Some people are used to managing remote teams -- namely, those with employees spread out among different offices, or employees who work remotely full-time. But with many companies going remote in response to COVID-19, a large number of managers are being thrust into a position where they suddenly have to learn to oversee teams from afar without much training or preparation. If you're in that boat, here are a few tips for rising to the challenge.
1. Stay in touch
It's easy to scale back on communication when you and your employees get stuck in a sudden remote work situation, but don't do that. Now's the time when your team needs more guidance, not less. As such, take the time to check in with your employees individually as often as possible. If you manage a team of 40 people, you probably don't have the bandwidth to send each member a personalized email asking how his or her day is going, but if you manage a team of eight, that probably is doable. Just being there is a good way to increase employee morale at a time when it's likely plummeting.
2. Continue having meetings
Meetings are the sort of thing many employees dread. But now that everyone's stuck working remotely, you may find that the opposite happens -- your team members begin to appreciate those moments when everyone gets together to review assignments, share updates, and just plain hear one another's voices. Not only should you keep your regular meeting schedule, but also, make an effort to make your meetings as interactive as possible, whether by allowing people to share screens or extending them to allow for more live discussion.
3. Be generous with praise
It's hard for employees to know where they stand when they're suddenly holed up at home with much less access to continuous feedback. And that can quickly lead to feelings of self-doubt at an already precarious time. You can help, however, by making an effort to offer additional praise and encouragement. Thank your employees for bearing with you during this trying period, and acknowledge their progress under less-than-ideal circumstances.
4. Be as transparent as possible
Americans across the country have seen their lives upended in the past week or so, and that extends to their work lives. And with so much conflicting information out there, it can be hard to know what to believe. That's why you need to commit to being as open and transparent with your team as possible throughout this ordeal. If upcoming projects are likely to be canceled, say so. If internal responsibilities need to shift to accommodate current circumstances, communicate those changes clearly. If you show your team members they can count on you to get the real story on all things work-related, it'll give them one less thing to be anxious about.
Some people thrive in remote work situations, but if it's a new thing for your team, it'll take some adjusting to. The better a job you do of stepping up as a manager, the greater your team's chances of staying on course throughout this disruption. And that's something that's sure to reflect well on you in the long run.