Tips and tools to help you manage your staff while they work remotely
As the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases continue to increase, and the availability of hand-sanitizer begins to decrease, worldwide people are being directed to remain isolated. For many businesses this unforeseen challenge could have far reaching consequences, however many companies are adapting fast and making the necessary changes to maintain their operations. With the amount of resources, tools and connectivity available today, it is much easier for teams to continue work-related activities as they would in the workplace.
Whether it be working in an office or working from home, communication remains one of the most essential parts of your team running effectively. Research has shown that effective lateral communication in a work group can lead to an overall improvement in company performance. It also has the ability to empower employees, increase job satisfaction and improve output.
With less time spent face-to-face, you have to ensure communication remains efficient throughout your team. Keep your processes simple and straightforward, delegate tasks clearly and develop a good system for your team to report back to you.
Effective communication also does not mean detailing every small task completed in a day, but rather making sure your team is working on the correct tasks, at the correct times in order to reach the common goal. Fortunately, we are in the information age, and with that comes a multitude of ways for us to stay connected. E-mails, text messages, phone calls, video calls, storage clouds and social media platforms are just some of the many means we have to communicate. However, effective communication does not boil down to having all the tools, but rather using the right tools in an effective manner, which brings us to the next point.
As your team is working together towards a common goal, collaboration tools are highly important in the facilitation of your team members working together. Choosing the right tools does not determine the success or failure of your team, but it does allow for your work affairs to remain simple, organized and efficient. These tools have features that often overlap, offering collaboration, video and messaging options among others. Notably, many of these service providers have increased the features usually offered on the free version of their products, due to the Coronavirus outbreak (so now may be a good time to give some of these apps a trial run).
Collaboration tools – these tools allow you to make schedules, implement effective plans and systematically organize tasks for you and your team. Apps like Trello help organize projects onto boards, enabling you to see what is being worked on, who’s working on it and at which stage the process is. Picture having a huge board with and endless array of sticky notes, that your whole team can access.
Other tools like Slack double up as not only a collaboration tool but as a means through which your team can communicate. Slack organizes your community into channels, with each channel being a department, project or task. These channels support open conversation as well as direct messages, which allows for private conversations between two or more members on a team. Slack is a popular option as it easily integrates other third-party tools including Trello, Dropbox and many more.
Video tools – with remote work being widely implemented, many teams are turning to video chat platforms, which in some measure replicates the meeting experience. With apps such as Zoom, you can conduct your weekly meeting, as per usual, in the comfort of your own living room. Google Hangouts also offers video conferencing options which links seamlessly with other Google products.
Messaging tools – Messaging tools have become increasingly important, not replacing e-mails, but rather allowing for an ease of internal communication in a less formal way. There are numerous apps that facilitate this such as Slack, Google Hangouts, WeChat Work and many more. These apps allow for organizations to stay connected to each other, their smaller teams and sometimes even their customers. Slack again proves to be a popular option in chatting tools, however apps like Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts all have great ‘freemium’ offers and are easy to use for small and large teams alike.
3. Time optimization
For many, staying productive at home can be a challenging endeavor. With many more distractions around, from cleaning to getting in a quick episode of your favorite show, staying focused and doing work can be tough. On the flipside, some employees work better or do more than they usually would when working from home. This could perhaps be due to not knowing how much work others are doing, or due to less coffee machine chats and browsing the news. Time optimization remains vital for both managers and employees.
It is perhaps important to forego sleeping in and having long breakfasts. Employers and employees alike should try and align their times with each other to work at more or less the same time. This would prevent people from overworking and allow them to maintain regular hours and thus a regular schedule. It is imperative that managers and employees still adhere to plans and deadlines, to ensure that targets are still met.
A 2017 Harvard Business Review article Want Your Employees to Trust You? Show You Trust Them comprehensively explored the employer – employee trust dynamic. With more than 10 years, a multitude of organizations and hundreds of employee – manager relationships being analyzed; it was found that employees who are less trusted by managers are in turn less productive, they exert less effort and there is a higher chance of them leaving the organization. Although this analysis was carried out on employees in the workplace, the same logic can be applied to employees who are working from home.
Managers need not only trust their employees but it is important for them to show it. Employees who felt trusted were shown to put in more effort and go beyond what is expected of them. During this period of isolation, it is important for managers to refrain from acting as a watch dog and following up with an endless array of phone calls, emails and video conferences.
As a manager WFH does not necessarily require you to be more hands on, but you do have to have efficient processes for your team members to report back. From the get-go, a functional system needs to be put in place, with suitable checks and balances, to allow your employees some independence while still ensuring work gets done. Although this ‘special period’ was thrust upon us unexpectedly, it is now time to quickly adapt and maintain good practices while working from home. Well equipped with the right tools and effective communication, your team may not only brace itself for what may come but rather function just as efficiently as it does in the workplace.