The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the adaptability of work from home structure. Office-based workers trying out a remote setup for the first time are struggling to adjust. Team managers are among those facing up to a different level of challenge.
Working from home, which was once a privilege, has now become a necessity. But regardless of experience, office-based managers are currently dealing with the dilemma of handling their teams in unfamiliar territory. Different studies, however, have already proven the benefits of working from home, especially when done right. In this article, we will walk you through the best practices you can adopt to improve remote working in these challenging times.
Keeping an entire team in check in one physical workspace already has its difficulties. But managing a team whose members are working in different locations takes things to a different level. The circumstances this time around are especially hard because the transition is too sudden, thus, leaving no room for proper training.
Reduced employee productivity%
Reduced employee focus%
Employee engagement and satisfaction%
Whether they're getting work done%
Lack of communication/engagement with coworkers%
Source: Owl LabsDesigned by
Nevertheless, there are ways to make working remotely work just as smoothly as when you are in your physical headquarters. As someone in charge of a team, you play a key factor in making this happen. And in this article, we will give you 15 ways to improve remote working that you can add to your managing remote workers toolkit. These tips include how to prepare your team, the right tools you and your team can use, and how to keep everyone productive and engaged in your virtual workspace.
Given the current situation, not many have enough time to create a solid remote work structure. As a manager, however, it is still your responsibility to make sure that your team is properly informed about what is going to happen and how are you going to make things work together while being in separate locations.
Personal interaction is one of the essential parts of establishing a healthy work relationship with your team members. With remote work eliminating this in place of a virtual option, the feeling of isolation can be detrimental to the work dynamics. As a manager, you are responsible for setting the tone in a workplace where your team operates. If you feel stressed out, anxious, and irate, these can trickle down to your team members and affect them negatively as well.
To prepare yourself mentally, you can start by examining your tasks and the goals you and your team are set to accomplish. Plan and make the necessary changes to your office routine and make it fit in the remote setting. Prepare yourself for the mishaps. Keep in mind that no matter how prepared you are, unexpected issues can arise, especially on the first day or first week of working from home. This is why it is important to make sure you are mentally prepared to deal with the things that can happen as you make the transition to managing your team remotely. You can also check out our remote team management guide for more ideas.
Your team will be in the same adjustment mindset as you are, and they will rely on you to lead them through the transition. Working from different locations, however, also means everyone’s setup will be different. Some may have a proper place where they can work peacefully; others may have to be more resourceful and creative. While you do not have to get involved down to the specific details, you can help your team members by giving them essential tips on learning how to work remotely.
Check if your and your team members’ internet connections are fast and reliable enough to perform all the necessary tasks. Do they have bandwidth limits that may affect their remote work stability? While this may sound trivial, it is an important factor to consider, especially if your team members have other family members who will also use the same internet connection.
Set ground rules to optimize productivity while still keeping healthy interactions within your team. Make do’s and don’ts simple and straightforward; there is no need for complicated policies as these can only add to the pressure of adjusting to a new work setting. You can start by reviewing your office-based team policies. Some of them may still be applicable, and you may have to add news ones or tweak existing rules to accommodate your new work setup.
Also, if you are working for a company, check with your human resource department if there are certain policies you and your team need to adhere to as you work from home. If there are, make sure to cascade these policies down to your teammates beforehand. Ensure that everyone’s on the same page to avoid issues later on. You can also check out our tips on being more productive and efficient while working from home.
Just like with the ground rules, expectations can be different, considering the setup and potential challenges you and your team can encounter while working from home. Establish realistic goals and expectations based on the performance and results your team delivers. While their active presence may have played a factor when you were in the office, this may not play a vital role when working remotely.
Work from home setup relies heavily on the tools. Types of tools may vary depending on the projects you and your team are involved in, but we list down the essentials to give you an idea of what they must-have applications are. Also, we have a comprehensive list of the best remote software you may want to check out.
Collaboration platforms play a significant role in creating a work environment virtually. Among the tools that help improve remote team collaboration, monday.com takes the top spot for valid reasons. When it comes to impressive capabilities, monday.com offers a flexible platform that you can tailor according to your team’s needs. It is easy to use and does not require long training. It also has its own communication function, knowledge base, and monitoring feature that you can use to keep track of your team’s progress.
Before deciding which communication channel to use, check first the type of communication you and your team need. Will a basic chat and voice call application work for you? Or do you need something more advanced for smooth video conferencing sessions?
