Keyboard and headphones

Working from home – one year on

Our 9 tips for managing remote teams.

Back in Spring 2020 the Global Pandemic COVID-19 arrived in the UK and changed our working routines. Remote working and working from home (WFH) became the new normal. With enforced remote working and WFH, many businesses were struggling to adapt to traditional face to face management in this new ‘world’.

One year on, I am hoping that these tips for managing remote teams will help you reflect on where you are with your team, and any future plans you have for your team to continue working remotely.

What happens if you are not prepared?

Enforced remote working or WFH could happen at any time, business can be interrupted, or a forced site closure can arise so even before COVID-19, your business should have been prepared.

Failing to plan for the management of a remote working team will impact significantly on productivity, team efficiency and profit.

If this failure leads to unhappy clients, it will impact on all these areas. Quickly. Plus, you risk damaging your brand and reputation which can have longer term financial consequences.

It should be business as usual.

There are lots of business benefits of integrating remote working into your organisation.
When you do not restrict a fixed location your talent pool widens meaning you can hire the very best employees.

It also gives you the chance to increase diversity when you employ team members from different locations and backgrounds.

Offering employees, a flexible remote working option, either at home or from a local co-working space closer to their home will help reduce your business and staff carbon footprint, help staff reduce their commuting costs and potentially your business overheads.

Various studies and surveys suggest that when the team have the option to work remotely, they have an improved work-life balance, this can increase productivity and overall well-being which will impact positively on output and ultimately save money in staff absence.

Working-At-Home even after Covid-19

Increased demand for work-from-home from employees

The demand for flexibility in where and how people work has been building for decades. Before the crisis, surveys repeated showed 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time.

Over a third would take a pay cut in exchange for the option. While the experience of working at home during the crisis may not have been ideal as whole families sheltered in place, it will give people a taste of what could be.

Reduced fear about work-from-home among managers and executives

One of the biggest holdbacks of remote work is trust, managers simply do not trust their people to work untethered. They are used to managing by counting butts-in-seats, rather than by results. That is not managing, that is baby-sitting.

What is more, seeing the back of someone’s head tells a manager nothing about whether that person is actually working. Micromanagement does not work and neither does “managing by walking around” in this global, mobile world. If people are forced to work at home for an extended period, as it appears, they will be, managers will have to learn that it is results that matter.

Research also shows that managers who have worked at home themselves are more likely to endorse it for others. Their worries about lost productivity go away. As they and their people get used to using virtual tools, their worries about not being able to collaborate are proven wrong. And they see for themselves, just how much happier and engaged they are without the stress of commuting, being away from loved ones, workplace interruptions, etc.

Here are #9 easy tips for successfully managing remote teams – with no micromanagement in sight.

Integrating a good remote working model allows business flexibility, cost efficiencies, increased access to a good talent pool, a motivated and engaged team leading to increased productivity and profitability.

  • Start as you mean to go on with robust recruitment and on-boarding. 

New jobs can be scary, if you are not physically in the same location as colleagues even more so. Getting the process right, setting the tone for the future is vital to help the employee feel motivated, excited to work for you and start to build trust. Check with them at the end of each day, support them with questions they might have during their first few weeks.

  • Explore online tools, including instant chat functions and virtual meeting technologies.

There are numerous tools including Zoom, MS Teams etc the team need to have informal and formal conversations with you and their colleagues. Keep chat functions to informal conversations, never steer into dangerous territory of formal or even disciplinary conversations on a chat tool.

  • Set clear deadlines, goals, and targets. 

Break them down into manageable sizes, follow up either the beginning or the end of the day or week. Do not leave long gaps between contact and discussing these. Make sure you talk through what has been achieved and agree any actions if they have not.

  • Hold regular 1 to 1’s.

This allows you to connect with your team, check how they are doing with projects, day to day work and build a rapport. Keep 1:1’s regular and consistent, commit to them in your calendar.

Unlike a regular face to face team, there are no opportunities for a remote team to drop in impromptu in your office. Therefore, this consistency is important to stay up to date on what the remote team are working on and build trust. Where possible these sessions should be virtual video calls such as Zoom, MS Teams or any other chosen video resource.

  • Be mindful of hours and time zones. 

If you have a remote team that work different hours, or across time zones, be mindful and respectful of the teams working hours.

Do not schedule meetings outside of the working hours. Find a time when the team hours overlap with you and make the arrangements. If you bring the whole team together and take turns in who can join the meetings. Do not consistently exclude team members.

If you send messages, instructions or set tasks outside of the team core working hours it is important that you are clear that you do not expect a response until their working hours start. It is stressful if they think you expect them to respond in their own time.

Be clear about expected working and response times, this can help with this issue.

  • Hold virtual team meetings.

Enabling teams to feel included is important, especially if some are not remote. It is important to create a sense of belonging and community.

  • Do not manage by email.

Trying to manage projects and tasks over email leads to a sense of Inbox overload, this is unhealthy for business and individuals. Choose a tool like Trello, Basecamp, or MS Teams that you and your team use to gain clarity on next steps, expectations, deadlines, and ownership of tasks and action. Moving your project to a tracking tool can avoid email overload, clutter, confusion and provide a clear visual representation of the project.

  • Set up a buddy system.

Get staff speaking either on the telephone or in a virtual meet up space to help them support each other. Encourage relationship building, identify colleagues that are happy to support them and provide feedback.

  • Encourage a routine for work. 

Sitting in their PJ’s all day is not motivational or good for mental health. Set time for lunch and breaks. Ensure you have provided your teams with the right resources and equipment to work remotely.

If you would like to discuss how remote working can be implemented in your business, please get in touch.

Tracy-Anne Barker @ TA Barker Associates

Are an outsourced Training and Consultancy Business with over 30 years of experience in the Construction, Retail, Recruitment, Charity, Public Sector, Training, Education, Supply Chain, Overseas Trading and Hospitality industries. 

Founded by Tracy-Anne Barker, they have extensive experience in managing the three P’s (3P’s) – People, Productivity and Profitability.

They provide ambitious and growing companies with experts who partner with you to build long term relationships, deliver practical and strategic solutions for your business, personalised to suit you.

These include coaching and training for your team, management and consultancy support.

Previously published Spring 2020, updated February 2021

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