The Australian Industry Group recently reported that “TIME magazine believes that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) may just have triggered the biggest ‘work from home experiment’ that the world has ever seen.” Organizations like WHO and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (DCP) are also requiring many companies to use social containment or social distancing, and this means “work from home,” has fast become the norm. And while some say that it is ideal to be able to telecommute, upon beginning to work in this way they quickly change their minds.
Why? Because it is not as easy as many believe to conduct business in isolation. This is especially true for managers who are tasked with the oversight of teams of employees. After all, how can you easily check in with a team or group, pass on information, get updates, conduct effective meetings, and report back to management when stuck at home?
As that report from AIG asked as much, saying that the pandemic has “brought some urgency to the work from home (WFH) discussion.”
The upside of the outbreak is that we can now, globally, appreciate what some describe as the “gig economy.” This is the enormous segment of the workforce already used to telecommuting, working remotely, and utilising technological advancements to get their daily work completed. Without their heavy use of technologies like work apps (think SLACK and Trello), cloud technologies, and even their nudging of globalisation, the instant shift into remote workforces would have been nearly impossible.
Leading Your Remote Team
So, how do you use the existing technologies to keep remote workers productive, communicative, and effectively engaged? It takes some effort, but is best done with the following steps:
Let Your Teams Know You Trust Them
Do you trust your teams to do their work while they are stuck at home? They are also wondering the same thing. Be sure you let them see that they have your full trust. Do this by not double-checking everything or micromanaging until it becomes obvious that someone is not living up to your expectations.
In line with entrusting your teams is clarifying expectations each day. A great way to do this is to do a morning conference that outlines the day’s priorities, what you expect done throughout the day (i.e. milestones), and when you want updates. Do a midday or late day briefing to see the status and ensure that everyone is on the same page even when out of sight.
Also in line with such steps is the need to set some basic rules for everyone to follow. For example, what are the working hours each day? What is the method of contact to be used by the team? What is the deadline for responses to communications like phone calls or instant messages? Will calendars be shared?
Most importantly, what sort of technologies are to be used? It will be a fruitless effort if only a few members of a team have access to the preferred tech, apps, and so on. Be sure that everyone has the tools they need to succeed in the new approach to work.
Never assume the basics. For example, does the entire team have the ability to connect to high-speed internet, to access the portals used, work comfortably and so on.
Focusing on long-term goals, as well as daily tasks, and working as if it is business as usual will help your teams to do their jobs effectively. Yet, there is a lot ahead for those who manage remote teams, but it can be a far easier endeavour when the tips provided are put to use in advance of your first days in the work from home scenario.