Remote working has suddenly become the reality for many organisations for the first time, due to CoVID-19. Whether your organisation is embracing it or enduring it, it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future.
We’ve drawn on over two decades of experience in implementing information systems for organisations with dispersed teams, and have pulled out the factors that make for the most successful ones.
With the right tools and support, you can transform remote working from a source of stress and anxiety, to an efficient way of managing your team with benefits that reach way beyond handling the immediate crisis.
It can’t be said often enough. The number one success factor in managing successful teams is clear communication. It becomes more challenging and even more vital when the team is dispersed, whether due to working from home or across multiple company sites.
Build on the basics. A simple “hello” to check in with employees working from home can go a long way to reducing the feelings of isolation that many experience. Frequent communication keeps your team members on track, builds a culture of inclusion and fosters positive working relationships that will endure – in and out of the office. Messaging services such as WhatsApp groups work well for team-bonding chat.
It’s worth investing in an online conferencing solution, rather than simple teleconferencing. The best ones will allow desktop sharing and a land-line number (as a back-up to audio over the PC), will work on everyone’s mobile or computer, and will work without the need to install new software.
Video chat is great for one-on-one check-ups and maintaining team rapport, and, especially with new team members, it helps build rapport when face-to-face isn’t possible. Be sensitive however to the “Zoom fatigue” that many employees are reporting at the moment. Offer one-way video, so as the team leader your staff can see you even if they don’t want their own video on.
Beyond the basics, moving away from one-way communications such as emails, and moving to interactive platforms and collaboration software will enhance communication and make everyone’s life easier. For example, instead of inbox clutter and confusion over document version control, a document management system enables collaboration and editing in real time.
Staying connected while working remotely is non-negotiable. It maintains the camaraderie essential for strong team-building. Everyone needs to know they are working towards a common goal, be kept informed and, crucially, provided with the tools to communicate effectively with their coworkers.
Hand in hand with good communication is the management skill set required to build and maintain trust and confidence. Transparency is particularly important, as with a dispersed team it’s easy for misunderstandings to creep in and hijack efficiency.
Set clear goals and manage expectations, then track productivity and progress in a way everyone involved can see – with of course stringent security and access-control in place.
Managing a transparent and inclusive team will help everyone feel valued as both colleagues and individuals. Remember that informal and non-work rapport during video calls and chats are a part of your work-from-home communication. As a team manager you need to be readily available to respond to colleagues promptly and make your schedule visible to your team if you aren’t available.
Some people find remote working easier to adapt to than others, and providing on-going staff training and support is a hallmark of good remote team leadership. This covers everything from handbooks for the practicalities and mindset required to work physically alone a lot of the time; recruiting staff who are a good match for remote working; training in software and systems that support dispersed teams.
Take advantage of all the technology solutions available to support your remote communication and management tasks.
Support from experienced technology partners will take your company beyond what you thought was possible. Comprehensive digital platforms are within the reach of every organisation, and can be built to integrate with your existing infrastructure.
Keep in mind the platforms already in use at your company, and at your customers’ companies. Some of the questions to consider include:
- Will you have a “bring your own devices” policy for staff or will staff be limited to company equipment?
- Does the software you use sufficiently encrypt corporate data on the device when it’s accessed?
- Have you aligned the device policy with your company’s GDPR or Data Protection policy?
- Is access secure and up to the latest standards?
- And importantly, can you demonstrate, to your customers, that your choice of tools will keep everyone’s data secure when at rest, whilst being easy to use from home?
So long as the technology passes all these tests, Project Management Tools are great for maintaining alignment on project status and goals in detail, and a Digital Transformation strategy with a solid Strategic Electronic Document and Records Management System captures and securely stores any kind of business document centrally. It allows instant remote search and retrieval, viewing, editing and collaboration with careful access control.
A host of other technology supports such as process automation pave the way for scaling.
The role of technology in managing teams goes beyond effective communication. Content services platforms such as Laserfiche, our technology partners, enable uninterrupted business operation and customer service via process automation and remote document access – all especially important in establishing a truly digital office and business continuity while working from home. Even better, they can be implemented fast and integrate with your existing systems.
An on-demand webinar is available with detailed discussion from Ingencia’s technology partner, Laserfiche®. Laserfiche® is the leading global provider of intelligent content management and business process automation. The webinar covers:
- Strategies for effectively managing remote workers
- Communication practices to keep everyone aligned
- Clear techniques to track success – without micromanaging
Geographically dispersed teams are becoming increasingly common in the modern workplace, with many of us working out of headquarters in one city and managing teams in another city or even country. Or maybe this environment has left you and your team unexpectedly working remote,
while you struggle with day-to-day management. How do you overcome the challenges of supervising employees in different locations? What steps should you take to build trust and open lines of communication? How do you help remote workers feel part of a team – and show that the team is performing?
P.S. One last piece of advice that I would give to anyone who asks. Invest in a great chair, from a respected office-furniture manufacturer. In Scotland, I highly recommend ECOS Office Furniture.