Remote work: Manager’s guide to productive & motivated teams
You would agree as a manger that your team's challenges while working remotely are many. To help your team overcome these challenges you would need to understand remote work closely and also how you can help your team overcome them emerging victorious.
The world of work is changing, faster than ever. Even as the remote work concept is not new to the world, the Coronavirus outbreak has pushed the working population into the biggest work from home experiment in its history.
If you Google the term remote work, you are likely to find terms like ‘work from home’, ‘distributed teams’, ‘remote teams’, ‘managing remote teams’, in the related searches.
But what does this signify? This implies that all these terms belong to the same family – remote work.
The Coronavirus outbreak has the world waking up to the realization that humans are not invincible and has also put the leaders across the world to a difficult test.
The pandemic has prematurely forced businesses to go online, and teams to work from home, irrespective of their size, raising a massive challenge before the leaders – manage remotely.
The world looks up to the leaders in these testing times, just like your team looks up to you to get through this difficult phase.
Starting from how to set boundaries between work and home, to tracking their time, to collaborating and communicating with the team, to keeping themselves motivated and productive, your team’s challenges are many.
To help your team overcome these challenges you would need to understand how this remote work is different from the usual remote work setup.
How is this remote work different from a usual remote work?
Amidst all the chaos, it can be difficult for you and your team to put on a brave face and operate in a completely new setup.
And while transition to remote work may not be as difficult usually, here is why it is testing and challenging at the same time for you and your team, in the current situation.
Lack of preparedness
In a regular situation, people are better prepared for remote work and have a contingency plan in place. In this situation, your direct reports are aghast and are probably depending on you for better guidance.
Stress and anxiety don’t seem to go away
The rapid rate at which Covid-19 cases are increasing around the world, keeping a good stock of essentials at home, own and family’s health, laying off news across many companies are just a few things that may be troubling your team.
This in turn leads to a drop in productivity levels and can also be the cause for demotivation.
Lack of remote work plans and/or policy
Since most organizations have been caught unawares, remote work plans and policies were not taken into account by many until the lockdown was enforced in many parts of the world and making work from home the new normal.
If it were a regular situation, you would have a better plan to include remote work for achieving your goals.
Businesses are uncertain about the future, resulting in no clear plan for the times to come. As the number of cases go up with every passing hour, and a vaccine or a cure seems like a far-fetched dream, the current situation does not seem to be going away anytime soon.
This situation may go on for another two weeks or even extend up till next six months.
There’s no denying the fact that you are in uncharted territory and you want to emerge victorious.
Your present reality demands that you make remote work as productive as possible for yourself and for your direct reports.
As you scroll down this page, you will find resources to help you get through these testing times, toughen up for the challenges, and prepare yourself to overcome them all.
How to help your team transition smoothly to remote work?
The Coronavirus pandemic has led to a global health crisis. It has also made the adoption of remote work necessary for organizations.
If you’re a manager handling a team of remote workers during this tough time, making the transition smooth and easy for your team will be one of your top priorities.
While remote working may be a solution to curb the increase in the number of cases on rise, it unearths unexpected challenges for employees and managers, both.
Managing remotely comes with its own challenges just like working remotely for employees.
We understand that as a manager, you must be witnessing a unique situation where you now have to help your direct reports overcome the challenges of transitioning to remote setup, while also keeping your morale high.
Understand the challenges that come with this sudden change in the work environment and how you can help your team sail smoothly in these rough waters.
How to keep your team productive while working remotely?
As you help your team adapt to remote work, you will specifically have to channel their energy in the right direct and do your best to keep them motivated and engaged.
In the current environment of stress, where many of us are still struggling to set a routine and follow it, productivity can easily suffer. Interestingly, productivity is closely related to motivation. Higher the motivation level of your direct report, higher will be her productivity.
However, change begins with you. The tips and productivity hacks you would suggest to your team should also be practiced by you so that you can confidently vouch for them and push your employees to follow the same.
A manager’s aura is contagious. Your vibes reach out to your team and set their momentum for work. And so to keep your team productive and motivated you need to practice what you preach.
Here are a few ideas that can help in organizing work, coping up with stress and being productive during these tough and uncertain times, as you and your team work from home.
How to build a better connect with your remote team using icebreakers?
Now that your teams are remote, those walk-ins or watercooler chats will be taking a backseat.
You will be relying on communication channels like Slack and Tandem to build and maintain rapport with your team working remotely.
Building a better connect with your team gains even more importance in the current scenario. You want your direct reports to open up and share their concerns and worries with you.
This is where you can use icebreakers in a number of ways to make it easier to deal with this sudden crisis.
Icebreakers have an important role to play, both in one on one meetings and group/team meetings.
They encourage people to lower their guard, communicate with candor, and enable strong relationships to be built.
How to avoid micromanaging your remote teams?
As many experts say, remote work will become the new normal for a lot of organizations for weeks or even months. Yet, many businesses are unprepared for this arrangement.
In fact, for a handful of employees, shifting to the ‘home office’ is something that they are doing for the first time! Admittedly, adjusting to this setup is not easy.
Managers who are new to the whole working from home arrangement may end up micromanaging their teams, believing it is the only way to ensure productivity.
However, this is not a good practice at all!
For one, employees do not want to be micromanaged. Furthermore, in the long run, dictating and monitoring their every move can become counterproductive.
