Working remotely had been a growing trend in the past few years, but in recent months, businesses around the globe are forced to jump on the bandwagon due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many companies were caught unprepared, yet the enforcement of shutdowns in major cities makes remote work inevitable if they want to maintain business continuity. For this reason, managers in various roles at all sorts of organisations need to reconsider how they motivate their teams.
This might prove to be a more challenging task than it might seem. For instance, research suggests that employees who work from home are less motivated, compared to those who work from an office. Therefore, managers understand the best techniques for leading their teams when in-person is not an option, in order for the business to achieve its customary level of productivity.
Frequent & Caring Communications
When face-to-face interactions are limited, clear and concise communication becomes increasingly important. Leaders who are able to offer clear directions and identify specific goals are more likely to effectively drive their teams towards desired outcomes. Frequent communication ensures that the team is in-sync and reduces the chances of misinterpretation. The truth is, video calls make it hard to pick up non-verbal cues, which can increase the possibility for miscommunication. By opening the lines of communications between you and your team, you are more likely to increase clarity and effectiveness. Some leaders suggest reaching out to direct reports at least once a day without a specific agenda. This gives employees a change to keep their supervisors updated and provides a replacement for impromptu communication in the office.
Furthermore, caring communication ensures that remote managers can gather feedback and take corrective action before any issue grows more significantly. If working remotely has decreased employees’ motivation, then regular and caring communications can bridge the gap and add provide support for workers. People are emotional creatures, and a manager that can show empathy, offer guidance and recognition can help team members feel more ready to contribute to their roles.
Giving your employees the ability to work from home virtually required at this point. However, there are reasons to consider giving them additional flexibility. For example, studies have found that allowing employees more flexibility in their schedules (e.g. shuffle working hours, reduce the number of meetings attended, etc.) resulted in positive results in terms of increased total hours worked and productivity, as well as reduced burnout and sick time. Not only that, flexible working arrangements can help organisations attract new employees and increase retention.
This might seem too good to be true, and in some ways is a simplification of the studies findings. The studies also found that the best results occurred when employees were trained and guided appropriately, making them feel far more empowered to manage their tasks. This suggests that managers shouldn't simply let their workers loose, but rather, set clear expectations and standards in order to help their teams succeed.
Furthermore, the success of flexible working arrangement rides heavily on the culture and value of each organisation. A University of Oxford study conducted across more than 4,000 companies around the world found that such programs work best in modern and economically advanced cultures where managers trust their employees to be responsible and conscientious at work. With this mindset, managers are more willing to release control and as such employees will naturally feel more supported because they are given the autonomy to manage their schedule and workflow. Of course, in the context of the Covid-19 lockdown, managers may need to exercise even more flexibility for remote employees because of the added pressure from children, lack of space, and privacy.
Leverage Technology for Efficient Meetings & Projects
There are a wide range of tools available online to help remote teams connect and communicate more efficiently. By leveraging the right technology, managers can ensure that remote teams are operating at optimum capacity and are kept informed at all times. There are different categories of tools to suit different management needs. For communication, telecommunications applications such as Zoom and Skype are great for video conferencing, both locally and internationally. Project management tools such as Monday.com and Asana are designed to help remote teams organise, track, and manage their work effectively. Sharing platforms such as Dropbox, Google Docs and Google Drives are also great tools that can help the managers and teams collaborate and do their jobs more seamlessly.
Virtual Team-Building Activities
As an effective manager, keeping the team motivated and engaged is one of the most important tasks, whether the team is remote or in-office. With this in mind, an important goal is to establish a sense of community within the group no matter where the employees are located.
Managers can learn to replicate the activities that are normally conducted in the work and host them online. For example, bring the office happy hour to Zoom or Google Hangouts and allow team members to take turns to share their experiences and connect in a more casual setting. If these "happy hours" lose their luster, consider utilising one of the many apps that enable team-building through party games, entertainment and even virtual competitions. Better yet, poll members of your team to see if they have any fun ideas along these lines. Building a cohesive team is the first step to building a productive team. When managers take time to connect with their team members and allow the team to get to know each other better, they can also understand each member’s character and manage them more effectively.
Adapting Leadership to Suit the New Paradigm
As we move into a new age where our workplace is dispersed, and technology is leveraged for greater cross-border possibilities, business managers must also adjust their leadership methods to suit these new ways of working. Additionally, with more companies attempting to globalise their businesses, remote working will continue to be a phenomenon that will stick around for a long time. Therefore, instead of hoping that remote management will run its course and eventually cease to exist, it is prudent to start adopting best practices. These practices will be handy, even after the pandemic is over.