With social distancing strongly advised to combat the spread of COVID-19, many companies have transitioned to fully remote operations for the first time. As someone who has managed teams both in-office and remotely for over eight years, I know first-hand that a new work environment requires modifications to your management style. It’s critical for managers to anticipate potential challenges as teams adjust to the absence of face-to-face communication and implement new practices accordingly. Here are three ways to ensure that your newly remote team stays productive, engaged, and successful.
1. Stay collaborative with the right technology.
A common challenge associated with remote work is the loss of in-person collaboration. While your team may not be able to congregate in a conference room for a brainstorm session, certain digital tools can make it easier to maintain a collaborative workflow. Consider video conferencing as a way to retain a sense of human connection and encourage an engaging discussion. Zoom even offers a whiteboard feature to track contributions and next steps.
Virtual tools can also empower your team to stay connected on deliverables from wherever they are. A great example of this is Quip, which Salesforce is now offering for free. Quip has been especially valuable for the Fonteva marketing team, providing a convenient way to manage key details around upcoming initiatives in one unified location. Slack is another useful tool for encouraging an organized workflow. By designating channels for specific initiatives, your team can stay equipped with a shared view of progress and eliminate the risk of losing important updates in an email chain.
With the global pandemic leading many businesses to reassess their strategies and develop creative alternatives, efficient collaboration has become more important than ever. By embracing innovative technology, your team can stay just as strategic through the screen.
2. Set clear expectations and prioritize outcomes.
Successful remote work requires several operational adjustments, and that includes the way you manage your staff. Since it’s no longer possible to pop over to a team member’s work area and give direction or request a status update, it’s especially important for managers to set clear objectives and desired outcomes when assigning tasks.
By scheduling more regular check-in calls, managers can gain visibility into where projects stand and identify any necessary shifts in prioritization. The Fonteva marketing team has adopted this output-focused strategy, with daily calls centered around these three items:
- 1-2 projects accomplished yesterday
- Any blockers for in-progress projects
- Top priority for the day
While challenges are inevitable when navigating a new work environment, this results-driven approach will ensure that your team stays focused on the big picture.
3. Encourage ongoing, open communication.
To help your staff successfully acclimate to a virtual workspace, offer tips for developing a solid routine and creating the “workspace feel” at home. Since teleworking can also blur the lines between work and down time, encourage your staff to set boundaries for themselves.
Shannon Zdanowicz, Senior Solution Consultant and full-time remote employee at Fonteva, suggests creating a schedule with intentional breaks. This can include a short walk or a quick call with a friend. “Set an alarm to make sure you end your day,” says Zdanowicz. “Otherwise, it’s too easy to keep working late into the evening.”
On the flip side, reiterate that your “door” is always open to chat about concerns. “Some team members may not have ideal working conditions at home,” notes Rebecca Achurch, association technology thought leader and an active member of the Fonteva customer community, in her recent eBook. “It’s important as a manager to understand their obstacles and opportunities so you can see how to support them.”