Are you managing your team remotely these days? If so, you probably already know that overseeing employees or contractors when everyone's at home creates challenges you wouldn't have if you and they were in the office. That's especially true these days, with the added pressures created by the pandemic.
But there are a few simple steps that can help keep your remote team on track, even when they're stuck working at home.
1. Set up regular check-ins with every team member.
This should be separate from any group check-ins or status meetings, and it can take different forms. You might have the employee send you one email first thing in the morning letting you know what his or her plans are for the day, and a second one before quitting for the evening to tell you how the day went. It could be a daily or a weekly phone call or video chat, or a check-in by text message or online chat.
Whatever the plan, you and the employee should agree to it beforehand and then stick to it until you decide on a change. It's probably smart to err on the side of checking in too often rather than not often enough at first. That's because you're better off reducing the frequency of check-ins because you don't need them all rather than having to increase their frequency because things are getting off track.
2. Create a system for assigning work fairly.
How do you decide which team member should get a juicy new project, or who should be assigned a tedious but necessary task? Even when working together in an office, it can be tough to make the right decisions when it comes to parceling out work. But it's especially difficult when everyone is working remotely, because you aren't seeing employees at their desks and it can be hard to tell who's overloaded and who might be ready to take on something new.
Your best option is to keep a careful record of each employee's total responsibilities, noting who has recently started on new projects as well as who is and isn't struggling with the tasks they already have. That will make it easier to plan out who should get the next high-profile assignment, and who might need you to lighten the load.
3. Help the team feel like a team.
Remember that your team needs an easy and efficient way to communicate among themselves and not just with you. Things like chat software, videoconferencing, and online collaboration tools can all be good ways to make this happen.
Keep in mind that the kinds of casual conversations that go on all day in physical offices can't happen when everyone is working remotely. So look for ways that your team can interact informally and socialize, perhaps with a virtual happy hour. Other options might include taking an online yoga or exercise class, having a virtual brown bag lunch where employees give presentations to the others, or even playing online games together, depending on your team's preferences. Perhaps you could have one evening a month when one team member teaches everyone else how to cook his or her favorite dish.
4. Make allowances for unusual times.
As emotional intelligence author Justin Bariso likes to remind us all, these are not normal circumstances. Businesses will reopen and we'll all leave our homes again someday, but it will be a long time before things feel normal again.
Some of your team members are dealing with having kids at home, which will have an inevitable impact on their productivity and their ability to do their jobs. Others may not have child care duty, but are deprived of their favorite daily activities and their emotional support systems because social distancing orders are keeping them away from their friends and family members. Some may be feeling cooped up with their partners or children or roommates, and all of them are suffering some emotional fallout from the pandemic -- worry or grief over loved ones who are ill or have died, concern about the economic downturn, and sorrow over the loss of the life we all had before. Undoubtedly, you are feeling at least some of these emotions yourself and facing at least some of these pressures.
So cut your team and yourself some slack. Productivity has probably dropped for both you and them as you all have adjusted to this new way of living and working, and it may take a while before your work returns to its previous levels. In the meantime, your best strategy is to give your team and yourself the gift of some structure -- and a whole lot of patience. And provide them with all the support you can.