If the COVID19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s we are much stronger as a team than we thought we were. Regardless of the size and how far spread we are, as startups, we are more likely than any other industry to embrace remote working and pushing ahead, regardless of the circumstances. For some companies, we may have been thrown into the deep end and forced to swim, while for others, it was just a matter of tweaking a few policies. Either way, being forced to work remotely has had some modicum of impact on all of us, the extent of which is something that some companies might be struggling with.
If remote working is a novel concept or something that was reserved only for certain team members, as team leaders, you may be facing a few challenges in this current set up. So, in order to make the situation a little easier and less frustrating for all those involved, here are three major tips to keep in mind. As we work through this crisis together, understanding why these tips are important will be a major stepping stone towards creating the most productive remote working teams.
1. Embrace collaborative work tools
As long as we’re working together in an office environment, it’s normal for us to have a quick stand-up meet, and then fire off an email as confirmation of what was discussed. When working remotely, however, that won’t work. We need to understand that email isn’t the only form of communication. In fact, in a remote working environment, email is probably at the bottom of the list, reserved for meeting notes or really important information that needs to be on the record.
For internal communication, it’s best that you invest in collaborative tools to bring the team together. Suites from Google and Microsoft are perfect for collaborative working, but when it comes to communication, there are some great solutions out there. At Nordic Intent, our companies rely on Slack to communicate and track notes, task lists and even share media. In addition, we use Trello to track project pipelines and keep everyone on the same page.
It’s always advisable to touch base with your team members on a regular basis through virtual meetings, and this can easily be done through video conferencing tools such as Google Meet or Teams if you’re using Microsoft. More than keeping it professional, these visual touchpoints are important to keep team morale high and share positive relationships – especially during trying times such as these. Face to face conference calls are also great in clearing misunderstandings that often arise due to the two-dimensional nature of written communication.
2. Value Quality over Quantity
There’s a certain sense of insecurity that comes with not being able to see your team members. What are they doing? Is the project being worked on? Will we meet the deadline? Are my people even working right now? All these questions (and probably more) are quite normal and are probably the cause for a fair amount of anxiety. As a result, team leaders and managers deploy strict adherence to timesheets and trackers, insisting that team members account for every minute of their workday. While this may be imperative for accounting purposes, especially when billing clients, it’s important to understand that between work and home, there are various priority shifts that lead to different people being productive at different times. We discussed this in more detail in our previous blog titled, ‘The skill of remote working, and how to make it inclusive’.
Keeping the pandemic in mind and the sensitive nature of people’s domestic situations, it’s important to prioritise the outcomes and deliverables, rather than the hours spent at work. Remote working, at its core, is about flexibility. By allowing people the freedom to be flexible about their work timings, there will be far less frustration and increased productivity. Although, if you do need to track work hours, communicate your motives to your team in an honest and transparent manner since the objective here is to ensure focus on project deadlines or deliverables.
3. Motivate and trust your team
This is probably the most important aspect of team management, and it’s required whether you’re working in an office, or remotely. When it comes to demotivation and eventual attrition, you will be surprised to know that the main cause is not monetary compensation. In fact, the leading cause of attrition in most companies is poor management, followed by alignment and involvement. When team members do not feel involved, they automatically start to feel unwanted, and this can happen very easily in a remote setup.
Every now and then, it is advisable to have a virtual team meeting to acknowledge everyone’s contributions. Congratulate high performers, and motivate those who are struggling. Host fun competitions and award online gift cards if your budget allows for it. It’s these little gestures that help in maintaining a healthy work environment, even in a remote setting.
Finally, harbour a sense of trust among your team. Like we discussed before, by valuing quality over quantity, you’re putting the responsibility directly on your team members, and allowing them the freedom to deliver. It further helps to avoid micro-managing employees by constantly demanding follow-ups and progress reports. Trust that the final product will exceed expectations, and if it doesn’t, use the opportunity to grow that particular team member through a Personal Performance Plan.
Working remotely can be a challenge, especially if your organisation has never done it before. But by keeping these few simple tips in mind, you’re well on your way to setting up a reliable and productive remote working environment. To know more about Nordic Intent, visit us at www.nordicintent.com.