If your workplace is one of the many that have moved to remote work because of COVID-19, you might notice some new challenges in leading teams. Most offices have had time to work out the technical difficulties and started to develop systems for keeping their business functioning after quickly shifting to a remote work model. However, now that people have settled into their new remote work environment, managers might notice that some team members are struggling to meet deadlines or seem to be lacking motivation. Leading teams remotely can be challenging, but here are four things every manager can do to be a great virtual leader.
Define Expectations Clearly
It is more important than ever to have clearly defined boundaries and keep your team on track towards their goals. While the challenges of the pandemic require flexibility, there should still be consistent structure to the workday. Ensure that team members have clearly defined work hours, even if they look different now due to challenges with child-care or other disruptions. While working from home, it’s easy for employees to feel like they must be available 24 hours a day. This can lead to stress and burnout, reducing morale and productivity. Managers should avoid communication outside of agreed-upon work hours and ask their teams to respect each other’s available hours. It can also be helpful to have conversations about acceptable methods of communication. For example, discuss when it’s appropriate to instant message, and when a conversation should be a video meeting. It can also be helpful to have group discussions around expected response times.
Set Regular Check-ins, but keep it short
When leading a remote team, regular check-ins will be more critical than ever. Because there is no opportunity for a quick question at the water cooler, or the ability to just pop-in someone’s office to talk, managers must set up regular times to meet with their teams as a group and one-on-one. However, when having virtual meetings, keep it short. Video calls require more focus to absorb information than in-person meetings. Workers are reporting “Zoom fatigue” from multiple video meetings a day. If your weekly staff meeting was always an hour-long event, think about reducing it to half an hour, or adding a break in the middle. Ask your team to close their email and instant messaging during these meetings to avoid multi-tasking. This allows everyone to focus on the task at hand and focus on the conversation.
Don’t Forget Team Building Activities
Creating a cohesive team is challenging in-person, and even more so when working remotely. It is still essential to create opportunities for your teams to bond and build trust with one another. Some workers might also be dealing with loneliness in the new remote world, and it is important to create opportunities for social connection and create a sense of belonging. You can use virtual games and activities, set up virtual happy hours, or invite everyone to wear a wig or silly hat to the next video call. Don’t forget to find ways to recognize special occasions like birthdays and work anniversaries. You can celebrate with a virtual lunch, perhaps providing gift certificates to everyone to order delivery from the same place and eat together over video chat.
Develop Your Team’s Leadership Skills
Don’t let remote work stall your career or the learning and development of your team. Remote workers are often likely to be unaware of development opportunities, and right now, they are less likely to have informal networking opportunities. Consider a leadership development program that offers live-facilitated virtual delivery that allows workers to interact with others while sharpening the skills they need most.