How to manage your remote team in a time of Covid

The workplace as we know it has changed at a breath-taking pace. Gone (for now) are the open-plan office spaces, packed meeting rooms, and photocopier chats. Instead, we find ourselves in a virtual world of online meetings, instant messaging, and shared documents saved in the cloud.

We know that, at first, leading a virtual team in a brave new (online) world can seem daunting. So here are our top tips for successfully managing your team as they work from home.

Communication is key

Now, more than ever, it’s important to stay in touch. Research has shown that communication plays a critical role in building successful teams1 as it helps keep everyone in the loop and boosts morale.

In the absence of face-to-face communication, online collaboration tools that let team members stay in touch while working from home have come into their own. The three key applications you need are:

  • Video conferencing software (such as Skype or Zoom)
  • File-sharing software (e.g. Microsoft Teams or Asana)
  • Internal messaging software (e.g. Basecamp or Slack)

There’s no right answer as to what software to choose as they’re all relatively easy to install and use without the need for time-intensive training. Simply go with what works best for you and your team.

Hold daily huddles

It’s a good idea to hold a daily video conference call with your team. Lasting no more than 15-20 minutes at the same time each morning, these huddles are a great way to keep everyone up-to-date with who is working on what and to discuss any obstacles that you can overcome as a team.

For the best results, stick to the same format each day:

  • Assign someone to lead the meeting
  • Allocate an official note-taker
  • Give every team member time to speak
  • Schedule time at the end for questions

Oh, and don’t forget to have a bit of fun too. We often start – and end – our meetings discussing what we watched the night before…or what we’re having for lunch!

Allocate tasks

Following the daily huddle, it’s a good idea to send everyone a summary of what was discussed. This is particularly important when juggling multiple projects as you can highlight priorities, set deadlines, and assign tasks to individuals, so every member of your team has an overview of the bigger picture and a reminder of their personal goals.

Schedule one-to-one calls

As well as daily huddles, it’s equally important to schedule one-to-one time. It may be that team members have things they would like to discuss outside of a group setting. Equally, you may have personal feedback for a team member that is best delivered privately.

As tone can be hard to read in emails or instant messaging, it’s usually best to set up a quick video call for one-to-ones. It’s more personable and, as those of a certain age will remember Bob Hoskins telling us in BT ads, it’s good to talk.

Use project management tools

Sharing information can make or break a project. That’s why it’s vital that teams have an easy way to share documents and set tasks when working remotely. Thankfully, there are a number of virtual project management solutions available that make it easy to collaborate. For example, the likes of Microsoft Teams and Trello have virtual hubs or Kanban boards which make it easy to organise and prioritise projects.

Be flexible

As anyone who’s seen this BBC interview with Professor Robert Kelly will know, working from home can be unpredictable. So it’s a good rule of thumb to be realistic about what can be achieved when team members are juggling childcare, homeschooling, or simply getting to grips with their home becoming a place of work.

Flexible working, by which we mean letting your team know that it’s ok to complete their work around their other activities, takes the pressure off everyone by putting the focus on outcomes rather than clocking in for a traditional nine to five.

It’s not all work, work, work

And finally, don’t forget to have fun. Although you can’t all be in the office together that doesn’t mean you can’t socialise online. So use video calls to enjoy non-work-related chats, communal lunch breaks, or to raise a glass together for ‘office’ drinks on a Friday afternoon.

Oh, and have you ever tried karaoke on zoom? Go on, you won’t regret it!

References

(1) https://hbr.org/2012/04/the-new-science-of-building-great-teams