With so many employees working remotely during this COVID-19 Pandemic and very little certainty about how long this will last, many clients have been asking for best practices around remote work and leading teams remotely. Here are a few key tips to help your teams stay effective in the current global climate:
1. PROVIDE EXTRA CLARITY
a. Assume that distractions will be increased on virtual conference calls and meetings. Keep slides simple and stay focused on your key takeaways for each call. Repeat the key takeaways often and concisely, with the aid of a simple, memorable visual. While teams may have more worry on their minds right now and be distracted during calls, staying engaged and present during a meeting can be a welcome mental break.
b. Outline the expectations for working remotely. Do not assume that every employee is aligned with your management expectations for remote work. Clearly outline the non-negotiables as well as the areas where creativity and flexibility would be welcomed. (i.e. if you expect availability during certain hours, an email or phone call response time, etc state that clearly. If you are comfortable with certain benchmarks being hit by set deadlines but are flexible as to when and how those are completed, so long as they are completed, say so.) Consider encouraging extra time for self-care and mental health, as these are major factors for our health and ability to prevent long and short term illness.
2. ALIGN THE TEAM ON THE SHARED PURPOSE AND GOALS DURING THIS REMOTE WORK TIME
a. Kick off the next few weeks of remote work with a brief virtual team meeting to address the following:
i. Take a pulse on the general feeling of the group about the situation globally as well as the change in work environment. Helping employees feel heard and connect over shared concerns and support will go a long way in creating an open remote team environment. This way, team members can feel safe to bring forward their challenges and any personal stress which may be impacting their work life due to the pandemic, minimizing opportunities for silent dissent.
ii. Restate and reclaim the mission and goals, using language that aligns with the values of the team and inspires resilience. Often this doesn’t require a lot of rehearsed rhetoric, but rather, honest and direct communication about the WHY and acknowledgement of the real-life challenges that will exist along the way can help to inspire trust and renewed momentum.
iii. Clearly outline the performance metrics and expectations if they are different as a result of working remotely. Again, provide as much clarity as possible about how employees’ work will be reported and measured objectively in the new remote work environment. Don’t assume that your employees will know that you want results emailed to you on Fridays or in real time, etc. Taking the time to clearly define and communicate the expectations for remote work will provide your teams with much-appreciated certainty during a time of an incredible amount of global uncertainty, potentially reducing worry and anxiety, and any negative impacts on the quality of work as a result of those.
3. USE VIDEO ON REMOTE CONFERENCE CALLS AND MEETINGS
This may be a no brainer for those using Zoom or Webex technology regularly. But for those not using the technology often or at all, it can feel a bit challenging at first. Being able to see each other during remote calls will help foster a sense of connection vs calls without video. Allow extra time and instruction to make sure team members fully understand the video, share screen, and chat functions to optimize communication during these newly remote meetings. A great meeting structure and content can easily be negated by technical difficulties if the host isn’t prepared to fully engage each employee virtually or troubleshoot questions/issues about features of the online conference call platform. Minimizing any additional areas of uncertainty, lack of clarity, or stress should be key right now.
Connection and purpose are key ingredients for well-being and productivity. Let’s all make sure we find alternative ways to connect and support each other, even if that can’t be in person for the time being. And the hugs and handshakes will be that much better when we all return!