How To Get The Most Out Of Your Remote Working Team
Business| By Bridget de Maine | April 1, 2020
From boosting communication skills to using Google Hangouts and maintaining company culture, we outline the best tips for managing your remote working team.
Remote working and flexible work arrangements have been on the rise in recent years but following the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), businesses have been forced to adopt a fully-virtual workforce almost overnight. This quick pivot comes with unique challenges but also opportunities.
“Remote working forces businesses to establish processes and systems for completing work instead of relying on staff to just get together and work it out in the office,” says Anindo Basu, COO of APAC’s fastest growing tech company, WithYouWithMe. The start-up has built most of their success, Basu explains, “by being together in a workspace and collaborating.”
But recent events and the quick move to remote working, “allows for better work/life integration and generally, more flexibility to be able to work around family commitments,” says Basu. “Also, in these uncertain times, it allows family units to stay closer together.”
With collaborative tools and a commitment to staying connected with colleagues, you’ll have your remote team working like clockwork in no time, no matter where they are. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started.
Sharpen Your Communication Skills
Basu advocates being direct in order to establish effective task, goal and staff management. It’s more productive, he says, to ask, “What are your biggest challenges today?” than “How’s your day going?”. Questions directed towards specific staff should also get to the point straightaway. “If they’re a team leader, I ask specific questions about their staff, for example, ‘How is John going with the kids at home now?’ or ‘Did you get the answer you needed from Jane?’ ”
Use Quality Collaboration Tools (While Maintaining Your Budget)Productive virtual workplaces are propped up by a number of intuitive digital collaboration tools specifically created to mimic the traditional office environment, or, in the case of popular instant messaging tool Slack, improve it. Many workplaces, including Slack itself, have eliminated email completely by using the app, while other workplaces use it for quick, informal contact and save email for longer, more formal conversations.
Basu and his team integrate collaborative working with Google Drive, where work can easily be shared between multiple staff for easy, trackable collaboration; Google Hangouts and Zoom for clear video conferencing; and are looking into project management tools such as Monday.com and Asana, where tasks can be created, tracked, assigned and ticked off in a kind of company-wide, online to-do list.
Consider a Different Work CycleUnsurprisingly, collective goals are hard to manage among geographically dispersed teams across different time zones. Many agile workplaces such as Google, Uber and Airbnb have countered this obstacle by altering their entire work cycle and applying their version of a ‘sprint’ model, outlined in the book Sprint by Jake Knapp with John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz.
In its purest form, this agile working methodology involves an express version of mapping problems and prototyping solutions, with staff working in groups of approximately seven, in bursts (or sprints) of five dedicated days to achieve immediate goals without the traditional roadblocks.
Each day is focused on one key part of the process: day one is defining the problem, day two is conceiving possible solutions, day three involves deciding on the single best solution, day four is when you’ll collectively create prototypes and day five is the testing stage, where you’ll discover which prototype solves your problem best. The sprint-style work cycle keeps staff focused, agile and united in the completion of shared projects.
Keep Team Member Wellbeing and Morale as a Top Priority
Remote working adds an extra layer of complexity when monitoring employee wellbeing and company culture, but it’s important for the health of your employees and your bottom line to keep staff morale in tip top shape.
Studies by the Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organisation revealed that organisations who reported low employee engagement scores experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% higher absenteeism and 60% more errors in their work. This makes a solid case for keeping engagement high.
Basu makes certain to take note of what he sees as key indicators of low staff morale, such as not turning on video during conference calls, a drop in a staff member’s contribution to forums and meetings, as well as a general dip in overall productivity.
To combat this, the company is implementing strategies including a focused wellness plan incorporating everything from virtual exercise and beers, as well as Slack channels dedicated to non-work-related chat for the sharing of memes and Netflix recommendations to keep a social element alive in the absence of spontaneous ‘water cooler’ chat.
Managers can also work on becoming more available to their staff so that concerns can be dealt with quickly, especially by offering one-on-one chats with staff. Even if there’s no immediate issue to be dealt with, aim to maintain individual contact on a regular basis (weekly or daily – choose what’s right for your team) and ask for feedback on the remote working situation.
Hot Tip The difference between a connected staff member and a disengaged one could be a simple problem that you’ll only discover if you ask directly.