Working from home is the “new normal” for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19. It is estimated that now more than half of the American workforce is working remotely – and that number is expected to increase as time goes on. But managing remote teams (especially newly remote) is turning out to be quite a challenge for many business leaders.
The biggest challenge in this shift is simply being prepared – something that most companies had to do on the fly.
According to Buffer’s latest report, the majority of remote workers agreed that the most difficult parts of their jobs revolved around Communication, efficiency, and isolation. For managers, it is extremely difficult to keep tabs on everyone’s progress- while also dealing with technological issues and ensuring that everyone has access to the information they need.
Unfortunately, no one can say when things will be able to return to normal. Even if businesses are allowed to reopen, some experts are predicting that social distancing protocols will still need to be enforced. This means workers will need to spread out or continue to work from home.
Now is the time to work out the kinks of managing remote teams so your company survives through the COVID-19 pandemic. Leaders of companies with fully remote teams need to determine the best practices to maintain high levels of productivity while also keeping workers engaged through this difficult time.
Here’s how managers can achieve successful remote management and help their business continue to grow through COVID-19 and beyond.
1. Getting Prepared: Make A Temporary Business Plan
Many businesses had to transition into remote working situations with rather short notice due to COVID-19. They had no time to prepare for this change.
Unfortunately, this has led to a lot of issues and frustrations between both leaders and their employees. It may not be possible for some projects to be completed within the intended timelines simply because of limitations associated with virtual workspaces or due to other business closures.
Leaders may need to re-assess their business plan for the upcoming quarter in light of the current situation. Some goals may not be possible or as crucial as before. Furthermore, there may be new objectives that have emerged – like adjusting service offerings or products, figuring out how to maintain cash-flow, or simply supporting employees who are temporarily remote.
Be sure to meet up with leaders and set new, attainable goals and reevaluate priorities for this time. Then communicate these new objectives to their respective teams.
2. Collaboration & Communication: Utilize The Right Tools
There are plenty of solutions available for communication & distraction challenges in remote working situations. Some SaaS companies are even offering free trials during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, Microsoft is offering extended free access to their Teams program. Microsoft has also added additional features to Teams and released new ones to customers with paid accounts.
Atlassian is offering free access for up to ten team members for their productivity and project management software. They are also allowing free use of their document collaboration program Confluence and access to their IT service.
If you want to utilize a video-conferencing tool that is a bit more comprehensive than Zoom or Skype, consider AnyMeeting Pro from Intermedia, which is free for all new users through December 2020. There are no usage restrictions and you can record calls, share screens, take notes, and broadcast to up to 200 members.
You will also want to ensure that employees can access all documents and databases they need to complete their tasks. This information will need to be transferred to a cloud-based program. The Box is offering a 90-day free trial for SMBs (small to medium-sized businesses) with unlimited storage availability.
Programs like Microsoft Teams as well as Trello, Slack, Asana, and Basecamp are essential for remote team communication and project management. Many of these tools allow users to share documents, track progress, assign tasks, and ask questions within one program.
This can certainly help to make the transition to remote working situations a bit smoother. Having a visual representation of projects and tasks (such as in a Kanban board style) can help improve communication and sustain remote team productivity.
3. Efficiency: Reach Out To Remote Services
We all could use a little bit more help these days for one reason or another. The same goes for your business. If you run a fairly small team or you are more of a solopreneur, you may want to consider partnering with remote service providers to keep things running smoothly.
For instance, remote IT services can help set up secure protocols for data protection. Hackers are heavily targeting businesses whose teams are now working remotely due to COVID-19 – since they typically have limited security.
In fact, some cyber-criminals are even using communication tools for remote teams like Zoom to hack into company databases! You definitely want some experts to help you set up remote file sharing systems to keep your data protected.
You also shouldn’t let your marketing efforts slack off either.
Unfortunately, many industries are taking a hit because of this situation. All businesses have been affected in one way or another. Online traffic has dramatically decreased for some sectors since COVID-19 struck.
Therefore, it is more important than ever to create superior content during COVID-19 to keep the brand light burning.
Now, marketing is usually one of the first departments businesses reduce during a financial crisis. Partnering with a remote agency is one of the smartest things you can do to keep marketing efforts moving forward – at a fraction of the cost. These agencies have been running remote operations and their employees have a battle-hardened process.
To reiterate, marketing in times of chaos is essential to survival. Thanks to modern tech, brands can still get high-level results done through remote outsourcing.
4. Isolation & Distractions: Stay Connected As Much As Possible
It is more important than ever that your offers support to your team members. They may be struggling with loneliness in a WFH situation, or maybe they are distracted with kids, adjusting to a lack of private office space, or difficulty using new programs. It is important for leaders to be extra patient, especially in the beginning stages when managing remote employees.
Employee morale may be quite low – as people are fearful of what the future could hold. Try to offer as much support as possible and be incredibly transparent about topics like job security or potential downsizing. It is far better to tell employees the honest truth about your business’s situation than to keep them in the dark about it.
Finally, open up communication channels where employees can share their concerns, ask questions, or simply keep in touch with co-workers.
There are even programs like Engagement Multiplier that allow workers to send in all communication anonymously.
This program is also specially focused on measuring engagement levels and getting employees more involved and connected – something that is super important for remote workers.
The shift to remote work is ushering in a whole new set of challenges to employees on a personal and professional level. Businesses should be a guiding force to help mitigate these growing pains.
No one knows when we will safely be allowed to return to “business as usual” – so, in the meantime, we must find new ways to keep going. Thankfully, we live in a time where there is more accessible than ever before to make remote work a possibility.
This transition can be tricky and there is no doubt that you will run into bumps in the road along the way. Hopefully, these tips help you during this transition so you can continue to operate a successful business through COVID-19 and beyond!