Many companies are allowing or requiring home working to help slow down the spread of coronavirus.
The transition to office optional working is not always easy.
We've got some resources here to help anyone who's been thrown into the deep end of managing a remote team without much preparation.
Quick do's and don'ts for managers
It's impossible to avoid the news that the Coronavirus spread is causing businesses across the UK to send workers home. From marketing agencies to law offices, nobody is immune to the effects of the potential contagion. The best way for a business to survive, is to prepare its workers for working remotely, and most importantly, to educate managers on how to lead their team when they are no longer working face to face.
Managing a remote team is not that different from managing one that works alongside you and each other. You'll have to set clear expectations; provide people with the tools and information they need to complete their work; and give regular feedback to individual team members, and your team as a whole.
The big difference is that you're not physically in the same space, meaning that you can't have instant communication with each other. This can affect the speed and efficiency of information sharing, updates, delegation, and feedback.
If you're implementing a temporary remote working policy in a hurry in response to Coronavirus, these tips will help you get the best out of the situation.
DO maintain good working environments
Ensure that the space your team will be working in is safe and appropriate. Ideally, people will be able to work from their own homes, but if that isn't possible then the next best solutions are quiet, professional spaces with access to wi-fi, for examples, libraries or internet cafes.
DO check contracts
Check your policies with HR, as employers don't have the automatic right to require their workers to work from home. Just to be on the safe side, check all contracts and make sure you're not going to create any legal problems.
DO ensure everyone has access
Make sure people can access the information they need. As a manager you probably have a good idea about what systems and contacts your team needs access to, but it's a good idea to do a quick survey to make sure and uncover any potential problems.
DO establish communication tactics
Make sure people have efficient ways to check in with each other and share information. Some organisations will have access to group work platforms such as MS Teams, but if your organisation doesn't have this (or if people can't access internal chat groups remotely) then something as simple as a WhatsApp group usually works perfectly. It means that everyone can check in when they get to work and communicate quickly throughout the day.
DO stay in touch
Be clear about expectations, and trust people to get on with their work, but still conduct regular check ins with individual team members and the team on a whole to ensure everyone stays motivated and on track.
DON'T assume it will be easy
Not everyone will be delighted to be working from home. For team members who don't have an appropriate space, for example if they are sharing it with toddlers who make a lot of noise, working their normal hours might be difficult. If a team member has a challenge like that, think about being flexible with their hours so they can work during a time that would be suitable for them, or change their responsibilities so they don't need to make as many phone calls.
Don't think that people will slack off just because you are not watching them all the time. Remember that your staff are adults, who understand their roles and responsibilities. If you don't trust your team and give them the benefit of the doubt, you can quickly start micromanaging people. This will not only create a lot of stress for yourself but will also create a bad atmosphere in the team.
DON'T get set in your ways
Normal methods of communication are not going to work as well when people aren't sitting next to each other. You can't chase up emails by shouting across the office, and you can't just walk over to someone's desk to see what they're working on. You will need to learn to use multiple methods of communication – emails, texts, phone calls and skype conversations.
DON'T lose concentration
While it's important not to micromanage, it's also important not to let poor performance go uncorrected. It can be easy to let things slip when you're not surrounded by your team, but if they sense that you're not keeping an eye on their workload then there is a chance they might start slacking off. Check in regularly and give people deadlines for all their tasks to avoid things getting left behind.
DON'T refuse to be flexible
In line with some people struggling to work in their home environment, some team members may struggle with certain communication methods. Phone calls and especially video calls can cause anxiety, and so some people may be much more comfortable with texts. On the other hand, if your team are very busy, they may not be constantly checking emails, so to avoid things getting missed you may need to start utilising phone calls more. Learn what your team needs and accommodate them.
Pilar Orti's podcast - Suddenly Working from Home - special advice for people working from home due to coronavirus. Pilar is our expert on managing remote teams and she runs a one day course on Managing Remote and Virtual Teams.
Have you got any resources you'd like to share? We're all in this together, so please do let us know what you've found helpful. You can email us at email@example.com