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The second part of our mini series on how to effectively manage a remotely working team is on structure, expectations and processes.
Structure, expectations and processes
If you’re working with an office team which is suddenly now working from home, it’s important to remember that their days have completely changed. While people with WFH experience know best practices to be effective, others won’t.
Interestingly, the majority of people believe they’d be more productive if they had the freedom to work from home. FlexJobs’ 6th Annual Work Flex Super Survey found that 76% of employees believe they can get more done remotely due to the frequent distractions from colleagues and general office busyness.
However, the reality for many is that this simply isn’t the case. Don’t expect that people will just know how to continue at home as they did in the office. A lack of structure means efficiency will go out the window.
Avast’s Mobile Workforce Report gives a good oversight of the reported downsides of remote working – and distraction and procrastination top the list.
1. Processes are your friend
Processes are often regarded as rigid and inflexible enemies to creativity. But when regular structure is lost, processes are there to be leaned on. Good processes let you get work done in the absence of all else, providing structure and direction for getting things done.
Software and tools are brilliant for helping with this. For remote teams, you’ll need the right tools to help everyone connect and work together. Slack is a brilliant office communication tool, with available integrations with JIRA, Google, Monday and many more all easily added.
Trello, Monday and JIRA are all great roadmapping tools. All operate with Kanban style boards, where people can quickly and at a glimpse see what the team is working on. If your team has something to do, add it to one of these tools. What’s also handy for these team-driven “to-do” lists is that if someone has got bandwidth, they can jump in and complete a task without doubling up on work, or having to ask for more things to do from their manager.
2. Find the easy wins and show trust
Working remotely requires a degree of trust that working in an office does not. Simply being able to see someone in the office adds a wealth of accountability which is removed when someone is working privately, at home.
With the best management plan in the world, it’s still very much on the part of the employee to fulfil their role. Micromanaging is rarely the right answer and in this instance will show a lack of trust, which can build resentment. This is the absolute last thing you want.
Instead, think about how you can make the transition to remote work easier for your employee. Consider what tasks you give to those on your team. For any office team transitioning to remote work – not even considering the difficulties of childcare, health worries, space to work or any other issues they might have – it’s important that they get some early wins.
As far as possible, assign the right tasks to people who can get them done easily. Don’t compound this time of change with difficult tasks and potential failures. Small wins at this early stage will ease any private concerns about WFH, make the transition easier and feel more manageable for your team members.
Over time as trust and confidence builds, you can start to address the more difficult jobs. This will also give you time to work out any problems with your remote work management habits, and at that point, you’ll have established how to communicate and check in together.
3. Create a culture of trust and accountability
We mentioned earlier to have daily stand ups, both first thing in the morning and then again as the day draws to a close. This is great for communication, but also accountability. Sharing progress is great for reinforcement from the team and also for others to spot areas where they can potentially help. While it isn’t a direct correlation (as obstacles to progress will exist either way), sharing their progress can help your team achieve their goals.
An incredibly important part of this depends on the culture that you set up in your team. A team nervous about hitting their targets and afraid to talk about problems for fear of retribution will not participate in this activity honestly, if at all. It’s crucial that you, as the leader, make sure they know that you understand that a 100% win rate isn’t possible. Make it clear to your team that these check-ins are to help you fulfil your function as manager to help them do their jobs effectively, and achieve their goals.
A great way to set the tone is to be accountable and honest yourself. When you say you are going to do something, do it. While you probably can’t communicate every project you are working on with your team, if you can talk about obstacles and how your projects are progressing honestly, they are likely to follow suit.
4. Focus on outcomes, not activity
With many of your team members working from home now, some with little to no preparation to do so, it’s important to remember that every set up is unique. Some team members may have space issues, child care to consider or other obstacles to inhibit them from doing their job. Try to bear this in mind when setting up expectations. Flexible working hours may be something you have to consider to help your team hit their goals. Equally, it can be easy to be active on Slack but just have Netflix on in the background. By focusing on outcomes as the ultimate goal, people know clearly what is expected of them, and can work to that.