To say that a lot has changed over the course of just a few months would be an understatement. Not only are many of us now facing lockdown loneliness, familial health concerns, and uncertainty for the future, we are also having to adapt to a whole new way of working—remotely. And for some, there is the added challenge of managing remote workers as well as working remotely themselves.
Although we can’t provide much assurance for the future post-coronavirus, the team here at Organimi has built a world-leading org chart tool remotely from the comfort of our own home-based workspaces. And naturally, we have learnt a thing or two about remote work over the years.
Our Top Remote Work Tips for Managers
If you have recently started working from home or are managing a remote team that has been thrown in at the deep end, here are some of our top tips for getting things done effectively and “bossing” it!
There’s no such thing as overcommunicating
Overcommunication is a term that we hear a lot, especially when it comes to remote work. But when it comes to remote working, communication is everything. In our opinion, it is impossible to overdo it when you have a dispersed remote team.
Schedule daily morning check-ins, hold regular team meetings and feedback sessions, and don’t be afraid to ping your team every now and then throughout the day, preferably through a team chat tool such as Slack (you want to save email for the really important stuff!) And remember, most of these chat tools allow high levels of control over notification preferences so as to avoid distractions. After all, in a remote environment, all information needs to be clearly and explicitly delivered—so do it.
In a similar vein, set communication guidelines and expectations
When working remotely, there is no more in-person communication. This changes things because you are replacing human-to-human interaction with virtual interaction, for which there are many apps, tools, and solutions.
To promote cohesion, your team needs some best practices for how they should communicate with each other and yourself, and how they should do it. Take your time to establish guidelines and preferences for certain types of communication, such as when it is sufficient to send an IM as opposed to an email.
Example guidelines may look something along the lines of:
- External methods or those not officially allowed by the company (e.g. WhatsApp) are not to be used for work-based communications
- Chat messages and IMs (e.g. Slack, Skype, Teams) are for immediate conversations and quick questions
- Email should be used for non-immediate communications, long-form updates and messages, and messages that are being sent to multiple people
- Video conferencing tools are for scheduled group conversations, meetings, and one-to-ones
Establish clear hierarchies and reporting structures
When employees are working remotely, it takes longer for them to get to know one another and who’s who in the company. This is because, in the absence of an office environment, there is little opportunity to physically see people outside of their own teams and in some cases, teams operate in their own “bubbles”. But knowing who’s who in an organization is important, especially for newcomers.
This is where org charts and org chart tools like our own one, Organimi, come in. These are a boon for efficiency when they are used correctly because they allow reporting hierarchies, company structures, departments, sales processes, projects, and more to be visually mapped out, providing a single point of reference for remote employees who need to know who they should approach with a certain query. When operating a remote working environment where employees can’t simply ask the person sitting next to them or stroll on over to someone else’s desk, org charts are far more efficient.
Schedule your day
When working from home, it is easy for your team to be distracted and lose track of time. That is because less “clock watching” goes on as employees are already at home, thus there is less “excitement” and angst for the clock to strike five.
As such, it is important for you to set an example to your team by scheduling out your own day and making it accessible to team members. If your work situation allows it, set your schedule around regular working hours and encourage your team to do this too. Keeping a regular schedule helps you stay focused, stable, motivated, and lets your team know when you are available. It also encourages your team to do the same which leads to fewer instances of distraction.
Remember to make time for small talk
When managing remote employees, it is very easy to develop a habit of only talking about work and what needs to be done. And if you are on a tight deadline or are having an official company meeting, that is fine and makes sense. However, if work talk is all that you engage in, you will find it more difficult to build that all-important rapport with your team and miss out on a critical part of good management in general.
Having a rapport with your team is what will help you work through problems, keep team members motivated, and instil trust. So, don’t just talk work. Ask your team what they have been doing recently in their own lives, ask about their family, what they’re into, and what their plans are for the weekend. Demonstrating that you care about them personally, not just officially, goes a very long way and is a crucial part of being an effective manager.