Managing teams remotely - what the last six years have taught me
Karen Lloyd marketing team, retention, employer...
Who knew remote working was going to be one of the most hotly discussed topics for 2020? Well, quite frankly none of us in our wildest dreams expected that we would be in the middle of such events.
I consider myself one of the lucky ones (in so many different ways) but when it comes to remote working, I embraced this as my core business model six years ago now.
Looking back, many thought it was a risky strategy, especially in Recruitment! But, it has been the best thing I ever did. The trust and empowerment that it’s give my people have seen them blossom in ways I never expected to see.
But for those who are being forced to adopt this new way of working and especially those line managers who are having to manage staff from a distance for the first time it is daunting.
So I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt along the way in an effort to help those starting out, or who are simply a bit unsure.
What do you need in place?
Getting your tech sorted is obviously key and can be frustrating when trying to do remotely. I’ve seen some people sent home with their entire desktop set up including tower! If that’s what you need to do, then just go for it.
Dedicate a working space.
This doesn’t have to be a proper home office; can be a bedroom, the dining room or wherever suits you. But have somewhere that is your workspace if you possibly can. This will help you focus and forget about the pile of washing up or mountain of laundry but also to switch off in the evening.
“Mum… Dad… where’s the…?” – distractions are inevitable in these times when many of us will cooped up together as a family. If you’re both working with children at home, compromise will be key! You may find yourselves working alternate mornings or afternoons to manage and entertain the kids. I promise trying to do both will not work! But a designated workspace will make a difference.
What does your team need from you?
Most importantly, they simply need to know you are there. Making yourself as available as possible to offer as much support as they need.
But, don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always be immediately available. I empower my people to help each other; comms forums such as Microsoft Teams (ideal if you’re already running Office 365) with group IM’s and group conferencing facilities helps the team feel supported by each other.
Thinking outside the box, you can also turn this into development opportunities. Nominating mentors or a deputy for you helps to spread the load, is great for personal development and means people don’t feel abandoned or isolated if they can’t reach you.
This situation can have the added bonus of building autonomy in some employees who will flourish in a less structured environment. I wouldn’t be at all shocked if some really surprise you with an upswing in their creativity and productivity.
Remote performance management
One of the most common questions I get asked is about managing performance from a distance.
Firstly, I always make sure I check in with each of my team every day. It can range from a simple IM to a full-on video coaching call for those who need a little more support or with less experience.
Secondly, in marketing you don’t have quantifiable daily or weekly targets. So, a weekly call with your people is essential! As you would with any project progress meeting, review the previous week and establish clear goals for the coming week.
This could be a group call if you are all working on the same projects or an individual, whatever works for you.
Doing these over video I find by far the most beneficial – take advantage of the free tools available if your business doesn’t have one already.
But what if you have doubts?
Expect to give your people some flex. If someone doesn’t answer their phone on the first ring, don’t panic! It’s unrealistic to expect them to be glued to their screen every minute of the day. It’s about ensuring that the work is done and your projects move forward to hit their deadlines as you would expect if everyone was at the office on a normal day.
Thankfully, in six years, I’ve only ever had someone go dark on me once – for 3 days. It’s horrible, but it happens. Luckily thanks to your systems it should be easy to identify; emails sent, calls made, log in history are all at your disposal if you need them. It was the only time it’s ever happened to me thank goodness, but it’s reassuring to know the backup is there if you need it.
At its heart, remote working is all about empowering your employees through trust and transparency; do it right and they will pay you back a hundredfold.