Service: Human resources 

Topic: Coronavirus 

Managing Remote Teams

By Joanna Loizidou

22 Apr 2020

For many of us our everyday lives have changed, both personally and professionally. The coronavirus has completely disrupted how we work and for those that have never worked remotely before, implementing policies and managing teams working from home can be challenging.

To support businesses, we have reached out to our clients and would like to share our experiences on how to successfully manage your remote teams.

Business as usual
Technology has progressed to such an extent that we now have the same access to resources at home as we do in the office. Zoom, Teams and LoopUp are just some of the platforms being used within Gerald Edelman and by some of our clients to keep in touch with employees, customers and suppliers. 

The screen sharing facility available within most video conferencing technology means that there haven’t been considerable disruptions to team collaborations. We have also found that we can still effectively guide and train more junior members of the team using the software. 

However, despite technology providing continuity, you do need to be more flexible when it comes to working patterns and hours. You cannot escape the fact that employees living with extended family have more distractions at home. If your industry allows, be flexible on working hours during this period. Although, we advise to make it clear that even if a team member has adopted their own working pattern they should always be available for clients and colleagues within core hours.

Tip from Avignon Capital Limited, a European Property Investment and Asset Management business.

Avignon have been focused on having regular video contact with our employees, often on a daily basis. We try and vary our communication between the formal and the informal in order to keep our business culture alive. We have embraced any technology which can help our communication and touch points with the team, especially Microsoft Teams. We also have Town Hall calls every other morning to make sure everyone in the company is clear on the priorities and up to date on any changes within the business and in the countries we operate.

Positivity and team morale
We should never forget that our teams are facing uncertain times and the current situation has also had an impact on their personal lives. A lot of people are trying to multi-task working at full capacity whilst managing a household and, more importantly, trying to keep children busy. Rewards should not be underestimated, even if this is only in the form of verbal recognition of good performance. Any achievements, however big or small should be celebrated, whether this is providing assistance to a colleague, completing a project or even coming to an end of a challenging working day. Everyone is different, and everyone is handling the current situation differently, some of our team members are stronger and more resilient whilst others are more vulnerable and struggling mentally. We all need to make sure we are there for our employees in a personal capacity ahead of being their managers. Setting time aside every week for casual chats or even virtual drinks can have a significant effect in boosting team morale.

Tip from Jonathan Benjamin, Director of Redlaw Recruitment Limited, a recruitment company specialising in the legal sector.

We have daily zoom calls to check everyone is ok and brainstorm recruitment activity in the usual way, teams also have their own WhatsApp groups for quick messaging and we have weekly virtual drinks and cahoot quizzes. I think it’s important that everyone feels supported and not isolated and we maintain our culture and values throughout this period. Like most storms, it will pass and the sun will shine again.

Communication is key
Avoid using the telephone for setting targets and deadlines or for difficult conversations. Employees often read body language and the general feel of the team within the office when prioritising tasks. Make a habit of communicating regularly through video conferencing, it keeps the team closer and makes conversations feel more personal. Checking in with employees every day or every other day makes them feel included and part of a team and also reminds those isolating alone that there is always someone there for them.

Performance issues
As weeks go by and we are settling into our new normal it’s inevitable that some employees will be doing better than others. Perhaps some managers had concerns over employee performance prior to the lockdown being enforced, how can this be dealt with in a sensitive manner? Try not to let issues build up, communicate to employees as soon as you identify any decrease in productivity or performance. Ask them why this is happening, offer practical tips and solutions and ask what you as a manager can do to assist. It could be they need more training, better equipment or are having a difficult time at home. If performance issues persist then HR advice is to be sought out on how to handle the matter.

Tip from Bharat Shah, CEO of iPsychtec Limited, driving cultural change through behavioural diagnostics and predictive analytics tools.

Managing teams in the current climate needs to be considered by leaders as both a social obligation and a growth opportunity. Positive engagement and proactive communication become a much bigger source of support in driving morale, motivation and wellbeing of the team. Leaders need to be personally tuned in, both to reassure people personally and in order to keep teams socially healthy and able to operate near pre-pandemic levels. The current forced virtual working is also bringing ways of operating we have been capable of for some time now into our direct experience. Where this is being embraced it is enabling teams to operate in new and productive ways. This will enhance effectiveness and connectedness in the future.

How businesses, leaders and managers respond now will determine how they are judged and respected in the future by their employees and customers/clients. The current situation has allowed us to embrace new technologies and a new way of working, which we should be taking advantage of to motivate our teams and learn lessons for the future.

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