In response to recent Covid-19 uncertainties, thousands of managers now find themselves working from home for the first time. For many, this change happened quickly with little time to prepare employees, and no opportunity to establish clear remote-working policies. This unexpected and significantly different way of working can also add substantial stress to an already challenging situation.
To help you find your feet, manage your team successfully, and ensure you keep your spirits up, we have put together some of our top tips……
The absence of face to face communication is often one of the key reasons employees initially struggle to work remotely. Managers tend to worry that employees will be less productive, and employees feel they have little or no support in getting their work done.
During the first few weeks of remote working, we strongly recommend a daily ten-minute call with direct reports. This should be in addition to formal work/task related calls, and act as more of a ‘check-in’ to allow for quick updates and resolve any remote working issues. Team calls are ok, but if possible, this works best if the call is one to one. It’s a great way to initiate the working day and ensure everyone is set-up for success.
Once working remotely becomes more established, this daily update could be moved to a weekly activity – the most important thing is that the calls are regular.
As a manager, you are responsible for keeping your team connected. With this in mind, emails are not always the best way to communicate – and can add a great deal of time and effort in locating information from co-workers. This can result in frustration and seriously impact productivity. Where possible, provide your employees with as many technology options as possible. Video conferencing works well and can help to reduce the feeling of social isolation, visual cues also ensure that communication is not misinterpreted.
During meetings, it is also helpful to regularly check understanding by asking employees if they agree or if they have anything to add. This maintains focus and confirms everyone is on the same page.
For quick responses and information sharing, look at options such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Office 360 SharePoint and WebEx. These work well when employees need swift access to information. There are several inexpensive (and free) options on the market, and your IT team will be able to advise what works well in terms of data security etc. However, the tech itself is less important than making sure everyone understands how and what they should use.
Employees who are accustomed to working remotely will typically have a designated work area and appropriate child care. However, a sudden transition to remote working will likely mean setting up shop in a less ideal environment, often involving parenting responsibilities.
“To avoid additional employee stress, managers should appreciate that distractions will be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition, take a relaxed approach if employees are interrupted during meetings, and if necessary, remind them you are aware this is a new situation for everyone”, added John Marx, Director at Halliday Marx.
Trust your team. Give them the flexibility they need to get the work done.
Establish a routine as quickly as possible. Employees will work more productively when they have set-expectations and structure in their working day. Schedule key meetings, and agree the rules of engagement regarding communication methods, updates and work sharing. Ensure everyone understands how work should be documented, and make sure your team know how you would like to be contacted, and the best time to catch you. Perhaps you could agree to make yourself more available during certain times?
Andy Halliday, Director at Halliday Marx added, “Employees feel more comfortable if you formally indicate how communication should take place, this will prevent them sitting on potential issues that could otherwise be resolved quickly”.
Setting-up an online shared calendar is also a great idea so that employees know when you are available and which meetings are taking place. Make sure everyone respects the schedules and don’t contact teams out of hours.
Offer regular encouragement and emotional support. This can be through simple actions such as taking the time at the beginning a of a call to ask how employees are doing; did they have a good weekend? How are their family doing? Acknowledging stress and listening to concerns will really help to further reduce feelings of isolation. Make sure you are genuine and listen carefully to responses. Employees are not necessarily looking for answers, just some reassurance that it is ok to feel uncertain.
Encourage the team by letting them know you are happy with how they are handling their work, and that you feel confident everyone is transitioning successfully.
An unexpected and swift transition to remote working can feel overwhelming. However, executing clear, regular communication, outlining expectations and allowing appropriate flexibility, will soon result in an engaged team who are able to collaborate effectively.
If you need any other advice or help about remote working please do get in touch with us.
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