort goes a long way to a team member who hasn’t seen you or fellow team members in-person for weeks or months.
Keep the vision before your team’s eyes continuously. An easy way to do this is to review quarterly or yearly goals at weekly staff meetings.
Review your vision and values and invite your team to ask questions if the water gets murky with more news of the pandemic.
6. Lean Into Your Stabilizing Force
A common challenge remote workers face is knowing what other members of the team are working on.
If you haven’t implemented one already, invest in project management.
This can come from a dedicated project manager, an Executive Assistant, or an online project management system like Trello or Asana.
In times of uncertainty, it’s important to find stability and things you can control.
Project management systems keep important details organized and team members accountable to hard and soft deadlines.
For you as the leader, leaning into stability may mean calling on your EA more often to record meeting minutes, reschedule appointments, manage an ever-changing calendar and field questions from team members, customers or clients.
Your primary responsibility during this time of upheaval is to provide vision, hope, encouragement and structure.
Leverage the support of your EA to make sure important details don’t fall through the cracks…and to make sure YOU are being served during this time, as well.
For more free resources visit http://priorityva.com/remotesuccess/
If you’re interested in learning about what an Executive Assistant can do for your business, schedule a strategy call with us.
Our virtual team experts will help you determine how your business can benefit from our Priority Executive Assistants.