Leading from a distance
The guiding principles of people management remain the same whether leading within an office or site-based environment, or remotely for a team of homeworkers.
At the very simplest level, managing effectively means:
- Ensuring that your teams have the tools, equipment and information to do their jobs effectively and safely.
- Supporting employees in their ongoing professional development by providing training, coaching and mentoring, in groups and on a one-to-one basis.
- Providing ongoing clarity on objectives and required outcomes – not only for individuals and teams, but also the company direction – especially in the uncertain and unchartered times we currently find ourselves in.
- Encouraging cross-team collaboration and communication.
- Promoting mental health and wellbeing and offering related activities and support
Here are some ways in which you can follow through on some of these…
Putting your people first
When delivering your working from home programme, the needs of your employees should be at the centre of the logistics, expected outputs, technology choices and communication strategy – in fact, every element of your plans. How else can you expect your team to feel motivated and clear on what you are trying to achieve?
Here are some basic but fundamental tips on carrying out a remote worker communications plan…
- Set up a daily catch up with the team - a quick call in the morning will ensure that everyone is aligned on what needs to be achieved and fully aware of each other’s’ workload and priorities.
- Engender a culture of trust - show workers that you have trust in them to do their jobs from afar.
- Make sure you communicate any updates and news quickly and effectively.
- Plan the volume and frequency of electronic communications carefully - especially email – too much email traffic can create “noise” and dilute important messages. As part of this, it’s a good idea to have a mass email policy that considers who can send mass emails as well as the sign off process.
- It’s entirely possible to recreate office coffee breaks and even working lunches – share a recipe and agree a day when you can all make it – and then dial in to a conference call to enjoy together!
- Don’t underestimate the importance of social time and team activities as part of a cohesive, collaborative culture where goodwill and high levels of employee engagement form a key part of “can do” behaviours. Quizzes, games, informal chats, competitions and other social activities should be a core element of your daily plans. everyone can let their hair down and get to know one another as people as well as colleagues.
Measure teams by outputs rather than hours worked
There are distractions at home; some that can’t be escaped. Family members, pets, deliveries to the door… your staff are likely to be impacted somehow in a way that’s different from the usual office day-to-day.
So while their availability is key to their job - and that means covering core working hours - it’s not always possible to track hours worked 100% accurately, or expect the same level of consistency day by day as you can in an office environment.
What should matter the most is that key deliverables are achieved to an appropriate standard.
Tools to help you keep in touch and stay organised
The rise of communications, collaboration and project planning software and apps like Skype, Go to Meeting, MS Teams, Zoom, Slack, and Trello, means it’s almost as easy to speak with your team and mange projects remotely as when in the office. Appropriate use of these tools is key to keeping remote workers engaged and allocating work effectively – remember to be consistent in chosen platforms and ensure that employees are trained in using them confidently and efficiently. Don’t make the common mistake of hiding behind audio – video conferencing is the only way of allowing colleagues to “see” each other – helping them to maintain a sense of belonging (and encouraging them to get out of their pyjamas before starting work)!
Final thoughts….is remote leadership: the future of management?
LinkedIn reports that in the last two years, searches for information on remote working have grown by more than 2x. This trend suggests that the modern workforce is looking at home working as a more permanent option rather than just a “forced” requirement in times of crisis.
Remote leadership capability is becoming increasingly important to many businesses as part of their ongoing talent management strategy and so developing your soft skills to be able to demonstrate this capability will help you stand out from the competition now, and in the future.