Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, you might already have had team members working from home, or this might be a completely new experience for you and your team. Working from home is a transition for all concerned and as a manager, you might find it helpful to point your team members in the direction of this article which offers tips on home working.
This article is not intended to replace or supersede any guidance available from your HR or senior management teams in relation to your organisations specific business contingency planning, but is intended to offer some helpful suggestions and advice on how to support your team if home working is implemented for the first time.
Managing teams remotely
One of the biggest concerns for managers is maintaining a balance between being supportive of people who are working off-site and potentially coming across as a micro-manager. This is particularly difficult as home working removes the ability of the manager to monitor employees within the usual workplace setting.
However, you can strike a healthy balance by considering the following:
- Recognise that working from home will be new to some – if not many – of your team members, so take time to ask each of them what will help in the transition. Everyone is different; some people will be happy to use emails to check-in with you while others might feel that a daily video call will keep them on track. Be sensitive to what individuals need while balancing their preferences with the specific needs of the business.
- Set expectations as early on as possible. Explain that you trust everyone to get their work done, just as they would in the office, but that you’ll need to be able to reach them consistently during working hours. Encourage people to take short breaks during the day and have a set time for lunch – just as they would in the workplace – but ask that they let you know if they will be unavailable for long periods of time due to conference calls or project deadlines. Make it clear that emails should be answered as quickly as possible, and voicemails returned on the same day.
- Ask team members to keep their office diaries up to date and give them sight of yours where possible. It can feel unsettling not to be able to get hold of a colleague about an urgent matter but knowing that they are otherwise engaged in work can ease concerns about their availability.
- Reassure team members that you’re there for them when they need you but to reduce anxiety around waiting times, suggest that anyone contacts you if there is anything urgent that they need support with.
- Schedule a mandatory daily catch-up with the whole team and use video calling if this is available. Working from home can feel lonely, especially for colleagues who live alone. Even a ten-minute check-in can be helpful. And don’t make it just about work – be sure to let everyone catch up on the news just as they would at the office.
- Encourage team members to connect with each other daily, whether by phone or video conference. This can relieve feelings of stress and isolation, and reassure people that they’re still part of a team.
- Recognise the limitations that homeworking may present. While your organisation will no doubt ensure that key tasks can be completed by colleagues working from home, acknowledge that there may be tasks that cannot be completed as they usually would due to technological or logistical restrictions.
- Make sure that you also have contact with your own line manager when working remotely. You need to make sure that your needs are met along with those of your team members, so don’t forget that you matter too.
- Encourage team members to manage their wellbeing. As working from home may be a new experience, encourage your team to review our other articles to manage their health and wellbeing.