In the last month, our world as we know it has been turned upside down. For those lucky enough to still have jobs, you’re more than likely working from home. For the managers and business owners in particular, not only is it a time of readjusting in every way imaginable, you must now lead your team in a way you’ve never had to before.
For many, this is quite a shift from the usual corporate 9-5 paradigm. But now is not the time to resist this change, rather, embrace the concept of a remote workforce knowing that even before COVID-19, the world was heading in this direction. Now is the time to develop your leadership skills to better lead a remote team because after all this is behind us, this will become the new paradigm.
Transitioning to a remote workforce is indeed scary and even challenging in the beginning. However, if done right, the upside for employees and team leaders can be tremendous. Imagine the time saved traveling to and from work. Think about the extra money in your pocket saved on gasoline, lunch, and parking. Your work environment is yours to control – air-conditioning, heating, as many bathroom breaks as you want, clutter or no clutter on your desk. You can set up your workspace in whatever way works for you and keeps you productive.
I’ve been working with many business owners these last few weeks and some of the most common fears I’ve heard from them are: communication is going to be spotty; security is going to be compromised and our most valuable data is at risk; the work won’t actually get done, and I won’t be able to keep tabs on my employees.
If you are feeling the fear too, remember you are not alone. Here are some ways to embrace the transition and work with your team for the utmost success.
Make sure the lines of communication between you and your team are always good. Do not micromanage. Keep contact on a regular basis and treat your employees the same as before, even though they are working from home. After all, they don’t lose their abilities, work ethic and talents because they are no longer under your nose.
DEVELOP YOUR EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Since remote team management is all about collaboration and working side by side, the ability to place oneself in the shoes of another person plays a major part in smoothing out dents in teamwork. Before you say something to one of your employees or take any action at all, take a closer look at the issue from their perspective. It might just open your eyes to something you didn’t see previously.
BE ORGANIZED AND FLEXIBLE
If you manage a team, you better have everyone and everything in check. But, when it comes to working with remote teams, the key is to allow flexible hours to maintain consistency. Although a concrete plan is a must, you should be open to adjusting strategies as needed. For example: Whether your employees choose to put in their hours in the morning or evening shouldn’t matter, as long as the work gets completed and is of high quality.
TRUST YOUR TEAM – EARN YOUR TEAM’S TRUST
Team members need to trust that you are looking out for their best interest, and you need to trust that your team members are as invested as you are to generate results. Now more than ever, people need each other. They just want to feel safe and part of something bigger than them. Make sure you meet this basic need for your employees and they will give it right back to you.
TRACK THEIR PROGRESS
If you are worried about work getting done, set clear expectations of what is expected from each team member. Have your employees give you a work schedule, along with tasks they are expected to accomplish within a given time. This will calm your fears and give your team the structure they need to fulfill their role. Remember, just because you can’t see them working at their cubicle, doesn’t mean work isn’t getting done. Trust the process.
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
Don’t expect everything to work smoothly from the beginning. Your team (and you) will need some time to adjust to the new situation and each other. It may take some time before all the kinks are worked out and fluidity is restored. Understanding and setting realistic expectations is key. Practice acceptance when faced with mistakes and dealing with all the learning curves that will come your way.
Working from home can increase feelings of isolation and negativity. Positive reinforcement is more important than ever. Make your team members feel that they matter and are valued and you’ll get a whole new level of dedication and commitment from them.
FOCUS ON THE BENEFITS
Every new challenge that we face makes us stronger. Who knows, maybe a remote workforce will be the greatest transition for your company or division. In fact, research shows that 66% of professionals think that working remotely is way more productive than a traditional office setting. No office politics to deal with. No real or unreal rivalries. No office gossip. Just clear and unobstructed focus on getting work done. It could be the start of something great.
Leading a team remotely may be a new experience, and you may be filled with doubts, worry and concern. But remember, so are your team members. We’ve all been thrown into this new reality together. And the only way to succeed is to work together. Support your team members and be there for them and I promise they will be there for you.
Angela Civitella is a certified business leadership coach and founder of INTINDE.