Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered!
With the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re witnessing multiple changes in our everyday lives: many countries have banned public gatherings with more than 10 people, it has become more difficult than ever to find hand sanitizers in our local supermarkets and many offices have been closed, forcing people to work from home.
Remote may sound great, sure, but we all need to be aware of the fact that working remotely is a double-edged sword: it can be harder to focus on actually working!
The isolation can quickly become a downer for those used to socializing at work. And some people, of course, would prefer to stay in the office: we know, if you’re not used to, staying productive at home can take a little extra effort.
Also importantly how to stay balanced and mentally happy throughout such uncertain times is even more important
So, generally, you should sit up straight at a newly created deskspace, eat some breakfast, and put on some pants. Keeping a disciplined structure and routine is super important!
But first things first, working remotely with teams who have never worked remotely before?!
Let’s check on some useful tips here:
Structure for success
If you’re a communications manager, the likelihood of you be able to work collaboratively with ALL your teams is very low. You may have thousands of dispersed employees, and as great as digital tools now are it is still impossible.
So instead, ensure you’re immediate regional teams or team managers are aligned with the quarterly and monthly goals and are fully apprised of the communication best practices throughout this challenging period. Set your schedule around not only your own tasks but also theirs, to assure the teams which they manage are sufficiently productive and engaged throughout remote working. You could itemise your days in this way, for instance by creating a 10 point alignment checklist and holding a single video-call to run through your ‘need to knows’ with all your managers.
Keeping this cohesive structure will ensure the wider network continues to work well.
Establish daily check-ins:
Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees. This could take the form of a series of one-on-one calls if your employees work more independently from each other, or a team call, if their work is highly collaborative. The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you and that their concerns and questions will be heard.
Provide different communication options:
I’m afraid these days emails are just not enough! Remote workers benefit from having a “richer” technology, such as video conferencing, which gives for smaller groups many advantages: visual cues allow for increased “mutual knowledge” about coworkers and also help reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it feels more personal than written or audio-only communication.
Along with this, quick collaboration is vital here. For these situations, provide mobile-enabled individual messaging functionality (like Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) which can be used for simpler, less formal conversations, as well as time-sensitive communication.
When creating a virtual working environment, remember to set out an etiquette of use: ultimately, it all comes down to simple thoughtfulness and thoroughness. Keep the channels of communication open with coworkers and management, while staying engaged on a social level. Production metrics should be aligned with your job function, and you and your manager should be able to easily determine where you stand at all times.
Establish “rules of engagement”:
Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams: employees should always know the best way and time to reach their managers during the workday!
These “rules of engagement” should be established with employees as soon as possible, ideally during the first online check-in meeting. While some choices about specific expectations may be better than others, the most important factor is that all employees share the same set of expectations for communication
Don’t be afraid to be prescriptive until your teams find their rhythm here, what contravenes your policies? what would you like your teams to definitely not be partaking in whilst they’re working from home. Set it out for them in the early stages; sure a whole lot is common sense but it’s far better for guidance to be transparent than ambiguous in such uncertain circumstances
Provide opportunities for remote social interaction: One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office.
Leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work items, implement some kind of “videoconferencing” party for a weeknight (i.e.: Pizza party!), or create a specific channel on your internal comms chat for fun-only content. While these types of events may sound artificial or forced, experienced managers of remote workers report that virtual events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging.
Offer encouragement and emotional support: Especially in the context of an abrupt shift to remote work, it is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles. If a new remote employee is clearly struggling but not communicating stress or anxiety, ask them how they’re doing. Even a general question such as “How is this remote work situation working out for you so far?” can elicit important information that you might not otherwise hear! Let the employee’s stress or concerns (rather than your own) be the focus of this conversation. With this support, employees are more likely to take up the challenge with a sense of purpose and focus!
To all the managers out there, remember: you’ve got this!!!