As the working week got underway, employees throughout the world were getting ready to work remotely, many for the first time.

The rise of COVID-19 coronavirus has prompted many employers to ask or compel some or all of their employees to work from home. And it’s not only private companies that are suddenly having to accommodate remote working, either. Public service workers, government servants, and military officials are just a few examples that may surprise some.

For leaders whose teams normally share an office, this new way of working made necessary by COVID-19 coronavirus can and is presenting a whole range of new challenges: How can remote teams be efficiently managed when employees are communicating via instant messages? How are things meant to get done when critical meetings are being held via Skype rather than face-to-face?

Managing Remote Teams During a Crisis Like Coronavirus

Being an effective manager in a traditional office environment is very different to managing a remote team—not everything translates perfectly. In fact, many managers new to the idea of remote working fail at keeping remote teams under control and this can lead to a fall in productivity and less-than-favourable results.

And although we appreciate that there is a learning curve and that not everything will function perfectly in a company’s initial exposure to remote working—particularly when most or whole of a company’s workforce goes remote—it is important to know where companies and managers initially struggle with the concept of remote working.

Trusting Employees to Get the Job Done

Or a lack of trust, even, which leads to overbearing tracking and management which is inherently counterproductive.

We get it—remote working is an alien concept. We understand that when your employees are sat at their desks, it is easier to gauge whether people are working and are being productive. However, this does not mean that remote working employees need to be monitored during every waking minute of the day whilst they are on company time.

Unfortunately, this is one of the biggest problems that some companies and remote managers face. Constantly pinging your employees via Skype or Slack, installing overbearing monitoring tools, and demanding hourly progress reports will lead to disdain amongst your remote teams, likely causing them to be less productive than they otherwise would have been.

Remote working demands a level of trust and mutual respect between managers and employees. If work is getting done and targets are being met, take a step back and leave people to get on with their responsibilities.

Facilitating Efficient Communication and Interaction

Naturally, remote workers are disconnected from one another. Although they can exchange emails, join conference calls, and participate in group meetings or collaborative work, the same level of interaction that would be experienced in an office is not there. For some, this can be a bonus but for others, it can be burdensome.

Remote workers and teams require that little bit extra to maintain current working relationships and foster new ones with their colleagues—this means ditching impersonal email and rigid Skype communication for something a little more “current”.  

Luckily, there are many apps and tools available on the market that have been proven to boost communication, interaction, and collaboration between remote teams. Some of our favourites include Slack, Todoist, Basecamp, ProofHub, Time Doctor, and Zoom.

Arranging One-to-One Meetings

In an office setting, your team will get facetime with you each day on an individual basis, even if it is to just a quick hello, engage in a little small talk, or run a few questions by you. When working remotely, this is no longer the case and therefore one-to-one meetings become a fairly important obligation for managers that want to ensure they are kept up-to-date and that their team members feel valued.

One-to-one virtual meetings, even if they last only for a few minutes, can work wonders for performance and morale—they give team members the opportunity to come to you with information, for you to provide feedback on their work, and for them to feel like they are staying in touch with the company.

Establishing Structure with Org Charts

No matter how well you manage your remote team, however, it can be hard to foster a sense of community and routine between people who have little-to-no physical interaction with yourself and others.

At the same time, team members will work more productively if they know or can see that their individual efforts are contributing to the overall achievement of the company’s goals, and to achieve this, remote team managers may wish to try implementing a formal structure.

This is where org charts come in—they are a must-have for any remote team. They provide your team with everything they need to learn, collaborate, and find new opportunities.

Having a formal structure in place that is mapped out with an org chart—even if it is simply an org chart that sets out the organization’s staffing structure—helps to reinforce processes for your employees, providing them with an unambiguous point of reference for how each person in the organization operates via their role to achieve its wider goals.

Org charts can also be used to make remote working more structured. Regularly scheduled mandatory meetings, project mapping, and company-wide announcements are all things that org charts can be used for or with to create a widespread sense of belonging, deliver clarity, and keep everyone on track.

To put it simply, with a formal org chart in place, employees will feel a greater connection with their remote co-workers because it serves as a reminder that they are part of a wider group where everyone is working to reach the same goals.