Managing a team while working remotely is tough — especially if you’re a manager who never expected to be doing it. The coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way that teams work together, taking the office out of the equation and replacing in-person work days with hours of Zoom calls taken from makeshift workspaces in our homes. For some, the transition is easier than for others, but regardless of how conducive your work is to working remotely, the current situation is an adjustment for everyone.
As far as managers go, it can be especially difficult to navigate managing a team remotely. Losing face-to-face time with your direct reports and feeling a sense of disconnect with the members of your team are proving especially tough, while the added complexities of managing a team during a particularly stressful time only adds to the problem. Luckily, there are a few things that managers can keep in mind to help them lead their teams better remotely.
Be more flexible.
This is a tough time for everyone, and chances are you’ve found yourself struggling a little more than usual to get things done here and there. With everyone feeling more anxious and unsure, it’s normal that work efficiency and motivation might take a hit from time to time. Rather than coming down on your team when deadlines aren’t met or things are taking longer than expected, make it a point to be flexible as everyone tries to get the hang of a new normal. Rather than strictly tracking assignments and projects against a pre-pandemic timeline, revisit workflows and move things around where possible. In addition, make it a point to start tracking results and KPIs more thoroughly so you can see how much flexibility works before you start falling short of key success metrics.
In addition to making it a point to keep a dialogue open with your team, it’s important to keep communication even more transparent and thoughtful than ever before. Let your team know that you’re happy to listen whenever they need, and don’t be afraid to let them know when you’re struggling yourself. Your direct reports may find it refreshing and helpful to know that you’re all doing your best to figure out how to operate under the current circumstances — and that you’re not always doing it easily. Make sure to maintain regular catchup meetings and 1:1s so that you team can count on consistent communication.
Without a chance to monitor everyone’s performance and productivity in an office environment, managers may be tempted to check in a little too persistently with their team to keep things running smoothly. While over communication is definitely better than under communication during this time, it’s important not to reach a point where your team feels like you don’t have a lot of trust in them or won’t let them manage their own time and workload. One of the easiest ways to avoid micromanaging is the same thing that will help you maintain flexibility: track progress and outcomes instead of regularly tracking activity. This allows you to give your team the benefit of the doubt while making sure that if things aren’t getting done, you’ll catch it based on performance metrics. If that’s the case, you can open a dialogue with your team or specific team members to see how you can better support them.