2020 has been a lesson in how to build an effective remote team, and almost all industries have been impacted. As Forbes predicted even before the pandemic: “Remote work is no longer a privilege. It’s become the standard operating mode…” Remote teams are the new normal, and as leaders we must be ready for the obstacles this presents.
One of the biggest challenges of the COVID-19 crisis has been maintaining healthy, high performing teams that keep your company moving forward. As your team’s work and personal lives are impacted by the global pandemic, how can you create an adaptive environment that embraces this new normal? What ways can you keep your team’s momentum moving forward, both during and after a crisis? Below are some expert tips to keep your remote team on track in the months ahead.
1. Make time for check-ins
Having a team with different experience levels requires ongoing monitoring and feedback to avoid roadblocks. Setting up a daily, virtual check-in meeting will help everyone stay on track. Find the balance between micromanaging and showing your team you care, so that you can offer the needed support for each team member’s success. Remote teams may decide to check-in at the start and end of every day (such as 9am and 5pm), but this should be customised to your team’s needs.
2. Communicate clearly
As a manager, communication has never been more important. Transparency can increase trust. Sometimes the hardest things to say are actually the kindest. As Brene Brown reminds us, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Don’t be afraid to name the elephants in the room. Your high performing team will thank you for your honesty and appreciate that you are someone who can tackle the hard issues and build a path forward, no matter the obstacle.
When you have an individual meeting with your staff, find out what they need. Ask questions about what work atmosphere can allow them to best perform. Discuss workflows and benchmarks for productivity. Take time to understand their emotional needs as well. Having these types of intentional conversations can help build a relationship where team members feel both supported and accountable.
Tip: Consider the seniority of your staff and adjust your involvement to maximise their autonomy. For example, a senior level staff may feel comfortable working independently on a project all week. Meanwhile, a junior level staff may need more supervision and require setting up smaller milestones that allow time for feedback and directions as needed. Get to know your team members, so you can support their needs
During your daily team meetings, keep the team’s goals in perspective. Throwing too many tasks in the air at once can paralyse your team members. Instead, focus on what is most important as well as timely. Instead of anyone getting overwhelmed, they can each create an action-oriented timeline and complete the most important tasks first
5. Make time to socialise
One of the toughest parts of remote teams is the lack of physical hangouts. Set aside a weekly time for team building or simply chatting. This could be a virtual lunch or coffee break – just some time for people to talk about topics other than work. Socialising builds team morale and gives everyone a needed break, so they can return to their responsibilities energised and ready to get things accomplished. Some team members may live alone, so sharing time together will also help them feel less isolated.
6. Be supportive
Crises like COVID-19 create an atmosphere of uncertainty that can inhibit productivity. As your team’s leader, your support is critical to maintaining their healthy energy and efficiency. Anxiety is sometimes higher than normal when things are not concrete, but your leadership can create a sense of calm by providing structure and a guiding voice of reason. Let them know you care and are ready to listen to any concerns that pop up.
7. Encourage self-care
Last but certainly not least is the need for every member of your team to take care of themselves. Read a book, watch a movie, cook a fun meal! During COVID-19, some people have had to completely change their routines and may be lacking social activities and outside community (relying mostly on video calls for human interaction). Give reminders that sleep, exercise, and other non-work activities at home are important and help the body and mind stay calibrated. Mental and physical health should remain a top priority for your team, especially during this unprecedented time where people have been on lockdown in their homes.
As we move to the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis, we must prepare for whatever curveballs may affect our team moving forward. Even when COVID-19 is gone, the economic impacts will be felt for a while. Smart leaders will be working out how to lead a high performing remote team, so that when the future looks different to the past we remember, you can come out of the crisis with a healthy, high performing team.
Transformed Teams can support your team to become an effective remote team. Find out about our Remote Team Master Plan.