The thing about the “work from home revolution”, kindly brought to us by the kind folks at Covid-19 HQ, is that even though we’ve now learned how to run our lives and our jobs from home, the one thing that was thrust on us more than anything else and without any prior warning, was the skill necessary to manage these new remote teams.
Even the most accomplished managers had to learn “on the job” to ensure that staff continually met deliverables and KPIs in the remote working world; there were some pleasant surprises that came with this unexpected scene, however, (turns out you can trust most of your employees to work from home). Nevertheless, now that something of the storm has passed, we’ve learned a lot about remote working and how to effectively manage small working teams while still being – the team leader.
Communication is, and always will be, king
It was important before, it’s vital now, and it will be critical in the future. Still, now that you don’t have the benefit of just popping down to the 5th floor or rolling your chair across the office, you have to make sure that your team still enjoys freeflow of information and that that information is appropriately shared between all team members and you as the manager.
One potential pitfall that has come to the fore over this period is that information has been shared with incorrect team members or team members who didn’t have to be a party to specific communication flows. So it is more important than ever when managing work from home or remote teams that all communication is adequately maintained, tracked and managed.
Set, maintain and manage expectations
Remember the days when you could just have your teams gather in conference room “B” for a quick team huddle? Well, technically, you can still do that. Working from home hasn’t completely abolished the office, and now that everyone is returning to real life, you can still summon your teams to weekly meetings at what was once HQ. Face to face meetings are still important, and now you have the added responsibility of checking in with your teams to ensure that they’re coping, that their mental health is OK and that they can still fulfil the remits of their KPI’s and job descriptions in this new setting.
Remember that not everyone is cut out for independent work; some people need the interaction that comes with working in a team environment. So, these team members must be identified and supported as much as possible, lest they get left behind.
But, even if your office is one of those that shut down office-based work completely, you can still arrange for team meetings at a central location coffee shop, hotdesking conference centre or, if you have the space – your home. Though for the last part to work, you’d need a small, close-knit team.
If you don’t inspect it, don’t expect it
You can run with this statement in just about scenario when it comes to managing your teams, but certainly now. It means, in essence, that you must never, ever, ever, assume anything. That was good advice in the past, and it’s only gaining more currency now. Ensure that your reporting channels have been modified accordingly and make double-sure that your teams are trained in the correct use of technology and that they’re comfortable asking for help when or if they need it.
Speaking of technology
Use all of the tools in your box to achieve the common goal. By now, everyone knows how to use Zoom, Teams or Skype and probably at least another half a dozen or so networking tools, but do your team know how to use them to their fullest capabilities? Do they know how to “screen share” and make documents “editable”? Are they comfortable working in the “Cloud” environment, and have they been trained to share large files across many users?
How do you solve all of that? Conduct a skills audit and then tailor your training demands accordingly.
Schedule your daily calls, and keep them
If you’re the direct line manager or supervisor, then schedule daily calls with your team members and make sure that they know not to schedule meetings or calls over that time, and the same goes for you. Keep that call. Consistency is king, and in an environment where some of your people may yet be feeling left out or distant this one daily call creates a vital line. If you’re the department head, then schedule this daily call with all of your managers, and once a week call with each of your staff followed up with a group video conference, once a week or bi-monthly as it makes sense for your company.
It is exciting and in many respects is revealing what we’ve always known: staff are necessary, offices – not so much. This new world order is already showing reduced congestion times in major city centres, and this can only be a good thing.
But with everything that’s going on around you, just remember to keep the “home fires” burning and make sure that your office space is well taken care of while you decide what to do with it, you know, check if your windows need Glass Polishing and that your photocopiers are, for now, turned onto standby.