Leading Your Suddenly Remote Workforce

With Stay at Home mandates being implemented across the country, many organizations are transitioning a portion of their employees to remote work. While this is old hat for some, many are finding themselves managing remote employees for the first time. Leading remote teams is a bit different than onsite teams, so we’d like to offer a few suggestions to help with this transition.

Make Sure Each Person Has the Tools They Need to Succeed

The tools for success will vary for each person, but there are some standard tools that will make this much easier. Those include access to a time keeping system that allows hourly employees to punch in/out through a web portal or mobile app (such as Attendance on Demand), a standard communication platform (Microsoft Teams or Slack); Project Coordination tools (Trello, Monday, or Asana), and access to shared company documents (Google docs or SharePoint). Many organizations already software tools have these in place, and they will prove invaluable in your transition to remote.

In addition to software, your employees will need clear guidance from you, especially if they are new to remote work. One of the challenges for these newly remote employees is the loss of structure. Everything about the environment they are used to is gone, from the physical environment to the comradery, to the built-in accountability that being in the office provides. Remote work can be very productive, but it takes intention and adjustment on the part of the remote worker. Seasoned remote professionals are publishing good articles on effectively working remotely right now. One particularly helpful piece was written by our friends at Boileau Communications. Sharing practical information like this with your newly remote workers can help set them up for success.

Establish a Communication Rhythm

Another challenge of remote work is the lack of interaction with colleagues that is built into the onsite environment. This separation is especially pronounced during this time of social distancing and quarantine. So it is critical to establish a communication rhythm with your team, both as a group and individually. Your structured meetings, such as your One-on-Ones, Team Huddles, and All-Hands Meetings, became much more critical the minute you sent your team home to work. With our team being out of sight, it is very easy for those to get lost in the shuffle. But your team needs those times of contact and realignment now more than ever.

In addition to your formal connection times, it might be good to add some informal times to connect. Consider adding a regular time for people to get together without an agenda, just to talk, laugh and have some fun. Use one of your communication tools for a Virtual Watercooler or a Remote Happy Hour. Be creative. Find something that works for your team and keep them connected.

Use Video as Much as Possible

With all of this talk about connection, it is important to recognize that virtual connection is not the same as in person connection. While in the office, we might lean heavily on messaging, email or phone for communication. When working remotely, there is incredible value in using video as much as possible. It is as close to in-person as you can get. I know, some people don’t like to use video, but the benefits largely outweigh the discomfort. First, it adds a level of personalization and connection that you cannot achieve through other means. Second, there is greater engagement and accountability when you know everyone can see what you are doing. And finally, being able to see body language and facial expressions elevates your communication in a way that email and messaging cannot.

Take Time for Personal Connection

One thing that has become clear over the past several days is that this situation will not be resolved in a matter of days. This is our new normal for at least the next several weeks. Your team is no doubt experiencing some stress over this situation. They will likely start to go stir crazy before long. Feelings of detachment and loneliness can creep in and impact them, not just as employees but as human beings. This need for personal connection is going to be paramount moving forward. While we are concerned about aligning our teams on the work that needs to be done and the deadlines that need to be met, it will be important to carve out time for personal connection as well as business discussions. Take time to check in and see how your people are coping and how their families are doing. Make room for laughter and lightheartedness.

Pay Attention To Your Culture

Even though your physical environment has changed, your values and culture don’t have to. Talk openly with your team about the challenges this creates. For instance, you might ask your team: “What about our culture and values is most at risk, or is going to be the most difficult to live out during this time?” And “What can we do to overcome that challenge?” You may be required to change the way you do business, but you don’t have to change who you are! Don’t shy away from this. Talk about it. Be honest about the ways it will challenge your organization and take steps to reinforce your culture.

This shift to working from home will definitely create some new challenges for your team. Being intentional, staying flexible and practicing patience will help us lead them through this transition in a positive way.

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