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Managing Remotely During COVID-19: Tips for Supporting Your Team

With the ever-present threat of COVID-19, remote working, or working from home, has become necessary for companies across the world. And for a good portion of the workforce, this is the first time working and managing a team remotely. 

As you’re presented with the unique challenge of balancing the emotional difficulty and uncertainty of this time, it’s important to remember your role as a leader. In this article, we’re sharing five tips to help you manage your team remotely, especially during times of uncertainty. Implementing these tips will empower you to build a deeper level of trust with your team, and most importantly, help you come out on the other side, stronger than before.  

Managing Remotely and During Times of Uncertainty 

1. Promote Stability

Set a regular meeting schedule and try to stick to your regular routine as much as possible. If you typically meet as a team on Tuesday morning, keep it on the calendar. Team huddles are also a short and effective way to stay up to date with your team. Meet for 15-20 minutes to share your focus for the day and any challenges or roadblocks you’re experiencing or foresee. With so much changing around us, it’s comforting to have routine.

In addition to your meeting schedule, it’s helpful to outline the preferred communication channels for your team. Now that you’re not all working under the same roof, what is the best way to get in touch with each other? Outlining when a request should be made via email vs. a text or call will help your colleagues communicate better with you. If you’re working on a larger team, how are you communicating with your team outside of your weekly meeting or daily huddle? Using online platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams help you stay in touch throughout the day. 

2. Set clear and simple expectations

Now that you can’t walk to your colleagues’ desk to ask a question or talk through an idea, when making a request or talking about a project, it’s important to clearly identify what must be done, by who, by when and to what quality. 

When possible, allow employees to weigh in on the expectations and work to align assignments with the employee’s strengths. With more opportunities for distraction at home, it’s important to be crystal clear and concise with expectations and assignments so everyone is aware of their deliverables and timelines.

3. Be flexible

As we work through these unprecedented times, it’s important to be open and recognize your employees’ unique circumstances. That means giving your team the space and flexibility to get their work done by focusing on outcomes, not activity. 

During this time, many people are helping to take care of loved ones or have children at home. This means team members may not adhere as strictly to their typical 9:00 – 5:00 work hours, and that’s okay. Allow them to schedule and do their work in a manner that enables them to be most productive, within reason, and use this flexibility to inform your meeting schedules and methods of communication. When your team feels like you take the time to understand them and their circumstances, they are more likely to perform at a high-level.

4. Compassion is key

During times of uncertainty, it’s important to take your leadership one step further. Gallup research shows that “remote workers can feel lonely and isolated — but it’s not typical and is preventable.“  Knowing and understanding the difference between loneliness and isolation will help you best support and lead your team. 

If a team member is feeling lonely, they’re most likely experiencing an emotional response to the lack of connection that they’re used to getting at the office, in their workout classes, with family and friends. The feeling of isolation, however, is indicative of a lack of structural support. Employees who feel isolated often feel like they don’t have the tools and resources to do their job. They may feel as though their work is not acknowledged or that they are detached from the business. 

To ensure that your team feels supported and empowered while working remotely, ensure that you’re communicating outside of the team meetings and huddles. Talk one-on-one with team members and ask how they’re feeling. Seek to understand them – are they feeling productive and valued or unmotivated and alone? Act with compassion and learn what you can do to help them feel connected. 

5. Think about the silver lining

If there’s one thing we can take away from this experience, it’s making sure we recognize the importance of finding the silver lining in every situation. Managing through this is difficult, but it’s important now, more than ever, to stay energized and take time for yourself.  It will take some time to get into your routine and find your new normal, but you’ll find your stride and fall into your new routine. When you do, think about how you can learn from this experience. What could you do differently when you’re back to business as usual? How can you come out of this stronger and better? How can you use your time effectively during this downtime to set yourself up for success in Quarters 3 and 4? How can you foster a sense of hopefulness, so your team has something to look forward to when business returns to normal? Think about the silver lining and change your perspective to use this unprecedented time as a learning opportunity for you and your team. 

Create Your Own Playbook

As you settle into your “new normal,” try these tips to find what works best for your team. While managing remotely presents a unique set of challenges, it’s important to keep in mind that your team is looking to you and will remember you leading them through this. Please explore the articles linked throughout this article and do not hesitate to reach out if you have any additional thoughts or questions on managing your team remotely. 

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