Much of the world had already been working remotely before the COVID lockdown. But some more than others. So despite there being a precedent, our new setup has thrown a curveball to those who manage teams. Places like Zapier have clearly figured it all out. For all those who haven’t though, here’s a rundown of challenges you’ll face when managing a remote team and how to tackle them.
Remote work risks loneliness with employees going from out of sight to out of mind. A Zogby Analytics study, workers reporting a lack of information and slow responses as the biggest WFH challenges. Collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams combat this at a group level. One on one check-ins via Teams’ video chat are a great way to maintain morale and clarity; namely on project scope and KPIs. For complex procedures, having them documented and saved to cloud storage can ensure teams are on the same page. To aid this, Microsoft Teams’ record &transcribing ability on video calls can also be quite the blessing. Generally, a good principle to live by is trying to communicate as if you were in the office together. Possibly by asking that your team remain online and responsive during defined work hours.
Maintaining company culture
In the real world, company culture forms organically. If you’ve hired well, employees will share a happy hour or watercooler chat easily. A specific concerted effort must be made to keep this up remotely. Virtual events such as movie nights and quizzes can help maintain the fun. Or virtual hangout rooms can help create an open and collaborative culture.
The beds and the T.V can be a threat to anyone’s productivity. Children at home can add another complication. Although not always possible, one quick fix can be to ensure employees have a dedicated workroom and adequate childcare. Beyond that different approaches will work for different teams. Frequent, daily group huddles may increase accountability. And using time tracking tools like Harvest could be equally effective. WFH makes it easy for the workaholics to neglect a work/life balance. So enforcing boundaries by clearly stating when a workday ends can help pre-empt burnout. As mentioned earlier, regular communication can help keep tabs on these individuals.
Remote work isn’t going anywhere. Looking beyond management, companies need to be hiring with WFH in mind. Hiring employees that don’t need explicit tasks to get working is a good start. More attention should be given to hiring employees strong writing ability. They don’t have to write like Hemmingway. Just the right combination of clear, detailed, and concise to minimise communication issues.