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COVID-19: How to Manage Teams Remotely

Posted on March 27th, 2020 by Don Kunkel

Working remotely is becoming a necessity in response to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Team leaders and managers have suddenly found themselves managing completely remote teams, with little or no time to prepare.

AssessMed is committed to the safety and health of our staff, assessors and patients. We urge everyone to exercise caution and if possible, work remotely.  Several challenges arise when your teams are working from home, but following some quick and easy tips can help smoothen the transition.

Trust Is Key

Just like managing a team remotely might be new for you, remember that your team is in the same situation. Dan Rockwell on his Leadership Freak blog places trust at the top of his list for effectively managing remote teams. He encourages managers to be supportive and approach new situations trusting their team members.

Leaders Drive Change

Working remotely in these circumstances is a major change for most organizations. LinkedIn’s Talent Blog outlines recommendations by GitLab, about managing teams remotely. The post calls for the creation of a leadership team with work from home experience as they can communicate nuances and serve as resources to others with questions. This team would also be responsible for documenting and prioritizing challenges.

Transitioning from a strong in-office culture to working remotely is a process and will require an adjustment period. Managers should be open to what is working and what isn’t, and make changes accordingly.

Daily Check-ins

Establishing a regular check-in should be at the top of each manager’s list. Ideally, this should be on video as phone calls, emails and communication can only go so far.  If your work is based more on collaboration, a team call would be the way to go. The Harvard Business Review stresses that the calls should be regular and predictable, and that they are in a forum where team members can consult with managers and have their concerns and questions heard.

If employees are used to being in the office, working remotely under these circumstances can be strenuous. Regular communication is helpful for employees who might be feeling lonely and isolated

Services like Google’s Team Hangouts and Zoom are useful and make communication easy.

Use Technology Effectively

Keeping your team connected is essential when working from home and requires the right tools at your disposal. Video conferencing and email might not be enough to fulfill your communication needs. Managers should encourage their teams to use Slack and Microsoft Teams for quick and less formal communication.

When working remotely, there must be set guidelines in place for the frequency and what tools to use when. For example, while video conferencing is great for daily check-ins, Slack might be more effective if something needs to be communicated urgently. As a manager, you should monitor communication among team members (to an appropriate extent) to ensure they are sharing information as needed.

It is important that these guidelines are defined as soon as possible by managers and conveyed to team members.

Manage Expectations

As a manager, you should be setting priorities and creating realistic expectations for team members and yourself. Clearly define tasks and explain to your team how success will be measured. It is important for teams working remotely to remain focused on meeting requirements put forward by clients, not working a traditional 8-hour shift. In the current environment, your team will be under a lot of pressure, both professional and personal.

Remote Social Interactions

Social interaction at the workplace is important and this should not change when working remotely. Allow time during your communication for employees to discuss matters which aren’t work-related. Another way is to schedule a meetup on Google Hangouts where team members can get together and speak about things they would normally discuss over coffee or during their lunch break. These types of interactions are effective when dealing with isolation and promote a sense of belonging.

Encouragement and Emotional Support

It’s not a far stretch to assume that your team members would be feeling stressed. Listen to their concerns and empathize. Ask them about their experience working remotely and be ready to offer solutions to problems they might be encountering. Affirm confidence in your team, be supportive and make sure they realize that they aren’t alone. A positive attitude trickles down and makes overcoming challenges easier.

The entire team at AssessMed wishes that you remain safe and healthy during these testing times. To do our part, we want to not only create awareness about COVID-19 but also issues that are arising from its spread. Together we can fight this and emerge stronger.

Since 1991, AssessMed has assisted organizations by providing objective IME services across Canada. Contact us today to learn about our suite of CARF-accredited offerings.

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