With the majority of people suddenly forced into working remotely due to the Covid-19 outbreak, many of us are wondering how we can effectively manage people remotely.
To help people in this position, here are our 5 top tips for managing people remotely, helping us to maintain a sense of structure and normality and helping people and businesses to perform through this crisis. If you have performance management tools or systems then use these while screen sharing to provide that formality and security.
Where there is an internet connection and computer or smartphone, there is the ability to collaborate over technology. Make sure that each employee has access to the right tools so they can do their job as effectively as possible. This includes items such as a laptop or internet connection, or whatever they might need. Rather than just informal communication as we may have had in the workplace, this is the time for managers to ramp up the frequency of 121’s to at least once a week supported by regular, informal communication. With high numbers of your workforce working remotely, communication can be disrupted making people feel isolated and unfocused. Adding in the personal stresses and strains caused by a crisis such as this, it has never been more important to show empathy and focus on the individual as well.
Focusing on the needs of the individual first and foremost is a good practice during any 121. However, it is a real priority during this crisis, especially when face to face contact is limited and the external situation is stressful and changing daily. Use a standard structure during your 121 as you usually would. Instead, start with how the individual is feeling rather than getting straight into a task. This will provide support and structure and give a sense of normality whilst working remotely.
Working remotely can remove lots of distractions. However, it can also be easy for people to lose focus by getting caught up in social media and things going on in the background. Circumstances may cause a change in priorities so it is important to reflect on objectives and adjust focus if necessary. On the positive side, working remotely can be a great opportunity for people to crack on with project work that would take longer during normal business life.
Therefore, when managing people remotely, be sure to break staff objectives down into milestones and actions with daily or weekly deliverables which you can then review during your 121’s. This will ensure that key projects remain on track and individuals are provided with a sense of achievement. Most importantly, ensure that the employee has clarity on their priorities enabling them to maximise productivity.
In normal times we are often too busy to take the time out to develop ourselves. Without the daily commute, people have more time in their day. Why not encourage staff to use this time to develop themselves with online courses or reading books or articles? There are a plethora of resources online that may be of use to individuals. Encourage everyone to do an hours self-development daily and capture their progress as CPD or get them to share learnings with their colleagues.
Just because we aren’t with physically with people doesn’t mean we can’t still give recognition for a job well done, particularly under these challenging circumstances. In fact, it has probably never been more important. As a manager, try to go out of your way to catch people doing things right and recognise them in some way. Either by recognition in a team chat or a more formal way if you have some sort of recognition technology. By sending that recognition for an email that you read or a well-conducted web demonstration, you are showing that your team may be out of sight but they are not out of mind.
Use collaboration technology to bring people together weekly. This can be an opportunity to set and share progress against team goals and objectives. Allow people to transfer knowledge around personal development and recognise others for their contribution. Make time for casual team chats or consider having ‘virtual coffee groups’ that people can interact informally in. Have a sense of fun and camaraderie by asking people to share a picture of their workspace. Or perhaps ask your team to introduce their new work family – human, animal or plant.
The reality is that these are unprecedented times. Therefore, the continued productivity and focus of our people is going to be key. We all need to be resilient which means supporting and bringing the best out of each other. Good quality people and performance management has never been more important. By applying the 5 tips of managing people remotely, you are providing the visibility and structure that will help your team to perform, develop and feel supported despite the circumstances.