When the COVID-19 crisis hit, businesses worldwide suddenly shifted to remote operations, many for the first time. For a lot of companies, remote work is now here to stay. If you haven’t managed a remote workforce before, you may feel isolated and overwhelmed, and unsure how to be most effective. Here are some tips for managing from a distance.
Set Clear Guidelines
This may be a new adventure for your employees as well, and they are looking to you for guidance. Be sure to provide clear guidance regarding your expectations, priorities, and goals. Talk about working hours and make it clear whether employees should respond to after-hours communications. Also, explain the importance of maintaining work-life balance and provide tips for mentally “clocking out” at the end of the day.
Though guidelines are important, so is flexibility. Employees may be dealing with kids and spouses at home, caring for ill family members, or simply be over stressed. Allow flexible hours as much as possible. Focus on milestones rather than micromanaging day to day tasks. It’s also helpful to limit the number of meetings and keep them as short as possible.
Focus on Communication and Collaboration
Make yourself available to your employees for questions and concerns (while still modeling a healthy work-life balance). Collaborate with your team to decide which communication channels are used and how often to meet as a group. Check-in with your employees individually every day or two, but keep it light and friendly and encourage them to provide feedback. Send out group texts or emails to notify the team of important deadlines or changes, but avoid information overload. Practice active listening, and be sure to act on feedback.
Help your team develop connections with you and with each other. Consider keeping a running workflow document to which all team members can contribute, and decide together on guidelines for one on one communications. Also, consider providing a virtual water cooler: start a chat channel or open a forum for off-topic conversations.
Make Time to Celebrate
Just because you’re not in the office, there is no reason not to celebrate. When your team hits an important milestone or a team member has a birthday, set up a virtual celebration! If a much-anticipated event such as a work retreat is canceled, find a way to take it online instead. Everyone will feel happier, better connected, and somewhat more “normal” if you stick to as many traditions as possible.
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