The current official advice to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic means that the scale and scope of the shift in working circumstances is unprecedented – companies from one employee to hundreds of thousands are having to move to remote working with little to no notice. Whether or not your organisation has a strong contingency plan to move teams to remote working, having to make the change at short notice can be a disruptive experience.
Many organisations have had to fundamentally change the way they operate for the foreseeable future. The first consideration is naturally technical – are your staff equipped to be able to work remotely. Once the logistics have been considered, the main focus for companies should be how to smoothly transition to business as usual, whilst maintaining efficient productivity. In light of this, we have put together some key considerations when managing remote teams:
ARRANGE REGULAR CHECK-INS
Just because you are not sitting a few feet from your team, does not mean they have disappeared entirely! There is a danger that without regular contact, employees start to feel less accountable, and leaders feel less in control. Regular check-ins help to keep teams feeling engaged and connected and avoid isolating your staff.
Don’t forget that these systems do not mean it has to be 100% business – team-wide happy hours or lunches can encourage teams to chat and interact socially and help keep teams feeling connected and supported. One-to-one coffee breaks can also provide employees to the chance to catch up with line managers and raise any challenges they are encountering.
PLAN YOUR MEETINGS AHEAD OF TIME
Allowing people to work remotely means allowing them to manage their own time. Generally speaking you cannot just pick up the phone at a moment’s notice. Be strategic in your meeting planning – these are valuable chances to get heads together, and should be used for decision making, rather than informal catch ups.
RESPECT WORKING HOURS
When the commute is only a few steps from the sofa or bed, it can be tempting to allow work time to leak outside of usual working hours and into evenings and weekends. Whilst to some bosses that might sound an ideal extension, it can be detrimental to productivity, not to mention the impact it can have on mental health. Therefore, it is important to set expectations with your team of when to be online and responsive, as well as when to log off for the day – don’t expect your staff to reply to your stream-of-consciousness emails sent at midnight!
Making sure staff are aware of contingency plans for any system outages or loss of connections will help instil confidence, and get teams prepared for any eventuality. As providers struggle to keep up with this sudden influx in traffic, there have already been several instances of overloaded systems and loss of coverage.
A paper-trail to follow makes understanding decisions and actions far easier, and allows visibility on progress for anyone who might need it, be it directly involved parties, or perhaps even updates for management or board level. Follow up on every call with written notes and actions, and allow multiple touchpoints of information.