Many of us are now working out of the office and separated from each other for the first time. As a leader, this can present particular challenges, as you try to maintain ‘business as usual’, hit your targets and keep your team focused and engaged.
We’ve pulled together some practical and positive tips that can help you to lead a remote team through uncertain times:
We’re fortunate enough to have a multitude of technologies at our disposal to be productive away from the office. However, perhaps the hardest challenge is the lack of human interaction between your team. Indeed, social isolation in general is going to prove potentially problematic as coronavirus measures come into effect.
Whilst email and instant messaging are direct, be wary of relying too heavily on text-based communication. Video remains the most effective way to replace human interaction during this period. As such, consider daily scheduled video calls and, if it’s appropriate, it helps to ask your team to switch their cameras on for each call. It’s easy to dial in using voice only, but we need the visual cues that video calls provide. We can gauge others’ mood, see when they want to ask a question or make a comment more easily and feel more connected.
These regular team catch-ups offer the best opportunity for keeping team belonging high. Some of your team may have been working from home for a while and know the ropes; others may need some time to get used to the new normal. Allow people the space to make it work for them and encourage the team to support each other. Those who are more confident and experienced at working from home can share their hints and tips.
Be flexible and expect some distractions
As people retreat to their homes, with their families around them, there has never been more of a need for flexible hours. There are going to be distractions for those who now have to work with their children around them and may have the added complication of home-schooling to contend with.
If it’s possible to allow your team to work earlier or later in the day, offer them the opportunity. As long as they are able to achieve their goals, give them the autonomy to be able to manage their own time. Set clear goals and demonstrate that you trust them to work it out.
Reinforce purpose and values
Now more than ever people need direction and clarity on the way forward. Reinforce your organisation’s purpose and values so they have something to get behind. Use this as a way to focus people on clearly defined objectives. Some priorities may need to change as circumstances alter, but if you are clear on what’s important and why it will avoid confusion and more uncertainty.
Create a ‘safe space’ for team wellbeing
With a global pandemic taking place against a backdrop of 24-hour news cycles, there seems to be no escape from the crisis. Whilst we try hard to ensure that we can operate ‘business as usual’, let’s remember that it isn’t ‘life as usual’. Things are changing every day, and these changes trigger anxiety for a great many people.
It’s important to acknowledge concerns that the team may have. Make your team a ‘safe space’ where people can show vulnerability and where empathy is championed. Model this from the top down and your team will respond with the same behaviours. You could end meetings with a question on how the team are feeling, answering first by highlighting the worries you have.
As well as checking in with the team as a group, make time to reach out to individuals to see how they are doing. Also, think about setting up a buddy system so people have someone else to check in with. Encourage people to have informal catch ups outside your formal team meetings, even if that’s just meeting up to share a virtual coffee.
Leading a remote team through this crisis is a unique scenario and we are all learning as we go along. However, in many ways, this experience could prove a defining moment for many teams and they can come out stronger as a result.