The world of work has been forever changed this year due to the pandemic, pushing companies to quickly implement remote work practices. While maybe a few months back, we may have thought that this is a temporary thing, it has now become more evident than ever that remote work is the new normal. For companies, this experience has been eye-opening, showing them that employees can still be productive, even when working from home. Many companies have already switched to a long-term remote work strategy.
However, as going from office work to completely remote work means such a significant change can bring up new challenges and responsibilities for managers and team leaders that may not have been considered before. Team leaders need to take the time to implement best practices that will help team members adapt to this working style long-term and thrive.
Let’s have a look at some of the ways team leaders can ensure the long-term success of their remote team:
Have regular team meetings
While having meetings after meetings may not be the most productive thing, making time to have one team meeting per week can be extremely beneficial. Schedule an appointment at the beginning of each week, where you go through the goals for that week so that everyone is aligned on what work will be done that week. This is an excellent way for the team to know what each team member is working on and what are the focus areas. You can also leave a bit of room during these meetings for some much-needed social interaction, as most team members will want to catch-up and connect. 10-15 minutes of social time at the beginning of the meeting or the end should do the trick.
Check-ins with team members
Besides having regular team meetings, it’s vital to also allocate time for one-on-one meetings with each team member. This is a great way to make sure they’re on track with their tasks, and it also provides the opportunity for team members to communicate any issues, concerns, or struggles that they may have, which might be hard to tell in a team meeting. Empathy is the key here. While some people might thrive on remote work, other people might have difficulty adjusting for various reasons. It’s your job to ask them how they are doing, listen to their needs, identify any problems, and make sure everyone is doing ok.
At the beginning of the pandemic, remote work meant bringing your laptop home and finding a corner in the house to work. But if your company is considering remote work as a long-term strategy, you have to ensure that your employees have all the resources they need to be productive. Take the time to talk to your team and ask them what do they need to work efficiently from home. Maybe they need two monitors, perhaps they want to buy a proper office desk, or maybe they do many virtual meetings and need a very good web camera.
A great way to keep your remote team motivated is by helping them improve their skills and learn new things. Most people are interested in growing and advancing in their careers, and while live conferences and face-to-face training are not possible right now, there are plenty of online events and online courses that your team could take. This might be precisely what they need to boost their motivation and keep them engaged with their work. If your company already has a learning platform in place, now is the moment to allocate time to create new courses for your employees and sharpen their knowledge.
Expecting your employees to work a fixed work schedule from 9 to 5 is not really feasible in a remote work scenario. Team leaders need to understand this and adapt their mindset to be more flexible when it comes to working schedules. Your team members may be working with kids at home, taking care of an older parent, running to do errands in the middle of the day, and so on. Rather than fixating on how many hours they work in a day, it’s better to focus on what they accomplish in a set period. As long as they meet their deadlines and reaching the company goals, does it really matter if they go to the vet with their dog in the middle of the workday?
Try to bring into remote work the systems and processes you had in place while working from the office. Remote work does allow for more flexibility, but it’s also essential to provide your team with structure and to operate in the same way as much as possible. This could be as simple as keeping the same schedule for weekly meetings, using the same methods to plan activities, following the usual steps for various processes, providing feedback in the same way, etc. Yes, there may be some adjustments needed depending on each team, you might even have to put some new processes in place, but these will help you greatly in keeping your team organized and everything running smoothly.
Remote work success is possible
These are just a few ideas on how you can ensure the success of your remote team long-term. The truth is that many of us are still adapting to this new reality, and we’re learning along the way how to make it work. Each company and each team is different, so what might work for your team may not be the case for another team. But the items mentioned in this article are a foundation on which you can build. The important thing to remember is to start with the basics and always keep your team’s well-being in mind.