2020 has presented countless challenging issues for individuals and businesses alike. With the global pandemic dictating people’s routines and habits, there has been a pressing need for adaptive solutions, particularly in the workplace. The shift from office-based work to remote work has been especially tough on those in supervisory roles. It can be challenging to effectively manage a team that isn’t physically present.
Project managers and team leaders have a responsibility to make remote work as smooth and productive as possible. By avoiding the following pitfalls, achieving a more cohesive, functional environment is attainable and all stakeholders can perform at their optimum.
Lack of Software Experience
To work efficiently, every team member must have access to, and be familiar with, the software that’s essential to their role. It’s the responsibility of the project manager to ensure their team is up to speed with the relevant programs and tools they need to get the job done.
Employees have varying levels of technical competence. Therefore, a team lead should never assume proficiency on behalf of their team members. Hosting virtual software training sessions will save time on problem solving in the long run. Plus, it will help members of the team feel confident in performing their duties.
Hosting a meeting in a virtual space is fraught with potential complications. People talk over each other, they become easily distracted, and open discussions that are irrelevant to the topic of the meeting. Establishing a set meeting structure is essential to avoid 15-minute catch up sessions from turning into chaotic, 60-minute debates.
Draw up a list of talking points and share this with the team at least an hour prior to the meeting. This gives employees an opportunity to decide what they wish to contribute. The team leader should not shy away from strictly directing topics of discussion, or interrupting those who speak out of turn.
While this may seem harsh or overkill, it will prevent time-wasting and will keep your meetings focused and brief.
One of the primary advantages of an office environment is that it gives team members a chance to interact with each other one-on-one or as a unit. When working remotely, employees tend to eschew social contact with one another. This can lead to discontent and poor morale among staff.
Hosting virtual events such as quiz nights or cocktail evenings gives the team a chance to let loose and bond with each other on a human level. This can go a long way towards improving employee relations and maintaining mental health.
It’s only natural that employees working from home will become distracted by their surroundings. Everyone has a different home environment, and one can never know just what their staff is dealing with behind the scenes. Some may have children to supervise, be dealing with relationship issues, or may simply take advantage of the lack of supervision.
The manager of a remote team must be flexible and accommodating of the home situations of their staff, all while maintaining discipline. Encouraging team members to create a quiet, focused space that isn’t for purposes other than work is an excellent idea. A team manager should also check in regularly with staff to monitor progress and resolve bottlenecks.
Lack of Communication
Working from home can be tough for several reasons. It’s easy to overlook employees who are struggling mentally or emotionally when they’re not present in person. A team leader should facilitate daily check-ins where they can encourage employees to be forthright about their struggles. This fosters empathy and compassion within the team, and makes employees feel supported and heard.
Too Many Communication Channels
When setting up communication channels for a remote team, it’s easy to overdo it. Between multiple WhatsApp groups, Slack channels, email chains, and more, employees can easily become inundated with chaotic communication. It’s wise to merge all work-related communication into one platform, with subdivisions for different departments.
Slack is a fantastic tool for this. Users can create dedicated channels for specific purposes and members, share documents, create polls, and set their status such as online or away. Slack can synchronize with Google calendars to let other team members know when a stakeholder is in a scheduled meeting, or busy with another task.
Unclear Boundaries and Expectations
It’s vital for a team leader to be explicit about what sort of conduct and level of availability they expect from their remote workforce. Working from home affords employees a certain degree of freedom and flexibility. It’s important for staff to understand when they’re expected to be available and what they can and can’t do during working hours.
Encourage employees to be honest about their needs and limitations. This way, establishing a mutually beneficial schedule and code of conduct becomes easier.
Nothing is more disheartening for employees than the sense of futility. To feel motivated and in the loop, staff must know what they are working towards. Clearly defining short-term, long-term, individual, and group goals will inspire employees to put their best foot forward. Tracking tasks and goals on a shared online platform helps management monitor progress, and motivates the team.
Every team member should have what they need to work effectively from home. It’s up to each organization to decide how much support they’re willing to provide. However, ensuring that each team member has a comfortable chair, desk, reliable phone, laptop, and stable internet connection will save any workforce time and frustration in the long run.
Rules of Engagement
Employees need to know how and when it’s appropriate to reach one another and their managers. For example, video chats are for more in-depth discussions, whereas instant messaging is suitable for quicker, more urgent matters.
Managers should clearly communicate with their staff when they’re available and unavailable. This ensures employees can ask questions and pass on important information at the right times. It also prevents undesired interruptions during important meetings or brainstorming sessions.
For many, the remote workplace is new and challenging. To be successful, project managers and team leaders must adjust their management styles accordingly. The above tips are an excellent starting point, and leaders can build upon them depending on the needs of an organization and its workforce.