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7 Immediate Tips for Managing Your Newly Remote Team

Ian Illig
Ian Illig

Every day, more leaders are doing their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by enforcing a fully remote culture.

It’s a decision that takes guts.

As a manager, maybe you’ve wanted to test out a remote-friendly culture for a while. Or maybe you hold the opinion that it kills productivity.

Either way, this sudden change probably didn’t happen on your terms and there’s a good chance you’re not as prepared as you’d like to be.

Here are a few practical tips to help your team work remotely and not miss a beat.

Commit to video conferencing

While it’s easier and more private to speak over the phone, you’ll miss the context that comes from body language and the focus that comes from eye contact. If your team doesn’t have access to video conferencing, this should be your #1 request from HR.

Pro tip: instead of watching your screen, make eye contact with your camera as much as possible so the other person knows they have your undivided attention.

Overcommunicate

Hold team meetings more often for shorter amounts of time (for example, your 1-hour weekly team meeting might become a 15-minute stand-up every day). Be diligent about scheduling time blocks on your calendar and ask your team to do the same.

Pro tip: make this about supporting your employees, not micromanaging them.

Have a scoreboard mentality

In a remote environment, it’s extra difficult to keep a pulse on team metrics. There are fewer side conversations, fewer high fives, and fewer ways to feel how the team is tracking. 

Pro tip: set aside a time and communication channel for share team updates, but especially the wins.

Agree on some ground rules

In times of uncertainty, providing clarity is the best way you can reduce anxiety on your team. Control what you can control. What are expectations around responding to emails vs texts vs phone calls vs other chat tools (Slack/Jabber/Chatter)? If you need an example to help get you started, here’s how we’ve internally communicated these ground rules at Emplify.

Pro tip: the key word here is agree. Including your team in the process is not only the best way to get buy-in, it’s also how you source the best ideas.

Make self-care a priority

Working from home for days on end will present a number of unexpected challenges. Dehydration and headaches are more common. Energy levels get wonky. Loneliness and boredom creep in. Encourage your team to take walks, catch up with coworkers often, and keep a massive glass of water at their desks.

Pro tip: the massive glass of water sounds like a joke, but it’s not.

Talk about the remote experience as a team

This season won’t last forever and you’ll be back at the office in no time. Meanwhile, you have the opportunity to really gauge what works and what doesn’t in a remote environment. Set aside time to share stories and brainstorm on a weekly basis. Share this summary with your leadership team and you’ll be the one manager who found a way to be strategic and proactive during this season. 

Pro tip: make it a fun experiment for your team. You’ll come out with some good ideas, some bad ideas, and probably a few laughs.

Think long-term

You have a real opportunity to build trust with your team that will last for years beyond this season of uncertainty. While it’s crucial to continue operations, it’s even more important to be a source of care, grace, and steadiness. You won’t regret it.

Pro tip: all over the world, there are leaders navigating the same uncharted territory. Reach out to a few so you can learn from each other.

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