As remote working continues to be the new normal for many organizations, leaders need to adjust old ways of managing and be more in-tune to the realities of overseeing a virtual team. Employers have had to pivot quickly and consider the future of their workplace culture and remote employees are often caught in the wake. Here are 5 critical skills for managing a remote team that will help your staff (and you!) thrive while navigating a new working culture:
As a global population, we are experiencing an unprecedented shared reality. We are all dealing with stress from multiple angles; family, financial, overall uncertainty, health concerns, to name just a few. When it comes to our staff, stress in the new workplace can take unexpected forms for different employees as well.
While one colleague may relish a quiet workspace, another may find the lack of spontaneous collaboration stifling. New technology could be source of anxiety for some employees, others may find it hard to focus in a less structured environment. There is no set roadmap for how we are all responding to the new stresses at hand.
Consider the very likely scenario that a number of people on your team have experienced recently: moving their “office” from the kitchen, to the bedroom, to the living room to find a quiet space to work (and a good wifi connection!).
Many offices went completely virtual in a matter of days leaving their staff unaided in quickly setting up their home offices. At first, this was a temporary solution, but as more companies and employees prolong their virtual work, this now may have become a distinct source of stress for many of your employees. Thankfully though, this is also one area where companies like Capella can step in to help. We specialize in evaluating the physical workspaces of your employees to help correct any deficiencies for your employees and alleviate this stress.
Ultimately the goal here is for your employees to feel seen. If you are tuned in to the stresses that are impeding their work, the solutions often become apparent.
Say thank you!
It seems simple, but showing your employees that they are valued and that you appreciate them is sadly all too uncommon in our modern working culture. During times of high stress, there is even less affirmation going around as we are all quite simply trying to keep our heads above water. Challenge yourself to make this a deliberate part of your leadership. Thank your team for their commitment and hard work during tough times, find opportunities to reinforce and celebrate them when they excel, and provide thoughtful council when they struggle. We all have a different currency in what makes us feel valued. Find out what makes your team feel appreciated and make a point to implement it consistently!
In just a few months this has become old news. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Instant Messenger, WebEx… the list goes on. Ways to engage and meet face to face while apart are the new status quo. But how effectively are you using these tools to stay connected? We often think about connection as only related to the work at hand, but when the spontaneous catch up and water cooler chat are, at least for now, on hiatus, how do we maintain both the professional and personal connections that make us love our jobs?
As leaders it can be difficult to find the right balance of formal meetings and more personal catch ups. There is no perfect science, but when in doubt, mix it up. Have set, recurring team huddles mixed with less formal check in calls. Try using video to “call” your team when you would have normally popped into their office for a quick chat; plan a Friday happy hour to reconnect as teammates and quite frankly, not talk about work! Finding ways to engage as a remote team is as much about the work at hand as it is about retaining the culture and personal connections that make us love our jobs. Do what feels authentic to you but be conscious that work is only part of the equation.
Set the right expectations
With the lines between work and home more muddled than ever, the boundaries and expectations you set for your team are also increasingly important. Pause to consider if how you work may add unintended expectations or stress for your team? Do you answer emails off-hours to catch up? Do you use phrases like “24/7” and “around the clock” with your leadership team or employees? Even when done with the best intentions or without knowingly doing so, your natural habits or commitment to your own work may add inadvertent stress to your team. Be clear about what your expectations are and communicate them proactively to your staff. If you are catching up on email over a weekend, do you expect a response before Monday? If not, make sure your team knows!
Find the right partners
There is only so much we can do within our core competencies to support our growing remote workforce and navigate our new liabilities as employers. So when the needs of your team fall outside of normal HR practices, bring in partners to fill in the gaps.
The first step is identifying those gaps. What challenges may be impeding our team’s productivity? Where are you exposed as an employer? We need to lean on the experts to help our employees get back to the work at hand, but also to protect ourselves as employers. Our work at Capella has been integral to this transition for many of our clients. We provide an innovated technology solution to remotely evaluate the work spaces of your employees’. More than just ticking a box, we offer in home consultation, training videos, and end to end support to get your employees working safely, and effectively in their new setting.
Organizations have experienced drastic change to their way of working, literally overnight during Covid-19. We’ve all responded quickly, put a band-aid on the day to day and for many of us, assumed we would be back to “normal” in a few weeks. Now that we realize that these changes will have a lasting effect on our workplace dynamic it’s important to take a step back and consider how we need to evolve as leaders as well. The needs of our employees, no matter where they work, and our responsibilities as employers have taken center stage. There is no set road map for how to navigate the lighting fast changes of the past several months, but with thoughtful consideration, we can be stronger leaders to a growing remote workforce.