Right now, many businesses have had to move their working environment away from a collective office to team members working individually from their own homes. Thankfully modern technology has enabled teams to continue to complete their work this move to remote teams to continue to complete their work. However, this move to remote teams changes how managers and business owners lead, manage and motivate their teams. It’s not “business as usual” despite what many have said – this new working environment brings many different challenges and also opportunities. Leaders who want to continue to have a high performing business and maintain (and even develop further) a positive and productive team environment need to adapt what they have always been doing.
Here are my 5 top tips for managing and motivating remote teams for business success.
1. Get your basics right – ensure your team is set up correctly to work from home.
It’s important that you have more than just the right technology in place (such as remote access, video meetings and online group chats). You also need to consider managing all of the risks that come with working from home.
Workplace Health and Safety
Did you know that you are still liable for the workplace health and safety of your employees when they are working from home? You need to ensure that they are set up correctly and working safely. Ask each of your team members to complete a Working from Home Checklist and provide photo’s that demonstrate they are set up ergonomically (if necessary allow them to bring home office equipment such as chairs, monitors, headsets etc to help) and return this to you for your records. You need to satisfy yourself that they are not at risk of injury. Working from their lounge is not a good idea.
You need to ensure that you are meeting your obligations from Fair Work both generally and with relevance to the Awards your employees are covered by. For example:
- Staff covered by the new annualised salary arrangements till need to record their hours
- If working hours have changed, check if penalty rates should apply
- 3 main awards (Clerks – Private Sector, Restaurant Industry and Hospitality) have been significantly amended – check you are up to date
- 99 Awards have been temporarily changed to include pandemic leave and the ability to take annual leave at half pay
Fair Work has a Coronavirus page – check it daily for the latest information – https://coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au/
2. Communicate effectively and regularly
With your team working individually from their home it’s easy to miss out on key communications as they get caught up in getting work done in a new working environment. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is something that could negatively impact your team if you don’t put in place structure around communication that keeps conversations flowing and your culture working.
Ensuring you have regular team meetings and one to ones via video link helps provide structure to the working week and keeps people connected. This should include:
- A daily team “catch up”
- A weekly longer meeting that includes results, strategy and future planning discussions
- Regular one to ones
- Fun get togethers such as birthday celebrations, a team lunch or Friday afternoon drinks (the added bonus is that this will be easiest catering you will ever have to worry about).
It’s also important to try to replicate the day to day conversations and idea sharing that would normally occur in an office. Having an open “chat” channel open is one way to do this. Remember when you are typing messages there is no tone, so emoji’s are acceptable and should be used on these tools.
However, make sure important conversations such as feedback, personal discussions and communicating change are done via video link or phone. Emails are open to interpretation due to their lack of tone, so having a discussion is key.
Of most importance though you should understand your own communication style and that of the others you work with. If you don’t know your own style from undertaking an assessment such as DiSC profiling then now is the perfect time to do this. Contact me to chat about how I can help with this. Once you understand your own communication preferences and that of others in your team you are more easily able to communicate in way that is effective and minimises misunderstandings and conflict.
3. Change how you manage
It’s not business as usual, but it is the new normal. For the short term, those of us who are fortunate to be able to work from home will have to do so whilst balancing many other challenges. Right now millions of people around the world are working from home with their partner, kids, other family members or needy pets. Others are at home alone and missing the social interactions that an office environment provided to them. There are also a large number of other distractions when you are at home (hello large pile of washing!).
You can no longer expect your staff to work a standard day. Flexibility is key. It’s important to ensure that you have a flexible approach to working hours so that your staff can do their jobs and look after their families. This may involve permitting staff to start early, work late or break up their day to share care/education of children with their partner who may also be working from home. It is important to ensure you have some core contact hours though. Have a one to one with each team member to establish what will work best for them and your business then make any changes official through the right documentation.
It’s important to review and revise your KPIs as they may not be relevant right now. Setting outcome based KPIs is important as for many, the process will look different now. Trust is key – set the KPIs and let them do it with clear reporting standards. Ensure everyone has role clarity – check that your team know exactly what they need to do and that their activities and goals are aligned back to the organisation’s current goals (which may have changed).
4. Keep mental health top of mind
Some people will be loving not having to go to the office every day but for many this time is a true challenge. Many people enjoy going to work for the social interaction and structure. For others it’s the one safe place that they can go to.
If you don’t have your own Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place, share the many free resources available (including links to websites and phone numbers) such as Lifeline, Beyond Blue and DV Connect. Ensure your team knows who they can contact if they have issues. Helping keep your team mentally well and safe is more important than ever right now.
Encourage your team to have a routine by setting a schedule for the day (including time for self-care) and getting dressed for work (changing out of your night pjs to your work pjs is a good start!). The closer they can replicate a “normal” work day the better and the easier it will make it when everyone can go back to the office.
5. Be optimistic
We will get through this. Whilst it’s hard right now, it’s not forever so ensure you are focussing on that with your team. Things will get better and you should involve your team in discussions around how you can use this time to make long term improvements in your business. Create a vision for what your business will look like in the future so that your team have something to look forward to. When things start to return to normal (or the new normal) ensure you are ready to hit the ground running with a strong business and an even stronger team.
For further tools and support (including a Managing Remote Workers Checklist, Working from Home guide and WH&S checklist) please visit my website https://hrmatters.com.au/resources
Managing Remote Teams Assessment
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About Katrina Haynes
Katrina Haynes is the founder and Director of K Haynes HR – HR Matters. As a HR Consultant, Katrina works with SME’s to provide practical people solutions to minimise risk and maximise performance. Providing outsourced HR and workplace improvement services, Katrina specialises in all aspects of HR Strategy, Compliance and Performance, is an accredited DiSC facilitator and has a passion for creating high performing teams and great places to work.