Leading engaged and productive teams while working remotely
As the coronavirus rages on and most countries enter their third month of social distancing, working from home – that once luxurious break from the daily commute – has now become the norm. While remote work was already relatively common in many industries, not every company or job role was prepared for the sudden transition to a fully remote workforce.
Having the right tech tools in place for your now-remote team is essential, but you also need a plan for keeping everyone engaged and focused while working remotely. Most families are now quarantined in their homes together, so employees are now facing more distractions than there might normally be. On top of that, your team may be feeling anxious about their health and safety, so it’s important for employers to be mindful of how those fears may impact productivity in the coming weeks and months.
We’ve put together the most important five things leaders can do to ensure their teams remain engaged and remain productive while working remotely:
1. Divide work into super small, trackable goals
Creating small, trackable goals are good practice for general team productivity, but it becomes even more critical when you don’t get to collaborate in person. Get the leads together to identify your high and medium level goals. Then empower each team member to take on goals and expand each one down to a list of small tasks. All goals and tasks should be recorded in a place accessible by the whole team. Setting small goals are helpful in two ways. First, they clearly show what the team is working on, eliminating ambiguity between distributed team members. Second, they help the team recognize their accomplishments if they have multiple things to check off daily.
2. Schedule regular meetings
Because you no longer have the opportunity for a quick, friendly chat when you get into the office about what everyone is up to, regular ‘huddles’ help recreate this. Start each workday with a 20-15 minute ‘huddle’ where everyone gives a quick overview of their day ahead. This should include a list of tasks and goals they hope to accomplish for the week. You can also use this time for team updates and to check in on how everyone is feeling about working remotely. In addition to these daily huddles, it’s of course important to schedule one-on-one check ins with individual team members. These help to keep expectations aligned and ensure the momentum of team spirit is upheld.
3. Use collaborative technology and chat programs
While chat programs can be a major distraction, when it comes to remote workers, they are also hugely beneficial. Communications using chat programs such as Teams allow for faster and more casual conversations in-between than email and are also conducive to group discussions.
Whether you use Teams, Slack, Skype, Google Hangout, or any of the other communication programs out there, chat makes it easy to keep in touch with people in and out of the office and bridges the physical distance when working remotely. Collaborative technology such as Microsoft Sharepoint and Google Drive are also hugely beneficial as they provide a secure place to collaborate and store information and files which can be easily accessed while working remotely.
4. Use your webcam and get everyone on video
With everyone working remotely, there is a tendency for wardrobe standards to experience a significant drop off. Activewear and even pyjamas become the new work wardrobe as people really get into social distancing. This can have a negative impact on video meetings, with many people opting to switch off cameras.
For meetings to be a success however it is important for everyone to turn on their cameras so you can get that face-to-face focus and much-needed social interaction. And don’t worry too much about “background noise” from the family — it can be a good thing. As the now famous BBC interview where a professor explaining South Korean politics was gate crashed by his children showed, the odd child-related distraction can engender a sense of shared experience and provide some light entertainment.
5. Two-way communication while working remotely
The key to success as a fully remote team is consistent, transparent communication. It can mean the difference between your team feeling isolated and on the outer – or being fully engaged and productive. While working remotely, its crucial people are updated and that managers also seek out feedback. This is especially important as the coronavirus situation unfolds and changes. Leaders should ensure there are multiple ways to reach employees, including chat software, mobile applications and email.
If in doubt, it is always better to err on the side of overcommunication. Emotions are high right now and your team is going to take some time to adjust to this change. Set up an employee engagement survey to understand the general mood within your remote workforce. Upon receiving feedback, you can act accordingly.
In conclusion, the strange times we are all living through present a dizzying array of challenges for us all. But rest assured that as a business leader – and thanks to modern technology – you can keep your people engaged and productive while WFH. This global pandemic will likely even bring about lasting and positive changes that can help your team remain engaged and productive in the long run.