There is no doubt that the coronavirus epidemic, or COVID-19, has sent individuals, businesses, and governments worldwide into a panic. Hand sanitizer, soaps, cleaning supplies, and paper goods are flying off shelves in most areas due to fear that the virus will spread even more and infect many millions of people. To avoid this, experts are recommending “social distancing” and staying at home, including during the workday. From both small businesses to the largest corporations in the world, a common request heard around the world right now is “work from home if you can.”
So how do we go about leading these remote teams if we have always worked face-to-face? Arranging workflow and keeping adequate communication can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier and lessen your stress.
Related: 5 Tips for Working from Home During a Quarantine
As with any type of job, it is critical to establish trust throughout your business, and this applies even to remote teams. As the Harvard Business Review bluntly put it, “teams can’t function well when coworkers don’t trust one another.” It can be useful for your team members to get to know one another, as they may trust each other more if they see what strong credentials they all bring to the group. Make sure your team knows the goals for the group and how you foresee each person individually contributing to keep your business running smoothly.
Of course, optional one-on-one phone calls or video chats can help you connect with your employees on a more personal level and can possibly give you guidance on how to better lead your remote team.
Working remotely can sometimes lead to numerous email blasts that turn into overloaded inboxes and missed communications, so also implementing solid, organized communication is crucial for your business to continue running. There are many different programs available to businesses that can help streamline communication and ensure your team is fulfilling responsibilities and meeting deadlines. Programs like Skype for Business and Slack are great for quick instant messaging, group messaging, video chats, and phone calls that eliminate the need for several cluttering emails in an inbox. Microsoft Teams and Flowdock are also options that might be right for your business.
Related: COVID-19 Toolkit for Business Owners
Although technology can seem scary, many of the newer resources available are actually very user-friendly and some of them come at a much more affordable cost than many business owners would expect.
One responsibility that is heightened after transforming into a remote team is the need for the most reliable responsiveness possible. It can be frustrating when you can no longer predict who will be online at a certain time or what certain team members are working on at any given moment. The hectic environment of many workplaces these days can translate into a hectic remote presence, so being available to your team members is absolutely vital. Your team must still be able to get a hold of you with any questions and concerns even if it means they need to communicate via email or phone instead of walking into your office.
Even though transitioning from an office cube to a home office can be daunting and seem strange, it can also benefit your company if it is done right. A recent study from Global Workplace Analytics reported that “a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year” due to “increased productivity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and better disaster preparedness.”
Ultimately, the principles of leading a remote team versus an in-office team don’t vary that much. Even though you may not be able to see your team in person until the COVID-19 threat passes, establishing and maintaining trust while ensuring everyone is aware of their responsibilities will allow your business to continue succeeding during this unsettling time.
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