Published: 15 April 2020

Managing a remote team is never an easy task…

Throw in the added challenge of having to manage remotely and you’ll find yourself in the same position that most managers across the globe are currently facing. For some remote management is not a new thing but for others Coronavirus has brought with it an unexpected need to learn a new management skill. Here are a few pointers that for the lesser experienced “remote” managers amongst you that may just help in the current climate.

1 – Don’t be afraid to ride the Video wave

It’s time to put that video-phobia behind you. If you’re not comfortable being the front side of the camera, the chances are you soon will be. Video technology is the communication tool of choice for remote management, a must-have piece of technology. There is no doubt that video has proven to be a more effective, more engaging communication tool than voice calls alone. Of course, video technology is no stranger to the recruitment industry and the choice at our fingertips is amazing. The key player I seem to hear mentioned more often than any is Zoom but there are plenty of technology companies offering similar platforms.  The great thing about many of these platforms is they are relatively inexpensive, in some cases free, which is course great news if budgets are tight at these times.

2 – Communicate frequently and set clear expectations 

It's fine to lean towards over communication rather than not enough, especially in the early days. Set clear, concise goals and define expectations to help your team gain a better understanding of what’s expected of them. Do be cautious here though, you don’t want to over complicate matters, use these short communications effectively. Having spoken with many line managers during the last few weeks it seems a “Daily huddle” type chat of no more than 20 mins per team (team size dependent) seems to work well. Treat it as a kind of daily chat over a coffee, setting team and individual goals for the day, conversations to set everyone off on the right foot. Additional meetings, specific to relevant subject matters should be set in addition to these daily huddles. A key point to mention here is to ensure you celebrate success in these daily huddles.

3 – Always keep your Cyber-door open to your remote team

Not all conversations are suited to an open group video chat. Just as you wouldn’t share every conversation with individuals across the office floor, neither should you on the cyber chat. It’s good practice to factor in various one-to-one style communications with team members. In every team, some people would be less vocal than others, but of course, this doesn’t mean their contribution is any less a valid one. Keep an awareness that some individuals would prefer to voice a contribution on a one to one basis and ensure your team know your door is always open. I know of many clients who have been holding an open video hour each day. Every employee is sent an invite and can drop in and out to pose questions as they require.

4 – Working from home doesn’t have to mean working a 12-hour day

Don’t expect your team to be logged in 24/7 just because they are now at home. Respect that they have a home life too and that setting any expectation on them to communicate or conduct work outside the hours of what they would regularly is not a good practice.  At the same time, it’s worth noting that some employees will have different work schedules for others. Some work better in the mornings than afternoons and try and be a little flexible to appreciate this.  Hold team meetings at mutually respectful times, don’t assume a 4.30 pm meeting will suit all, we are all after all learning to cope with very different home life as well as work-life at present.

5 – Encourage your team to buddy up and work in pairs/groups

Just as many of your team will work in conjunction with each other in the workplace, this should be strongly encouraged whilst working remotely too. Encouraging your team to pair up on certain tasks/projects can help with any of the negative effects often seen with isolation too. Having a cyber-buddy can give your team members a real feeling of engagement and lift their motivation to know they are not alone in this and a great sense of achievements in being able to continue to drive goals.

7 – Be mindful of overloading the team with too many tools.

Remember with remote management, sometimes less is best. In an office scenario, if you want to explain something you can just nip across to someone’s desk to discuss it.  Working remotely presents a new set of challenges. For many of your team, adjusting to the new “home” working is presenting a big enough challenge itself. Be cautious you don't overburden them with a whole new set of tools to have to learn to use. Remember, work-life as we knew it will return to normal in time, try to keep as much regularity to the daily processes as possible to ensure a seamless transition back in time.

8– It doesn’t have to be all work, work, work. Remote management should be creative and fun

The most productive environments I have worked in are those where employees have fun along the way. In recent weeks, I’ve been hearing of all sorts of creative ideas from teams holding Pub-style quizzes through to Online-Bingo sessions. Check out a great bingo platform that raises donations for the amazing NHS staff offered by video technology company Odro. Positive remote management is about ensuring that during these times of self-isolation that no one on your team feels isolated. It’s important to ensure you are maximising on all forms of engagement to continue to promote the “team” bond.

It's been great to hear some of the creative ideas clients have been implementing during the last few weeks. If you would like to discuss any of these, I will be happy to share, just drop me a call. On a final note, it's worth giving a little thought to the longer-term picture during these times. I've worked in the recruitment sector for almost 2 decades now, flexible and remote working has become an increasingly important tool when it comes to attracting the best talent to your team. If there is one positive thing to come out of the current enforced “home-working” regime, it will hopefully be that employers come to realise that offering their teams the option of remote working can be a positive thing.