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Leading from a Distance – How to Manage your Team Remotely

If there's one thing the Covid-19 global pandemic has taught business owners and executives, it's the need to put in place remote work policies.

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Adena Friedman, the CEO, NASDAQ, reflecting on the confusion caused by the novel Coronavirus disease, said, “It is a high-stress environment right now.”

Sundar Pichai, the CEO at Alphabet, notes, “It’s a miracle you can run a company this way,” while Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourca, quips, “It feels very strange.”

The disruption is epic.

Whereas a Harvard Business School study found that working from home increases productivity, not everyone can manage to work from the comfort of their living room.

It gets trickier if you’re a business executive faced with a sudden task of managing a remote team.

Sure, Bette Midler tells us you can find peace and harmony from a distance. But, at a time like this, you might struggle to assign duties in previously straightforward ways, such as dropping a file on someone’s desk.

You see, working from home means you can no longer conduct in-person brainstorm sessions. It’s challenging to stay connected to your team.

How will you keep things running smoothly… from a distance?

These six tidbits will help you keep your finger on the pulse.

Discuss and Review Expectations

As a manager, you want your team to succeed. Create time for a candid discussion about a work-from-home formula fit for your business model with your team.

Outline your expectations of each employee, possible challenges, and highlight opportunities. Identify the best tools for communication and project management.

When reviewing expectations, discuss how often team members will share updates. Establish a framework for meetings and check-ins as well.

On top of that, develop a practical strategy to encourage team culture, such as providing a monitored channel where employees can get help.

Once you have a plan in place, schedule a Q&A session to find out if your proposals sit well with the team. Be sure to follow up with employees and keep refining your strategy.

Communicate, but Don’t Overdo It

A survey by The Institute of Leadership & Management says 88% of remote workers struggle to maintain consistency of practice.

While it’s critical to over-communicate when working remotely, you should do so strategically. The last thing that you want to do at a time like this is to overwhelm your employees.

You don’t have to post on every communication channel. You can, for instance, consider a Google Hangouts direct message for a quick, one-off clarification. A team Google Hangouts channel is ideal if you want to ask a question that’ll benefit the entire time.

Video calling is excellent for a discussion that requires a detailed response while an email will come in handy if you want to recap conversations.

Keep your messages brief and direct to the point. Otherwise, your team will start to tune you out if your message isn’t profound or appropriate.

Remember, unclear or inadequate communication is of the biggest barriers to effective remote working.

The point is;

Identify the most appropriate communication approach that works for your team and execute it. Review and refine the strategy consistently to ensure your team continues to deliver results.

Set up a Dedicated Workstation

Working from home offers a raft of benefits. But, you can get distracted quickly. There’s Netflix, the urge to check what’s happening on social media, your spouse, kids, etc.

Let your team know the importance of having a designated work station.

A dedicated workspace features top on the list of work-from-home necessitates. It allows your employees to define the boundary between work and home life.

And, it doesn’t matter where the workstation is, whether, in your living room or a corner in your bedroom, the setup should allow maximum efficiency.

The ideal workspace should be quiet, with minimal or no foot traffic. Noise-canceling headphones can help keep distractions such as playing with your kids or watching your favorite sitcom on Hulu at bay.

Share a photo of your home office with your team to inspire them to take a cue from you.

Avoid the “Work in your Pajamas” Trap

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people are more productive when wearing “symbolic” clothes. Participating doctors, for instance, performed better while wearing lab coats.

It is, thus, essential to think beyond your pajama drawer when working remotely. You don’t want your team to remember you for wearing a Harley Quinn costume in that FaceTime meeting, do you?

Raise the bar. Dress up and encourage your employees to do so. After all, when you look your best, you feel your best!

Move your Regular Meetings Online

You have your designated workstation ready. You’re looking smart from head to toe. It’s time for your first remote video meeting with your squad.

Before “going live”, review your current meeting line-up. Determine the meetings to keep, do away with, or combine. Leverage your new routine and use it as a reason to re-evaluate your current meetings.

Start by writing down the purpose, key players, frequency, urgency, and duration of each meeting.

Cancel unnecessary meetings and notify attendees. Then, move all other meetings online. Share a flexible schedule with your team and update invites with call-in details.

A schedule of regular meetings allows you to set the stage for effective collaboration, dialogue, and check-in for your team. It also gives your employees the foundation to create their workweeks and meeting timetables.

Prioritize your Mental Health

Working from home can disrupt your organized mental division. It is easy to feel like you’re never off the job. As a team leader, there’s always the urge to “get one more thing done.”

Even as you seek to keep things running smoothly, it is essential to turn off and relax. This applies to your team, as well.

Encourage your employees to take regular breaks. Let your team members know their well-being is critical.

Yoga, meditation, an afternoon nap, a cup of tea, reading, or listening to a podcast are excellent options to help them reset.

Final Thoughts

These tips will come in handy if you’re having a hard time trying to manage your team remote in the light of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

One more thing;

As Henry James put is it, three things are essential in human life, the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

Indeed, you want to help your team navigate through this crisis, but don’t forget to be kind to yourself. These are trying times. Mistakes will happen. When they do, learn, pick up the pieces, and keep your organization or business moving forward.

This one, too, will come to pass!

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