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How To Deal With Managing Teams At A Distance

Working from home is slowly becoming the new way of working for many. Some love it. Some loathe it. Whether your team members love it or loathe it, there are things you can do as a manager to make their, and your experience of working at a distance a whole lot better. In this post, we’ll explore what we believe to be 7 of the key things you should put in place in terms of managing teams.

  1. Make sure everyone has the tools to do their job. In the workplace, we all take it for granted that we’ll have access to everything we need to do the job in hand. But as soon as we’re working from home it can quickly become frustrating if we don’t have everything we need. Making sure that every member of your team has a secure, robust and reliable internet connection is at the core of home working success. Thereafter, a laptop with all the software and applications they need access to goes without saying. And while most people avoid printing documents unless absolutely necessary, it’s worth making sure that everyone has what they need to carry out their work in the way they normally would in the office eg. a printer or photocopier.
  2. Enable easy collaboration. Loneliness and the knock-on potential for mental health issues is a real risk as a result of the COVID pandemic. The workplace is where lots of people create their strongest bonds and friendships. Everything from workplace nights out to dynamic team meetings are rewarding and enable people to enjoy fulfilling interactions with colleagues and superiors. While reproducing these experiences entirely online is nigh on impossible, a key thing when managing remote teams is to enable easy collaboration. The likes of Slack and WhatsApp groups are great ways to keep everyone interacting remotely.
  3. Set clear ground rules and expectations. Uncertainty on one hand breeds fears and on the other leaves the opportunity for abuse wide open. While policing your team’s activities fully and remotely is virtually impossible, it’s important to set out clear rules and expectations. When people know whether they can start work earlier in the morning than normal and then go out for a run mid-morning, there’s no need for anyone to feel as if they’re cheating or being cheated. Being crystal clear on minimum expectations means that everyone knows what they can and can’t do when working remotely.
  4. Maintain group communication. If you’re a leader who arranges regular team meetings, try to maintain that when everyone is working at a distance. It may well be that as a group you agree to reduce the frequency of meetings, but it’s doubly important to make sure that everyone in the team ideally sees each other and has the chance to bond. Zoom is a perfect solution for this. Even a free Zoom account enables you to engage with sizeable teams, no matter where they are located. Setting up meetings and joining meetings is simple and straightforward, so if you haven’t tried it, it’s well worth checking out.
  5. Check-in with individuals. Working from home is a challenge and there’s no opportunity for those helpful exchanges that happen naturally in the workplace. Venting around the coffee machine or water cooler can take the heat out of a potentially explosive situation. And when you take away that venting opportunity, frustrations can be left to fester and take hold. It’s important not to allow that to happen. The best way to ensure it doesn’t is to check in regularly and individually with everyone in your team. No one knows what challenges your team members are facing while not at work, so it’s important to give them the chance to share their experiences with you. That way you can be proactive in spotting the need for help and support if it’s required.
  6. Define your availability. Leading from home doesn’t and definitely shouldn’t mean that you’re available to your team 24/7. When you’re no longer leaving the home to go to work, it’s inevitable that the boundaries between work and home become blurred. That’s why, for your own sake, it’s essential that you are clear on when you’re available and when you’re not. Resisting the temptation to reply to emails or answer phone calls at a time when you wouldn’t reply under normal working circumstances is a clear indication of availability without having to state specific times.
  7. Avoid micro-management. If you’re new to leadership or management and your team is suddenly working from home, it’s easy to think the worst of people. When this happens, a common response is to try to make sure everyone’s working when they should be and doing what they have to do. When you go down this particular rabbit hole it can lead to intrusive and unwanted micro-management. This is a real stressor for leaders and teams alike and should be avoided. If you follow the earlier points, you’ll be able to build a culture of trust and clarity and have confidence in your team.

No one is saying that managing teams at a distance is easy nor is it what any of us expected when we took on a management role. However, it is possible to make the most of this unusual and unexpected situation and still deliver.

If you’re someone who relies heavily on face-to-face to ‘take the temperature’ in your team, you’re going to have to learn new skills to make the most of this opportunity. If you’re in a big organisation there may be training opportunities or mentoring to help you. If not, there is a wealth of resources online that will help you. LinkedIn has some great training courses and 2020 has seen a real boom in online learning, much of which is being offered free of charge.

The advice is to be kind to yourself, identify your strengths and weaknesses regarding managing at a distance and address the weaknesses without getting down about them. And finally, remember we’re all in this together and we’ll hopefully be in a different situation before too long.

At Payplus we’ve faced the same challenges as you have in 2020 and although our main business is payroll, we’re pleased to say that we make it our priority to go the extra mile to help our clients however we can. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you, get in touch.

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