Working remotely can reveal how internal systems work (or don't), employees who are top performers (and those who are not), and brands that can adapt and pivot (or stand and panic). Managing staff through Zoom calls and Slack messages is challenging, particularly for leaders who are used to popping by someone's desk or calling an impromptu meeting to keep everyone on the same page.
Some offices can seamlessly transition to remote working. For others, it's an entirely new concept, one that many have had to learn quickly. Add on financial stress, a standstill economy, and an unforeseeable future, and managing your new remote team on top of everything else can seem like yet another insurmountable task on your to-do list.
Despite its challenges, managing staff outside of the office shouldn't alter your expectations or their performance. As soon as you start to let things slide, it's incredibly difficult to reinstate the standards that you once held.
Here are three things every leader should uphold when managing remote teams.
1. Assign hard deadlines (and stick to them).
Just because your staff are out of the office, doesn't give them a pass to slack off. If anything, now is when you need people to step up like never before. Don't be afraid to hold them accountable.
Performance starts with clear communication. This stems from leadership. Clearly assign when something is due and check in mid-way. After that, you should receive work by the deadline. Working remotely shouldn't compromise this, and if outside factors have halted an employee's completion date, it's on them to communicate this from the start. After all, you have enough on your plate -- so don't take on their workload, too.
2. Implement mandatory lunch breaks.
I don't know about you, but since we've transitioned to working from home full-time, I feel like I've been working more hours than ever before. I also rarely take breaks. By 6 p.m., my eyes are puffy from staring at the screen non-stop, my shoulders are sore, and my focus is hanging on by a thread.
Before, I would wake up, go to a workout class, bike to work, head to a lunch meeting, pick up my kids from school, or meet someone for coffee. Now when I wake up, I head straight to my computer and don't let up until the last person from my team signs off. After weeks of this on repeat, I'm drained. Which means my staff likely are, too.
That's why I started implementing 30-minute mandatory lunch breaks. Everyone must sign off. Giving staff permission to step away from their computer and recharge can make a substantial difference to their performance and their morale.
3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Oh, and delegate.
During challenging times, leaders need to focus on the business. This includes a strategy to both navigate the present as well as prepare for the future. Maybe that means pivoting your business model or introducing new services. It could also be a time to consider all of those ideas you've been meaning to explore, like acquisitions, partnerships, or rebranding.
But knowing you have those extras chains of communications to get through can impede leaders from delegating work they used to, and they end up just doing it themselves. I've definitely been guilty of this. It's a common trap that many entrepreneurs and staff fall into, yet it prevents them from critically working on their business.
So before you tackle that report, assign it to someone on your team. They're employed for a reason. Let them do their job so you can do yours.