March 2020 – it’s a new reality. True, the art of managing a team that isn’t sitting together in one office isn’t exactly new – in fact, things have been headed in this digital direction for several years already. Many companies let their employees work from home at least part time, intercontinental meetings take place digitally without the need to fly anywhere and everyone has already heard the term “digital nomad.” Still, not everyone is there yet, and this drastic change requires that you adapt.
Are you already managing a team remotely? Great, you’re probably used to it. But what about everyone who has been used to simply lifting their heads and yelling across the room, “David, I need that report to be ready on my desk by 2 p.m.?” This article is for you. We’ve collected a few tips and highlights to help you manage your team remotely and make sure that the show goes on as if you were sitting right next to each other (well, at least 2 meters apart).
- Don’t panic
Yes, we already said it, but we’re happy to repeat it: don’t panic. All the tools you need already exist. Technology makes it easy and some people have already been doing it for years… all that’s really needed is a shift in perspective and making sure you stick to a few important things. And you know what? There’s a reason it’s been working well for so many people already. Who knows, maybe at the end of this crisis you’ll even find yourself adopting some of these new tools on a regular basis in the future.
- Regular contact – in the right amount
Where do you fall on the scale between not speaking to your employees for days at a time and checking on them every half hour to make sure they’re working? As in every situation, extremism isn’t good. If you’ve found yourself either extreme of this scale, we recommend you start finding your way to the center.
Schedule specific times for personal and team updates with your employees and put it on your calendar so it’s clear to everyone exactly what time they need to be available and what the topic of the meeting will be – exactly like regular meetings.
Some notes for these meetings:
- Their frequency should be decided based on the business and the kind of work being done. Sometimes one meeting per week is enough, but in other cases a few minutes each day might be the right choice.
- It’s recommended to conduct meetings on platforms that allow video calls (like ZOOM or MEET).
- If you do choose to go for video calls, remind your employees that they should be fully dressed and presenting themselves in an acceptable manner, not sprawled out on the couch in pyjamas.
- Establish the topic of the meeting ahead of time and what each employee needs to bring to the meeting (a general update, the status of a particular task, whether they expect to meet a deadline or not etc.).
- Set tasks, deadlines and measurable goals
Maybe you do this on a regular basis anyway, but it’s especially important when managing an entire team working from home. When people work from home, it’s very easy to get up and start the washing machine in the middle of the day or to watch an episode of your favorite show after lunch. So, what can you do to avoid this? Well, we aren’t entirely sure you should be avoiding it.
What you do need is to set your employees clear tasks with deadlines and measurable goals that you can follow. This way you won’t need to constantly worry about whether or not your employees are being tempted by the benefits (or chores) that come with working at home.
As long as your employees are completing their work well and on time, there’s no problem. Even better, because everyone knows they can take some time to nap when they finish their tasks for the day, they’re likely to be far more efficient and effective, completing tasks far quicker than they used to.
All of this will allow you to learn a few things about your business, make things more efficient and make changes in each employee’s workload accordingly.
This tip is basically a direct followup from the previous one. Set specific hours when everyone needs to be available. This may be an entire work day or a specific hour here or there, according to the kind of work you’re doing. Also establish how they need to be available. By telephone? Email? Messages?
It’s true that we expect our employees to be available during all hours of the work day, but let’s try to adapt our perspective to the current situation and internalize the fact that working from home is fundamentally different from working in an office, even while we still have enough tools at our disposal to make sure work gets done well and on time.
- Maintain a friendly team atmosphere
Did you know that people don’t only go to work every morning for the sake of personal fulfillment or to put bread on the table, but also to have some social interaction with other people? That’s always important, now more than ever as people are stuck at home for extended periods of time and start to feel lonely and distant (absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?).
Find a way to let your team maintain their social interactions remotely. We have a few suggestions for you, but this is of course an open list (feel free to send us other suggestions so we can add them to this article):
- Hold a weekly 15-30 minute video chat purely for social purposes. Let everyone talk for a few minutes about what they did that week, how they’re getting along and generally just let the conversation flow.
- Open a WhatsApp group or Slack channel for your team just for everyone to have fun. Send each other funny memes, encourage everyone to tell funny stories, share links to interesting articles or other relevant material and keep up a positive atmosphere.
- Did you used to go out for lunch together? Make plans to have virtual lunch together once a week. You can make it even more fun by doing something like having each person send someone else lunch and surprise each other with what they get.
- Pen and paper – OUT; task organization platforms – IN
Ok, not completely OUT, but whether you work with virtual task organizers on a daily basis or not, it’s definitely worth it now.
There are now lots of systems available that help you manage tasks virtually. Think of it as a kind of elaborate to-do list that includes everyone’s tasks, updates for each one and important links relevant to every task all in one place. Why is this good for you?
- Stay up to date: It allows you to follow the work done by your entire team without calling them all the time to ask what’s happening. Just head into your task board and see what each person is working on at any given moment.
- Communication: Most of these systems include an internal chat function, allowing your team members to communicate with one another, collaborating, asking question and giving ideas on projects that require input from more than one person.
- Accessibility and order: Everything is written down in one organized place, information is saved rather than lost and everything is visible to your entire team from anywhere in the world.
Example platforms (free or paid):
If none of these work for you, just ask Google for suggestions by searching “project management tool” and choose an alternative that works for your team.
- The solutions exist, you just have to look for them
Of course, every business is different and has different needs. This article obviously can’t cover all the solutions in existence to work from home, but just the main points. Have you found yourself in a situation that requires you to find a creative solution? We promise that someone has already done it. The solution exists and is just waiting to be discovered by you.
Here are a few ways and suggestions to find creative solutions:
- Ask your friends on social media if they have already encountered a similar situation and how they solved it.
- Join some relevant Facebook groups. There are so many communities of people that have been working from home for years already and know all the solutions. Ask for their help and knowledge.
- Ask Google. Google is smart and knows everything.
The bottom line is that managing a team that’s sitting at home and not next to you in the office is a completely doable task. In fact, it’s no sweat at all for someone like you! All that’s required is that you broaden your mind to new tools, adopt a few rules to follow and get used to this new normal, at least until all this is over.
כותבת המאמר: נועם שירמן, מנהלת צוות Streetwise.