6 tactics for leading remote teams during difficult times
If your teams are shifting to remote work, here’s how to preserve your culture and sustain your productivity
Prior to the onset of the coronavirus crisis, 38% of small and midsize businesses in the United States offered remote work as an option for employees. Since then, remote working has transformed from a work/life balance benefit into a recommended practice for keeping employees healthy and “flattening the curve” of the coronavirus spread.
Transitioning employees to remote work is a highly complex process, however. As a business leader, you may be facing disruptions to your workflow, problems with productivity, technical issues, cultural changes and more. Here are six tactics to help you overcome these obstacles and manage your remote teams even in the wake of a crisis.
1. Keep communication open and frequent.
To sustain trust and keep your employees connected, recreate the same rituals and cadence of your communications as before. Add new checkpoints to keep everyone aligned on plans for meeting customers’ changing needs.
2. Clean up your technology tools and practices.
Don’t let your teams select their own remote work tools; assign a single platform that meets everyone’s needs. Then, require every employee to have an active account that performs basic functions. That means having the right apps installed, the right plug-ins downloaded, the appropriate dial-in numbers for international participants, and so on. If you don’t enforce these rules, expect a 10-minute delay, at minimum, at the beginning of each meeting.
3. Start each meeting with a purpose.
When you’re leading a meeting, first provide a brief recap of the topic at hand and communicate the meeting’s purpose. For example, you might say: “We are here today to bring the accounting team up-to-speed on incremental costs associated with remote working.” Acknowledge who’s on the line, review the agenda and ask for additions. Then, establish a protocol for how people can contribute, such as by using hand-raising tools, taking turns to speak or using chat features. If a conversation between individuals goes too long, ask them to take it offline.
4. Take advantage of web-conferencing platforms.
To make your calls more productive and interactive, take advantage of the features offered by web-conferencing platforms. Chat features invite people to greet each other, send messages, share links and make comments. Screen sharing can make it easier for participants to follow along in a presentation. Webcams can make meetings more personal while keeping attendees engaged and accountable. The “mute all” feature is useful in the event of background noise. Recording the session is also helpful if you need to share it later.
5. Conclude each meeting with a structured plan.
End every meeting with a recap of follow-up items and confirm expectations for next steps and deadlines. Ask for any comments or feedback, thank participants and end the meeting promptly. Consider sending a follow-up email to outline highlights and to-dos.
6. Drive engagement with multichannel communications.
How you communicate with your employees is critical for keeping them engaged. Look for new ways to share information, report progress and celebrate success virtually, whether that’s through employee newsletters, text notifications or intranet boards.
Leading teams virtually in a time of crisis is challenging enough. Taking these steps can lift some of that burden so you can get back to business as … unusual.