As a leader, I hope you know that it’s your responsibility to care for a team – not only as colleagues, but as human beings. The transition to working remotely can impact a team’s culture, as anxiety around future projects and team collaboration can seem uncertain.   And that’s if a transition was planned, never mind the hot 17 seconds that most of you had last month to move from your office to your new “shelter at home” office!

Additional factors such as kids at home, lack of doggy daycare, and your partner/spouse or roommate vying for Internet bandwidth are now a part of your typical workday.   Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for you as a leader to support your team through online communication.

So, what does remote work mean for you as a leader? How can you – as a leader and manager – continue to lead and inspire your teams without meeting in person? What practices can you implement to care for your coworkers beyond the office?

Here are a few best practices and practical tools for successfully leading and managing remote teams.

1. Solidify team logistics.

In mid-March, many of us had to move – and quickly – from shared offices to remote work spaces.  Now that we’ve been in our new norm for a bit, take a big breath.  Here are a few logistical items that can help ensure success.

Check in with your team as to what equipment they need to REALLY work remotely. We’ve been functioning with what was cobbled together for a few weeks.  But what do we REALLY need? Many employees just need a laptop (with a webcam) and a good Internet connection. Reliable internet is key, as many home Wi-Fi systems don’t scale well if there is a large demand on the network, such as additional users at home also video conferencing (or watching Netflix).

Some of your team has been working from the kitchen table or a on the floor in the closet.  Since we may be at this for a bit longer, encourage your employees to take the time to set up a good spot at home for a dedicated workspace.

Some other logistics tips:

  • Make sure employees have a solid understanding of how to use video conferencing apps (Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, WebEx, Microsoft Teams,  Skype, Facetime– lots of choices!).  It’s time for them (and you!) to attend online training or ask questions if they need help.
  • Remind your team of the tools they have available to them during this time, and reinforce how they can be used to accomplish goals.
  • Schedule quick syncs in weekly meetings; recognize accomplishments over chat, and more.
  • If possible, identify points of contact for your team’s technical and corporate needs so they know who to reach out to with questions, bugs, or outages, should they arise. This frees you up from being “remote IT.”

2. Be available & schedule check-in time.

When teams transition to remote work, it is easy for projects and initiatives to get lost in the mix.

It’s important to maintain your team’s feeling of togetherness while ensuring that projects stay on track. It is crucial for leaders to reaffirm the team road map and ensure alignment on priorities. And since you are unable to rally a team in your regular conference room, video meetings save the day!

To ensure alignment on priorities and touch base on projects, schedule consistent check-ins via video calls. Make these meetings fun by scheduling them around morning coffee or lunch breaks, encouraging team members to share how their days are going, tips for working remotely, and how the team can help support them this week.

3. Lead by example.

Video improves trust, engagement, and productivity.

Your tone, facial expressions, and body language communicate as much as your words do. So, be sure to lead by example by turning your camera onEven on those days where you don’t feel office-ready.   Social connection, now more than ever, is integral to the well being of your team. It’s fun to share photos of new desk setups or what’s for lunch in your team chat. Lead the fun, and encourage your team to bring their whole selves to these syncs — your pets and all! Your team members are allowing you into their homes, which help create a more personal connection. You also can use video to help them troubleshoot any workplace setup issues they may be having.

4. Keep things clear.

Transparency is key when leading a team remotely.

If any member is confused about strategy, deliverables, or priorities, the entire initiative suffers. Build trust and confidence with your team with honest communication so your team members feel secure while working remotely. Stay on track by using a team chat, regular video calls and frequent check in’s for cohesive communication. Leaders are able to guide team members with openness and clarity, as these platforms foster connectivity regardless of your environment.

Encourage your team to keep up their regular morning routines, from getting dressed for the day to working their usual hours. Encourage simple actions such as “clocking in” at 9 a.m. and taking a scheduled lunch break, which can help support workflow and help people maintain focus on their responsibilities.

5. Add moments of fun.

Just because you’re not all in the same office, doesn’t mean that you are not all part of the team.

As mentioned in Tip #2 above, build in time for fun, engaging activities to reduce the potential loneliness of remote work and create camaraderie. Some of my favorite virtual activities are coffee breaks, quick exercise sessions, and “Virtual Lunch Friday,” where you evaluate who is having the most delicious lunch!  Don’t forget to promote self-care strategies in your team syncs, such as getting outside for breaks, staying hydrated, and scheduling calls just to connect with others.

As I wrote in my last blog post, you’ve worked hard to build this nonprofit and you can continue to build it with your team. Work can actually bring a surprising level of normalcy to un-normal times like these. If you are confused, overwhelmed or need resources, schedule a FREE call with me and we can work through this new phase.

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