So, you should steer clear of this management style or you’ll end up with disgruntled employees and hamper the growth of your team.
Learn about the strategies you can employ to steer clear of micromanaging as you work from home and manage your remote teams.
Why is one on one meeting your most powerful tool to keep your team engaged, motivated & productive?
As a manager, the sudden shift to remote work would raise many questions in your head like, ‘how would my team achieve goals for this month’, ‘how would my team communicate between them & how would I communicate with them’, ‘how do I check on them without offending them’, ‘how do I help them overcome the challenges they might be facing due to this unexpected change’, and the list could go on.
The answer to all your questions is having regular and effective one on one meetings.
As you and your team get accustomed to the new routine, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, both sides will have to find ways to adjust daily working and communication styles.
And though technology has made communication easier, remote work brings along a very important psychological challenge to deal with – TRUST!
Managing your direct reports remotely requires you to trust them completely without checking on them frequently and directly asking them to be transparent.
You don’t want to come across as a micromanager with whom the employees are wary of sharing their struggles, right?
This situation, hence, requires a neutral and psychologically safe zone where your employees can meet you, share challenges without any inhibitions, provide feedback on how processes can be better, and seek your guidance on handling this newly-introduced routine of remote working.
A one on one meeting provides your direct reports all of these opportunities and more in these testing times.
Let’s start with benefits of one on one meetings in times of global crisis
In a traumatic and unprecedented pandemic situation, like the one we are facing today, one on one meetings become even more important because they enable you to take care of the mental and emotional wellness of your team.
Remote teams benefit from one on one meetings in five significant ways:
i) Boosts employee productivity and engagement
ii) Helps the manager individualize their guidance to the direct report
iii) Enables an exchange of feedback between manager and his direct report
iv) Keeps managers informed about what is happening in the team
v) Strengthens the relationship between manager and his direct report
In the current situation, your team expects psychological support from you, more than anything else.
How to have effective remote 1-1 meetings?
A remote one on one meeting is different from a regular one on one meeting.
You are used to a face-to-face one-on-one meeting where you share the same space with your direct reports, and it is easy to gauge their energy and intent in this case.
But in a remote 1-on-1 setup, since you cannot see them physically, you or your direct reports may overanalyze what each of you might say.
As a manager, you may have to put in more effort to start the conversation and lead it in a positive direction, beneficial for you and your direct report, both.
Though rules of a remote one-on-one meeting remain more or less the same, you will have to apply them differently to ensure you get the best outcome.
What is the importance of setting agenda for remote one on one meeting?
One on one meetings offer a dedicated, private, and more flexible space for managers to focus on the challenges and long-term goals of their direct reports, and exchange personalized feedback with each other.
Don’t discount the value of these meetings. The whole point of a one on one meeting is that you pay attention to what your direct reports are saying and find out what you can do to help them grow.
And to have effective and impactful remote one on one meetings, you’ll need to start with having a well-planned agenda, set collaboratively with your direct report.
Simply put, an agenda is a plan for a meeting which lists the items to be discussed and the sequence in which they will be discussed.
With an agenda, your one on one meetings will not veer off-topic and you can make the most of your time with your direct report. But, in remote one on one meetings, it is even more important that you have a collaborative agenda because you don’t meet your direct report in the office every day.
You may feel that a weekly 30-60 minute meeting does not need an agenda. But you’d be surprised at how much more effective you can make it by taking the time to set a shared agenda with your direct report.
Let’s see how shared agenda setting can enhance your remote one on one meetings.
Don’t make these mistakes during your one on one meetings
One on one meetings are an effective management tool to help your direct reports stay confident, relieved and motivated.
Besides helping them in discharging their work duties, one on one meetings can also pave the way for better mental health and well-being during these difficult times.
However, conducting one on one meetings while you work from home can be challenging if you are new to the setup.
As it is a new experience for you, you are bound to face certain difficulties and make mistakes that are easily avoidable.
Tools to have great one on one meetings remotely
A recent poll at Gartner revealed that 91% of the attending HR leaders have implemented a work from home policy after the Coronavirus outbreak. The same research also suggested that the biggest challenge of remote work has been finding the right tech tools.
As a manager, these are challenging times as one has to keep their teams motivated and drive them to remain productive.
At times like these one on ones can help you boost the morale of every direct report individually and help them perform in these unusual circumstances.
We built a software that automatically schedules, lets you set agenda, take notes, exchange feedback and track actions – all in one place.
Remote tools to make your life easier as you manage remote teams
Technology has made remote communications easier, only if used effectively. It is very important for you as a manager to find the right mix of tech for your team.
You must avoid telephonic one on ones with your employees, especially when you are managing remotely. It is extremely important to exchange vibes, gauge their intent and communicate right.
To help you in this endeavor, we compiled a list of 21+ tools which will help you manage your remote teams effectively in these tumultuous times.
How much of this remote work guide do you need to read?
Well, times are tough. As you brace for tougher times ahead, we recommend reading this remote work guide front to back.
We have tried to think of different perspectives and summed them up in each of these sections.
You can bookmark this page and read it at your own pace.
Keep a close watch as we will be adding more content to the page as we go ahead.
Want to become a better manager?
Start with great 1-on-1s to build high performing teams.