The COVID-19 pandemic has forced workplaces the world over to adapt to a new standard of doing business: remote work. Many traditional centralized office environments may feel anxious about this new reality, but the good news is that there is a road map. Some tech companies have already embraced the flexible office—without sacrificing productivity. Here is some advice I have for managers who are finding themselves suddenly leading a remote team.
Set clear objectives.
Remote workers understandably tend to be more focused on results than on process, as that process is undergone solo. It’s therefore vital that these aimed for results are explicit and realistic. Don’t just provide an endgame for your team, give them meaningful and actionable direction. Put people on rails—when people have clear lanes, they have confidence that they will arrive at the ideal deliverables.
Double up team communication…
When you’re not physically with your team, communication becomes more important than ever. Small lapses in understanding that might be easily mitigated by chatting deskside can slip through the cracks when you’re not sharing a space with your colleagues, leading to pile-ups down the road. A rule of thumb I follow is to double the frequency of meetings you’d hold in a traditional office setting. If you had a weekly all-hands meeting, make it twice a week. If you used to measure the progress of a certain project once a month, start checking in every other week.
…and be proactive about establishing contact.
This exaggerated support should be mirrored on the individual level, as well. Ideal managers of remote employees might do a quick check-in twice daily to calibrate: Once in the morning to clear any obstacles that may crop up during the day, and once at the end of the business day to wrap up any loose ends and prepare for the upcoming workday.
Support from the top down and close calibration can’t be overemphasized. If your team is not accustomed to working remotely, they are likely to grow anxious about feeling heard. Reaching out to your reports—even if just for an informal chat—is a great way to ensure everyone feels recognized.
Have the right tools.
To achieve this abundance of communication, you need the right tools. There is an entire marketplace of technology designed to make remote work easier and more efficient, so it’s up to you and your team to choose the right tools for you. But broadly speaking, these tools need to be easy to use and to share with new users, easy to learn and adopt, and they need to integrate seamlessly with your other applications. Tools like Slack, Zoom, Teams, Aircall, HubSpot, and many others can make all the difference in keeping remote workplaces connected.
Hardware is also essential. Try to ensure your team members have the devices they need to be as productive in their home offices as they would be in a conventional shared office. (Personally, I need a monitor to get an accurate sense of all the concurrent projects I’m working on in a given moment.)
Embed informal time into workdays.
It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that you’re a team. Encourage informal “watercooler”-type conversations by hosting virtual lunch breaks or video conference happy hours. Not only do these extracurricular chats build rapport, thereby strengthening camaraderie and company culture, but some of the best, most innovative ideas are borne out of casual conversation with one another.