Based on our list of top communication tools, RingCentral Video meets the criteria for being one of the best communication applications for remote workers. It has HD video conference calls capabilities that can host a maximum of 500 participants. With multiple participants in a virtual meeting, there is a tendency for speakers and other background noise to overlap. RingCentral Video addresses this issue with its smart voice detection feature, which highlights only the voice of the designated main speaker and tones down other disruptions.
Aside from its communication features, RingCentral Video also allows the members of the team to share content within the app as well as annotations.
The efficient delivery of projects and tasks is expected regardless of whether you are in the office or working from home. While this is more challenging when managing remote team members, good project management software can help you accomplish your deliverables by setting realistic deadlines and expectations, automating repetitive processes, and improving your team focus on their tasks at hand.
Wrike is one of the leading project management tools to consider when it comes to managing remote workers. It is easy to use and has the standard and advanced features to help you get clear visibility of your team’s tasks and your projects’ status. These features include dynamic timelines and Gantt charts, resource management, real-time activity stream, managing and discussion of tasks, and more. This software is free for teams with a maximum of five users.
Work from home setup does not have room for paper documents. To make all necessary files organized and accessible to your team, a good document management tool is your best bet. PandaDoc is one of 2020’s best document management systems. It has all the essential features to help your team go paperless, as well as process automation functions to boost your team’s productivity.
With PandaDoc, you can create and share documents online with your team, including documents that require signatures as PandaDoc also has an esignature feature. You can also track the locations of your documents as well as the stage they are in (draft stage, delivered, completed, etc.) PandaDoc also integrates seamlessly with an extensive list of third-party applications, so you may want to check if the other apps your team is using are among them.
Not being able to see what your team members are doing can be unsettling. You are not sure if they are actually focusing on their tasks or working diligently within their shift. Time tracking tools can help you not only in monitoring your team members’ activities but also in keeping them focused on their tasks during work hours.
When it comes to time tracking applications, Time Doctor performs the roles of a digital timesheet; it also provides detailed reports and analytics of your and your team members’ activities down to which applications they use, what websites they visited, and how long they stayed in those web pages. Time Doctor also automatically calculates paid hours and time off, as well as integrates with collaboration and project management tools.
All planning and preparations will be tested when the actual remote work starts. One important thing to remember is plans and preparations do not work 100% right, especially when you are doing something for the first time. To maintain a healthy work environment, be prepared to make adjustments along the way, especially when it comes to keeping your team members less stressed, productive, and motivated.
Source: Owl LabsDesigned by
Revisit your team procedures now and then. Check which ones are working effectively and which ones are not contributing to your team’s productivity and overall relationship. What you have thought in the beginning to be perfect procedures might not turn out to be helpful at all, so make sure to stick only to what works and make room for improvements.
Allow yourself and your team members time to take breaks throughout the day. You can set a scheduled break or just set a time limit, and your team members can choose the time they can step away from their computers for a few minutes. If possible, allow longer breaks aside from lunch breaks. Studies have shown that employees who take longer breaks are more productive than those who only take short breaks or do not take breaks at all.
Taking breaks can also help in improving work-life balance, something that remote work productivity studies say many remote workers struggle with.
No matter how much you and your team turn parts of your homes into workspaces, the reality is you are still at home where your personal life can intervene with your professional space anytime. This is particularly true for remote workers who have small children and other important things that take some of their time away from work. While this can be tricky, understanding your team members’ situation at home is critical to helping them adjust to the remote setting better.
Never hesitate to seek your team’s feedback on your work from home setup. Some of them may need further assistance in adapting to the tools, schedule, or working remotely in general. More importantly, listen to their suggestions and make adjustments to your policies as you see fit. You can do this by setting regular meetings with your entire team as well as with each of your team members so as not to disrupt them during their productive hours.
Incentives are great boosters and motivators, no matter where the workplace is. Set a proper reward system not only to keep your team motivated and engaged. Before you get into this, keep in mind that giving rewards to remote employees is slightly different from an office-based recognition system. Learn more about digital incentives and keep things practical, so your team members can make the most of the rewards they receive and feel appreciated at the same time.
Aside from the essentials mentioned above, managers also need assistance from their higher-ups. Apart from taking good care of your team, you also have to establish your own support system. Just like how you would encourage the members of your team to communicate with you, you must do the same thing with your leaders.
Almost everyone is caught unprepared by the current situation, so it is only reasonable to struggle against the changes. What is important is for you to take the necessary steps to address your concerns to keep a positive mindset. Just like what Gallup’s director of data science said, “A positive mindset, a listening ear, and greater flexibility can make all the difference in a time of crisis.”
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