How To Support a Remote Work Team.

Management these days has turned into a series of Zoom meetings, email chains, and stress for everyone on your team. How can you continue managing your crew while supporting them through this uncertain time?

Try these 10 tips for supporting a remote work team:

  1. Set them up for success with the proper tools. Most people do not have a fully stocked home office so you will need to help workers find both physical and virtual tools.

    Physical: obviously they’ll need regular office equipment such as a laptop and headset but some may need a good office chair, a better router, a scanner, or other special equipment. Check in with each employee individually and streamline your online ordering process so they can get what they need.

    Virtual: beyond email and online virtual meeting spaces such as Zoom, consider connecting your teams through app-based project management tools (Asana, Trello, Monday, etc.) and group communication channels (Voxer, Slack, Marco Polo). If your staff is paid hourly, add a time-tracking app such as Freshbooks, Harvest, or HoursTracker.

  2.  Create a clear chain of command and buddy system for information. When we were all gathered in offices, we’d gravitate to one or two people for help. These may have not been formal manager-employee relationships but they were our support system for things as simple as “how do I change the ink on the printer?”. We still need those connections but now we’re all spread out! Let your employees decide who their go-to person is but everyone should have at least one person they can turn to in times of need. And make sure to clearly define who their immediate supervisor is and how to reach them.

    As hard as this is to consider, some of your team may become ill and it’s important to have a contingency plan for projects. Be sure everyone on the team has access to all needed documents, passwords, and ongoing jobs. For time-sensitive or complicated projects, set up a back-up system so it can be quickly passed on if necessary.

  3.  Define expectations and set boundaries. Help your team set their day up to be productive by clearly defining what channels to use for what types of communication (i.e. urgent needs always go through email but standard questions can be plugged into Slack). Let them know your preferred channels of communication and times of day that are best to reach you. What you want to avoid is one teammate using Slack, one using email, one using text, and one using phone calls. This will quickly become confusing and impossible to manage.

    Do not stretch your “working hours” out to early mornings, evenings, weekends, or holidays. If your business operates around the clock and needs 24-hour staff, clearly set up who will be “on call” and when they will be expected to respond to calls or emails.

    And don’t forget about time zones -- your mid-afternoon meeting may be their dinnertime.

  4.  Really ramp up communication. With isolation also comes disconnection. If possible, schedule a predictable check-in (same day, time, and format) so your staff knows they’ll have a chance to ask questions and then they can prepare or keep a list as these questions pop up. Create a safe space in which your employees know they can bring concerns and find direction. Pay attention to each person and follow-up individually with those you feel may need extra help.

  5.  Help new-to-Zoom people. Create a toolkit for how-tos of virtual meetings (how to mute the video or audio; how to screen share, how to check lighting; what not to wear!, etc.) The Zoom website has a library of well-done tutorial videos, just search by topic and send them the link.

  6.  Be understanding. We are not going to be as productive as we were in the office! Many are working out of a corner of their bedroom while trying to homeschool a young child without the normal office tools and structure they need to do their job. The stress of that situation plus the overall anxiety around the illness will affect performance. Establish an attitude of “we’re all in this together” and operate each day from that mindset. Laugh off interruptions (yes, dogs will bark!) and don’t be too critical if things are not perfect.

  7.  Provide social support. Not being in the office brings with it another aspect of social distancing because we’re used to spending 8+ hours per day with our office mates, customers, and vendors. These people are friends and now we are completely cut off from that network. Keep in mind that some of your team may also be alone during this quarantine. Consider a Zoom Happy Hour – no shop-talk, just catching up.

  8.  Be honest about your company’s situation. This is a scary time for everyone and many of your employees are worried about their jobs. Be upfront, it’s better to let them know than have them imagine the worst-case scenario. If you must lay off workers, please don’t do it on public Zoom! And be ready to give them the tools they need to apply for unemployment and clearly define the parameters of the layoff or furlough.

  9.  Create templates and backup documents. If your employees are in a customer- or vendor-facing role, give them the language they need to answer questions regarding unique issues related to this shutdown. For instance, will your company extend their return policy or what types of contact are you allowing? Ask them to contribute questions to this master list and update frequently in a shared document so all teammates have access.

  10.  Treat them to a bonus! Your staff is working hard to make this new arrangement productive – often at the expense of time with their kids and family. Combine that with the current difficulties in grocery shopping and they could really use a nutritious pick-me-up. Reward them with a healthy surprise like a gift box filled with tasty snacks! Click here to shop our collection. Delivery is fast and free in the U.S.

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