How managers can support their teams working remotely

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The coronavirus has disrupted and rearranged the workplace with breathtaking speed. Whether teams are working remotely or practising social distancing in the office, engagement and overall productivity could dip. With no end in sight, employees may experience fear about the future. Many of them are likely anxious, scared and stressed. This can’t be taken lightly considering it has been proven that stress and depression alone can lead to $51 billion in productivity loss in productivity losses every year. So how can managers support their teams working remotely?

Under quarantine, every aspect of the manager’s role is magnified and complicated. You might need to reset expectations for how work gets done and adapt your management style to a new context.

In a lockdown, managers must help their teams shift immediately to asynchronous work and personalisation. You’ll need to reset expectations for how work gets done, where possible letting go of exactly when and how tasks are completed so that team members can manage their responsibilities on their own terms. This means focusing on the end result and offering more flexibility as your team will likely be facing their own personal challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and resultant lockdown, represents an unprecedented situation for us all and this can lead to lot of stress and challenges – both personally and also for your team.

One of the main concerns for managers is that their employees will lack the necessary dedication to their work when left to their own devices (though research indicates otherwise), while employees fear a lack of communication that could distance themselves from their teams or managers. So why not use instant messaging to stay in regular contact and video calls for meetings or to provide feedback? Try not to let an employee go half a week without checking in. The easiest way to do this is to set up regular ‘virtual check-ins’ and maintain an online forum where employees know that they can consult with you. With this, your team knows that their concerns and questions will be heard.

Humans are hyper-social creatures who long to belong, which might pose difficulties if members of your team are facing social isolation. This is especially true if they do not have opportunities to connect with others in their remote-work environment.

To this end, you can provide your team with a wide range of technology solutions – as explained above, email alone is insufficient. For instance, visual cues allow for increased “mutual knowledge” between co-workers and can also help to reduce the sense of isolation among teams. Video is also particularly useful for complex or sensitive conversations, as it comes across as more personal than written or audio-only communication. You can check our article USEFUL TOOLS TO WORK FROM HOME to get more ideas.

In a perfect world, your team would have a dedicated workspace at their home, appropriate childcare and no distractions. But the world isn’t perfect, otherwise we wouldn’t be writing this article. Home and family can impinge on remote working and managers should expect for these distractions to be greater during this unplanned work-from-home transition.

However, there are some rules of engagement you can set up that will ensure your team can participate fully in meetings while still maintain the flexibility they require. By setting expectations and giving others space, we meet people where they are comfortable and give them the power to manage their own workload appropriately.

Clearly, communication is key. But also never forget that optimism is contagious. Leaders who demonstrate hopefulness and confidence in the future are better able to help their team find meaning and purpose in their work, a skill which is especially important under these stressful conditions.

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