As the country settles into lockdown mode most of us found ourselves working remotely, trying to make the most of the online tools and adjusting to productivity outside of the traditional office environment. 

Remote working has left many employees – and their managers – working separated from each other for the first time. Of necessity it has also led to, devolved power, and empowered people to do the big things they’ve long wanted to do. Things that have taken weeks are now taking days, or hours. Embracing the change is one thing, making it work quite another! 

Some sectors have been remote working for a long time (at Blackbullion work-from-home days have always been a weekly standard) but for most sectors the idea of a distributed team is a difficult one to adopt as it is a counter intuitive way of running your work life!

So how do manage a remote team? How do you keep communication flowing? Morale up? And set up for success in (what may well be) a long run?

Let’s find out!

 

⚒️Technical questions

 

  • Does your team have the appropriate tech? Broadband connections?
  • Do they have security integrity? Is there an understanding about data breaches?
  • Do you need to revise health and safety procedures? 
  • Does your liability insurance policy cover remote working.
  • Be conscious of people’s home environment. Not everyone has their own space with all the facilities you might take for granted. Make sure you understand their working space and help if needed. If there’s something that’s not working, it could be peoples’ environment contributing negatively. 
  • Do you know what digital “stack” you need to make the work from home experience as seamless as possible? And does everyone have the relevant logins and necessary training? People working at home benefit from having a “richer” technology experience (eg video) that gives people visual cues, as well as feelings of human contact, at Blackbullion we use:
      • Communications: Slack, Google Hangout and email
      • Project management: Trello
      • Storage: Dropbox
      • Day to day work: Google Suite (docs, sheets etc)

 

🗣️ Communication

 

    • A lack of communication leads to uncertainty. If in doubt, always over- communicate rather than under.
    • It can come as a shock to discover how much time and effort is needed to get information when you can’t walk across a room to a coworkers. So when starting a new project set the terms and expectations out so that everybody is on the same page right from the front page
    • Ensure your communication channels are open and encourage colleagues to seek support and guidance at all times.
    • Also remember that meetings are disruptive to flow so use them when needed otherwise just let people get on with it!
    • How are you engendering trust and accountability will allow projects to be delivered as required.
    • WFH is more efficient, and satisfying, when there is a set expectation for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams. In the WFH parlance this is known as the communication cadence. 
    • A reasonable communication cadence to minimise the likelihood of your team feeling isolated. At Blackbullion we do a morning all-hands meeting and work off a single spreadsheet with everyone’s tasks, and the status of each updated each day as well as a separate document listing the main projects under way. We do an end of week celebration of successes (and award a “screw up” award for the biggest mess-up) and a fortnightly show-and-tell of newly released features – like when the funding tool went live! 
    • Ensure that deadlines, and those responsible for achieving them, are clear and make sure that there are regular check ins to update colleagues, clients and stakeholders as needed.

 

🥇 Culture needs

 

    • Are you encouraging and enabling opportunities for the team to socialise and plan time away from their computer. Extroverts in particular could be missing the informal social interaction of an office setting
    • Set expectations, and make them clear, early – do you expect people to be constantly logged in? Do they need to advise if getting lunch or going for a walk around the block?
    • Are you making concessions for the fact that your team may also be juggling some homeschooling responsibilities? Encourage people to break their day so they make the hours work best for them!
    • Take every opportunity to inject things you might have done in the office into your time as a remote team. We do monthly lunch & learn sessions where we might bring in a trainer on public speaking, or an IFA – now that we are remote we are having weekly sessions via video. This week we had a credit score expert address the team and answer questions.
    • Be silly – this period is going to be serious enough without us being serious – hat day, ugly mug day, virtual pizza parties… there is no shortage to the silliness that is possible!

 

🎯 Leadership

 

    • Do all you can to ensure the wellbeing of your team! Their wellbeing is your number one concern – especially now. 
    • Encourage an active barrier between work time and home time and encourage people to take regular breaks – toilet, walk, news… 
    • How are you ensuring your colleagues know that they can contact you any time via your private channels if they need help 
    • Encouraging your team to embrace autonomy, and feeling less monitored at work encourages job satisfaction and loyalty. 
    • Be mindful of the team feeling isolated, lonely or a lack of team connection. Encourage team get-togethers, silliness and frequent interaction – and utilise the best of technology to do so
    • Monitor output instead of hours clocked – as long as the work is getting done, and deadlines met, the time doesn’t (certainly shouldn’t) matter 
    • As with the introduction of any new policy or business model, you should expect some teething problems. But  once things settle down and your team becomes more familiar with virtual meetings rather than physical ones, your business and your staff can start to enjoy the numerous benefits remote working has to offer.