Although it is always preferable to establish clear remote-work policies and training in advance, in times of crisis or other rapidly changing circumstances, this level of preparation may not be feasible. Recent developments have left many employees and their managers working out of the office and separated from each other for the very first time.
Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.
Before we dive into the 4 most important first steps to take to help transition your team to work remotely I quickly want to make mention of this. If you are running a business that is mostly operational or servicing clients offline, thinking these solutions can not be applied to your business – I recommend you start off by reading this article on how to re-position your offline business and digitize your offering. You may be surprised by how much is possible.
4 steps to remote work
The first thing that is recommend managers do is to establish daily check ins or daily huddles. The morning huddle is a great way to get the team aligned on individual and company priorities for that day. The huddle is a really short meeting to share your number one or two priorities for that day, it is not a place to go over your to-do list. You will share your definition of done on those set priorities so that everyone understands exactly what you will be working on today and when this is considered to be done.
The huddle also functions as a way to recognise hurdles or bottlenecks that may get in the way of progress for that day – which then can easily be resolved on the spot by making use of the collective intelligence present – avoiding people getting stuck for hours trying to fix something all by themselves (which is killing for productivity). And I recommend doing this via a video conferencing tool always to keep that sense of human connection within the team.
Secondly, provide several different communication options – because you will find that email alone is insufficient. When it’s time for deliberation, strategy sessions, team collaboration sessions or any type of meeting that will take on more than 10 minutes by rule of thumb – use a video conferencing tool. Being able to see the visual cues of meeting participants allows for increased mutual knowledge that can be tapped in to, and will help make meetings more effective.
Of course, there are other circumstances when quick collaboration is more important than visual detail. And for these situations, provide mobile-enabled individual messaging tools like Slack, which can be used for simpler conversations as well as time-sensitive communication. And then you can make use of project management and tracking tools such as Monday, Trello or Asana.
Also make sure to properly onboard team members on how to use these tools. For instance, by making quick instruction video’s on how you wish they engage with the different tools available by using Loom Video’s for instance.
Rules of engagement
It’s very important to set rules of engagement. Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timing of communication for their teams. For example you can decide that, “We use videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, but we use Instant messaging when something is urgent.” – make sure to communicate that clearly from the get go. But also things like a “video always on” policy for all video conferencing calls – if that is what you would like to see happen, make sure everyone has the opportunity to align with that by communicating this clearly.
Last but not least is facility management – make sure to check in with each team member if they have access to the resources they need to work remotely. Aside from a pc or desktop, internet connection and mobile phone – you may find that you have one or two team members who are unable to create a space to work within their homes, and you’ll need to think of other ways to facilitate that.
As I mentioned before, while these are definitely 4 majorly important steps to take – this is not an exhaustive list. Inasmuch as I am more of a long term win kind of girl, I don’t believe that right now is the time to write up new 50 page policies on remote work. I do, strongly believe starting off with these steps will get your team going on the right track quickly and effectively – increasing the chances of us meeting again once we are able to flatten the curve of the corona crisis.
You can also listen to the fragment where I talk about these steps on the Unpacking Africa Podcast hosted by E. A. Gamor. Click here to listen now
The 4 minute fragment starts at 34:25 min. Click on the image below for a video snippet