In a time of rapid change and transition, it is much easier for people to feel in the dark, left out, or uncertain so it is crucial to provide clear guidance on priorities. What is the same as in-office work and what may be different? Are there particular times of day that you would expect them to be immediately available? Just as in office environments, people leave their remote workspaces for breaks, meals and errands. Setting ground rules will help to avoid undue confusion.
In rapid and wide scale transition, identify and communicate a sense of calm, and reinforce and recognize the bumps, missteps, and growing pains that can come along with those changes. Make sure to co-create communication plans with employees, seek feedback and input on what is and isn't working, and recognize that many people will be worried or fearful over the unknown, including parts of people's lives outside of work.
Many quick conversations that normally happen in hallways, before or after meetings, or just from stopping by each other's desks are no longer possible. You'll need to be intentional about checking in and following up at least once daily if not more. Along with individual check-ins, it’s a good practice to begin and end the day with a quick team meeting or check in. This keeps everyone updated and hearing the same message at the same time, people are able to contribute to the team, and everyone feels more socially connected.
There are many, many systems available for messaging, video calls, file storage, etc. It's important to set and enforce the expectation for which systems your team will be using.
Remote communication can be more complex than face to face so it is important to actively listen, repeat back or ask questions to ensure understanding, and be on the lookout for any signs of misunderstanding. Make sure to clarify who is responsible for what by when at the end of every meeting. If a team member has a hearing or vision disability that may make remote work more challenging, seek out support from your HR Consultant for assistance in finding ways to position all employees for success.
A global health crisis and a resulting change in work arrangements has the potential to create tremendous stress and anxiety. From just adapting to doing work in a different way to worrying about the future to dealing with illness as a patient or a caregiver, your team may be going through a lot. Employees can access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for free and confidential resources related to support with their personal and professional lives.
Ask your team about their needs and concerns, ideas for communicating better and being more cohesive as a team, and feedback to help you better lead and support them. You are all in it together, and the inclusive discussion and collaboration can lead to some great ideas and solutions for your team.
Your employees are looking to you as a model for how to navigate the changes and succeed in an uncertain environment. Setting a tone with positivity, active communication and an openness to discussing questions and concerns will help your team be better prepared for success in a remote workplace.
LinkedIn Learning has a range of videos on Managing Virtual Teams, such as this class on Leading at a Distance and this one on Managing Virtual Teams. If you don’t already have access, click here to: Get set up on LinkedIn Learning. Additionally, Harvard Business Review recently posted A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers, which provides great perspectives and additional tips.