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Mastering Remote Work Part II: Virtual Teams

COVID-19 has many people managing a remote team for the first time or with their team headed into the unprecedented territory of working remotely. How do you support a smooth transition? Keep the team motivated and productive? Connected to the business? If these questions and others are top of mind, keep reading. Here are some strategies that work when managing remote teams:

You’ll need to exercise patience. Patience is typically not most people’s strong suit, but it’s important to approach work in a COVID-19-aware world with more patience than normal. Your team is likely navigating a new work environment, new technology, family members or roommates home when they weren’t previously and other the challenges. Concern over the virus and impact to communities, colleagues, businesses and family members is also stealing attention. Have patience and be understanding as team members adjust.

Accept that households will be busier. You’re going to hear children ask for snacks, dogs barking in the background, and potentially other family members yelling or talking loudly. With much of the world in lockdown status, and closed schools requiring employees to serve as parent and teacher, life is going to happen around us. The ability to sneak off to a quiet space may not be an option for people in smaller homes or with roommates and larger families. Accept that these sounds are the new normal for the office background soundtrack.

Check in with team members and encourage them to do the same. Work is more than just getting the job done. It’s about culture, shared purpose, and common goals. Take extra effort to help team members feel connected to you, the company vision, and how they and the work they do matters. Use technology of your choosing to get in the habit of greeting your team with “Good morning” at the start of each day. In addition to positivity, it reminds the team you’re in this together.

Be more available. Encourage your team to reach out via Skype, G-Chat, Teams or other messaging platforms. Create time on your calendar for regular touch bases and to collaborate in a focused manner. Let your team know when you have open availability on your calendar and invite them to schedule time with you to review work, offer guidance, or discuss strategic initiatives. The more present you are, the more likely your team is to be productive.

Encourage video, but don’t require it. We provided our team with virtual backgrounds to combat home offices that might not be HGTV-worthy but realize that not everyone is a neatnik and some may be working from their kitchen table, playroom, car or other space. Others may be competing for bandwidth. Also accept that business casual has taken on more meaning. You’re likely to see team members in hoodies, t-shirts, less makeup, wearing glasses, and more casual than ever before. Yoga pants, it’s your time to shine!

Don’t micromanage but do set deadlines. If you’re the kind of manager repeatedly asking your team what they’re working on or if they’re done yet, you probably could benefit from project management tools. Using Microsoft Planner, Smartsheet, or other tracking app can provide greater visibility into who is working on what and where it is in the project timeline. When assigning work, make sure deadlines are clear and that there is accountability for achieving them. The right team is one that is empowered to make good decisions.