For many of us, one of the biggest impacts of the pandemic has been on the way that we work. Remote working, already on the rise pre-2020, was given an enormous boost out of necessity. And it doesn’t look like the change will be reversed any time soon, with workers and businesses reporting an intention to retain remote work at least part of the time.
This is not bad news at all, as the experiment has proved largely successful. Many employees report greater job satisfaction, and productivity has not been hit as badly as some employers had feared.
As it turns out, the concern is not that employees are using big chunks of their working day to find out more about new casinos or watch cat videos. Even so, managing remote teams presents a unique set of challenges that are unfamiliar and, for those who have never been in this position before, difficult to anticipate.
A lot of the early advice around managing remote teams centred on regular video call catch-ups and social time. This is very important, since poor communication and isolation are the two main issues reported by remote workers. However, unfocused and obligatory meetings are counter-productive, and many employees began checking out. Here we would like to look at a couple of more creative ways to keep remote employees engaged and productive.
Find new ways to communicate
Your team needs to have multiple pathways for communication, not all of them directly related to work. For example, a social channel on Slack (or whatever office messaging system that you are using) is an absolute must to replace the spaces where workers would chat casually. In these text-chat spaces, encourage the use of emojis and gifs to help convey the feeling and intention behind messages.
Since body language and tone are such a large part of how we communicate, consider sending short video messages in place of email missives – and encourage workers to do the same. Remember too that not all meetings have to be conducted in real time. Make a recorded presentation, and invite open feedback via a joint channel. This method can probably replace at least a quarter of current live video meetings.
Let your team decide how to spend social time
There is no one size fits all answer to how your team bonds socially. Some workplaces foster strong interpersonal bonds and genuine friendships, while others are more impersonal and professional. Neither is better or worse, and both can be very productive. When it comes to social interaction, take the cue from the team.
If you must have mandatory team building time, and it’s not a bad idea, let workers choose what it is. There are so many virtual classes that are perfect material for fostering closeness in a team – let workers choose each activity either collaboratively or individually in turns. Not only will you be surprised at the creativity on display, but it is an opportunity to get to know each member better.
Provide material support
It may seem obvious, but no remote worker should be suffering with poor equipment at home. As far as possible, everything that employees had access to at the office should be available in their remote workspace. We’re talking essentials like computers and monitors, but also consider desks and chairs.
Support each member with the creation of their working area, and encourage the team to share tips and advice. Monthly personalized care packages are also a great way to help workers feel appreciated.
Ramp up the one-on-one meetings
Once a week, give each team member a full hour to discuss anything you and they want to. You may not need the whole hour, but make sure that everyone knows it is available. Keep this time focused on the individual and use it to replace the ad hoc discussion time that you would have throughout the week when working together in an office.
Trust your team
Millennials make up the largest proportion of the workforce today, and studies show that they prefer greater autonomy at work. Focus on meeting targets and deadlines, and keep strictly scheduled progress updates. Outside of this, resist the urge to keep checking up and trust your team to get the work done.
Interesting related article: “What is Productivity?”