Managing Remote Teams
The arrival of Covid-19 on our shores has radically changed the way we live our daily lives including the way that we work. Many employees around the country are being asked to work from home and for many, this is the first time they are doing so for a prolonged period of time. For many managers this also the first time they have had to manage a fully remote working team, which can be a difficult task.
It is difficult to pretend that it is ‘business as usual’, but for Auxilion, we are business with hundreds of employees and clients who rely on us for several services. We need to ensure we are doing everything we can to continue to deliver great customer service during this difficult time.
Luckily, we in Auxilion we practice what we preach and many of team already work remotely. Our team were fully equipped to work from home securely, with full business continuity.
We use a Microsoft suite of hardware and software to ensure our team members are available to our clients when needed most. There was no hesitation in offering the team the option to work remotely, ensuring they could look after their health and the health of their families. One of the core applications we use to stay in touch with our staff is Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams is a central hub for collaboration and helps to bring everything together in a shared workspace, allowing our staff to stay in contact with their teams. There are free options, but the premium Office 365 subscription is a full-service collaboration and communication suite for Windows users. With Teams, you can make video and VOIP calls within Teams, direct and group message other users, and share work from other Office 365 apps, such as PowerPoint and Excel. If you have Teams already, we have put together some training videos on our website which you can view here.
With the current situation we find ourselves in and the many new remote workers, we hope the following might be helpful for those of you looking to manage a team remotely. Our sister company, I.T. Alliance Resourcing Services features a useful list of productivity tips which you might wish to share with your team.
“Measure the success of your team by the output of work they produce rather than hours they spend on a particular project”
So how do you manage a remote team?
Staff are used to getting a greeting from their colleagues when they enter the workplace in the morning. With all the technologies we have this greeting doesn’t have to change. For many employees this morning greeting may now be seen as an opportunity to let management know that they are sitting at their new desk, ready to work in the morning but it also gives them a sense of recognition.
Some of our staff are not used to working from home and this greeting is just a way to be recognised by their manager. A good manager will respond, perhaps make a comment about the weather. A great manager, however, will go a step further, asking a more detailed follow up question like ‘how was your evening?’
The part of working from home that may be difficult for many is the social aspect. Working remotely deprives employees of the small talk at the water cooler or in the canteen. Nowadays this small talk over the likes of Microsoft Teams can be even more important with the growing anxiety that is undoubtedly stirring in the air.
As a manager, asking deeper questions shows you care and if you do not feel authentic via text, why not hop on a video call or pick up the phone?
Transparency and Communication
When your team is working remotely, you should make it clear what communications channels should be used to communicate with team members. E.g. Microsoft Teams for chat and meetings. This will give your team members a clear understanding of how communication should take place and reduce confusion.
When working remotely, it can be difficult to get a handle on what is going on in the other parts of the business. Without those quick chats as you pass someone in the hall from a different department, your employees do not have the chance to share information about company wins across the Group or request for help on a particular account.
This lack of knowledge share makes it tougher for your employees to offer their assistance and ideas. As a manager, it is worth making the time for regular catch-ups with your team. Leave the agenda loose, start with non-work topics and go from there. Perhaps open the floor to the wider team and invite a representative from another part of the business to get an update from them. For example, in Auxilion our teams have a morning catch up meeting that allows the team to voice any concerns that they may have and get updates. It also a good idea to have a quick call with managers from other departments to ensure there is cross-communication and then feed this information back into your team.
Set Clear Expectations
When working remotely, all employees have the same fear of ‘will my manager think I’m slacking’ and will I have an embarrassing moment on a video call? Here at Auxilion we believe the key to avoiding employees slacking off is to set clear expectations.
At Auxilion we have plenty of experience in project management and remote management of our staff. Regardless of ability, technology or seniority, it is all about setting expectations. Setting clear objectives gives everyone on the team an understanding of what is expected. As a manager, it is your responsibility to first plan the goals and then what the expectations are based on these goals. This might include:
- Response time and availability to emails and calls.
- Communicating and tracking progress against set tasks.
As employees are now working remotely, there should be a slight expectation for interruptions and background noise during a call. Microsoft Teams has some solutions; number one being the mute button and two is a solution for the background, which allows employees to blur the background so as not to distract others on the call.
It is a good idea to recognise the great work within your team publicly. This is what tools such as Yammer and Teams are great for. Posting updates of the great work a team member has carried out or “thank you” message across a group chat / channel is a great way to boost morale, increase transparency and boost productivity as those who see it may strive to get the appreciation their colleague received.
Most importantly, reassure your team that it is not the amount of time you spend at your desk but the amount of work you do there. When working remotely, it is not about trusting that your team are seated in their new workspace staring at their screens. It is about trusting your team to get their goals accomplished and caring about the work they do.
As manager your job is to empower and trust – the rest is up to your team.
But how do you measure success?
As a manager of a team that is remote working, you may need to change your style and measure the success of your team by the output of work they produce rather than hours they spend on a particular project. This empowers your team to focus on the task at hand, rather than watching the clock.
It is also important to understand what leads your team members to be most productive. If someone needs uninterrupted blocks in which to do their work, help keep that time free from meetings by suggesting your team book out space in their calendar when they are likely to be at their most productive
Group Thinking and Brainstorming
While your team are now likely spread across the country, you should not forget the importance of bringing the team together through a Microsoft Teams call to have a brainstorming session. This session should be used to help you and your team members overcome any problems that they are having and to share any tips and tricks they have learned which may help as your team begin to get used to working outside of the office.
Gathering your team together to solve a problem ensures the full team feels part of something. The problem may look insurmountable to an individual but with a group of people to give their thoughts, it is 100% resolvable.
You might think it is difficult to bring your team together online for a brainstorming session due to the lack of whiteboard and markers however this can easily be overcome. With Teams and SharePoint you can simply use an online Word document or a shared OneNote that all team members can access. You could also take this a step further and use Microsoft Whiteboard.
A helpful resource that you might like to take advantage of is LinkedIn’s free online course which covers remote working and will aid you and your team.