Whether it was common practice at your organisation before the Covid-19 pandemic or not, working from home is now the “new normal”.
With limited face-time and more work being done by email, managers must pay particular attention to the way they manage staff.
The skills that were so effective in the office may prove useless – or even harmful – in the world of remote working.
Here are the soft skills you need to hone to be a successful remote manager.
Do you trust your team to be productive while they work from home? That’s the biggest question you need to ask. There are probably some employees in whom you have complete faith, and then there are those in whom you don’t. It can be tempting to micro-manage those you think may lack initiative. Don’t do it. Nothing kills motivation, morale and productivity like having someone looking over your shoulder, even virtually. Instead, business leaders need to see this as an opportunity to encourage and inspire team members to take ownership of the job at hand. Delegate specific tasks and projects to each individual, hold them accountable and be positive; this is their chance to rise to the challenge. You should use conferencing and project management software to monitor productivity. Just remember they are tools and not a cure-all.
Now is not the time for indecision. In the midst of this uncertainty, employees are looking to leadership for guidance and stability. Taking a structured approach to decision-making, assessing the situation and the options available, and clearly explaining the choice you make will instil purpose and confidence in your team.
Common decision-making pitfalls to avoid include:
• Trusting your gut over facts. Take the time to assess the information available.
• Over-thinking a decision. While it’s important not to rush to a conclusion, time is a factor not to be ignored.
• Getting caught up in minutiae.
• Making binary decisions. More often than not, there are more options than just A or B. With the rules changing day by day, it’s important to remain flexible in your thinking.
Elements to factor into your decision-making include taking an agile approach to work, being able to refocus the team’s priorities and adapting to the shifting demands of the business and its clients.
A bunch of employees sitting in the same office does not constitute a team. It takes a leader to bring them together as a functioning unit. As the captain of your team, it is your job to unite everyone to accomplish the organisation’s goals, leveraging their individual strengths, setting goals and openly acknowledging their effort. Just because you’re all working remotely now doesn’t make you any less of a team. On the contrary, the current crisis has the potential to create tighter, more aligned teams. Beyond setting goals, it is essential to incorporate less formal, more social team gatherings that support your culture and allow your team to bond.
Some activities that can help include:
• Hosting a team morning- coffee or water-cooler video chat;
• Setting up team chats on WhatsApp around Netflix, pets, working with the kids at home, etc;
• Setting up tournaments with daily brain teasers.
As managers, we all need to be more empathic than usual to our employees. We don’t know how the crisis is affecting each individual. Do they have children whom they need to look after during the day? Have any of their family tested positive for Covid-19? What is their mental health like and how might the increased isolation affect them? These are just some of the considerations to take on board. Encourage your team to share any difficulties they are experiencing. Monitor workloads and watch for signs that someone might be struggling. While a regimented approach might get you some quick wins, in the long run, a lack of empathy will only lead to disengagement, mistrust and reduced productivity.
With no definitive end in sight for the lockdown, businesses must adapt their models and their management styles around remote working, promoting an environment that is committed to the continued success of the organisation and its people.
Adam Coleman is chief executive at HRLocker