This month’s blog is all about managing a team remotely. Probably for the first time in history more businesses than I care to imagine are managing whole teams remotely and whilst that can be good it certainly comes with some challenges.
At Orchard Employment Law we have always had an element of working home but it was nothing like this. We still tried to have an office day together at least once a week, however, since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the introduction of the term self-isolating, we have been working from home since 17th March 2020.
The biggest challenge was not doing the work. We try to be eco friendly where possible, our clients have always been able to contact us via telephone, email, and video conferencing. We have a CRM, a cloud storage system, electronic invoicing, and the ability to sign things electronically so we can technically work from anywhere. My preference would be a beach in the Caribbean but a few sunny days in the UK will have to suffice.
The challenge was and is keeping the team happy and motivated. Not one to do things by half, I onboarded a new member of staff at a time when we are compelled to work remotely. So I want to share some of the tips that might help other managers during this time.
- Health and safety
For many working from home was not planned, this means your staff could be working around the kitchen table, on an ironing board or some other makeshift office space. Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees and whilst you cannot pop round to their home at the moment you can talk to them about protecting their health. One easy thing you can do is to ask your staff to complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) questionnaire. You can find this online and it is free to fill in.
- Let clients know that team members are working remotely
This will help to manage the client’s expectations and ultimately relieve some of the pressure from you and your team. Your clients will probably understand your position and may well be working from home too.
- Have daily video meetings.
Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, Whatsapp, Google hangouts and all of the other video conferencing apps are not a substitute for human contact but they are still very good. Most people communicate with more than just words, we use eye contact, facial expressions and other forms of body language to convey how we are feeling.
We have found that daily video meetings with the whole team each morning have been helpful in building and maintaining a working and personal relationship.
- Have a plan
I am not usually one to plan each day but in times of uncertainty, it is even more important for staff to have a sense of leadership and direction. I have found it useful to have a written plan for the next day. This plan is then used in the daily morning video meetings.
- Understand the plan won’t always go to plan
Sometimes stuff happens, sometimes the best plan in the world can’t be followed through. This could be for a number of reasons. A piece of technology could fail, the internet might be slow, a client may do something different, your staff might have a personal concern or there could be a power cut.
It is ok if the plan doesn’t go to plan.
- Acknowledge that your people are people
This is not like being at work in the office and it is probably not like the usual working from home. The house might be full of people they live with, your staff may be trying to homeschool, the neighbors might be noisy, the dog might be barking or they could just be feeling stressed due to the pandemic.
Take all of these things into consideration and let your staff know that you are available to talk.
- Be clear about your expectations of work
You may have acknowledged that your people are dealing with a lot of unusual external factors but the work still has to be done right?
Be clear and realistic about your expectations, this is not a chance for staff to make unreasonable mistakes, be rude to customers or to spend very little time working. If staff are struggling to work in their normal hours consider moving their hours temporarily, you may get more output early in the morning or late in the evening.
Sometimes you may still need to look at capability or disciplinary procedures.
- Open your eyes to flaws in your systems and processes
This may be an opportunity to see weaknesses in a system that you believed was functional. Now is the perfect time to take feedback from staff on processes that could be improved to aid remote working. The chances are that it will strengthen the business in the long run.
- Keep giving feedback
Don’t forget to provide reassurance and positive feedback when you can, it will help to boost morale. At the same time let staff know what can be improved, provide training and examples remotely if possible.
- Have a switch-off time
Try not to contact staff on non-working days and outside of working hours. Encourage your team to switch the emails off and to divert phone calls so that they can switch their brain off from work. This will help with their mental health and stress levels.
Ask for help
We are here to help you with your queries about Employment Law, HR or general managing people. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog,