Working Transitions

Managing your team remotely – making it work

For many organisations, this week heralds home-working en-mass. The COVID-19 crisis means that teams and individuals – many unused to working remotely - need to adapt quickly. For some, this represents a significant personal transition – juggling a different routine, mindset and way of communicating whilst trying to maintain ‘business as usual’ can be challenging and daunting. Here’s our advice for managers to help make it a success:

Preparation is key

In order to work effectively from home, your team needs to be properly equipped. As well as the basics – including ensuring the necessary IT equipment to do their role – it’s important to set out the ground rules and guidelines to maximise productivity. Think about setting these out in writing so everybody has something they can refer back to. Include:

  • Preferred methods of communication. E-mail and others forms of electronic messaging are going to be vital during the coming months. However, we shouldn’t forget about the importance of human contact. When would you expect your team to pick up the phone or arrange a video conference? It’s more important than ever to ensure that individuals are communicating and supporting one another in the most effective way possible
  • Working hours – with kids at home, multiple adults vying for bandwidth and the challenges of keeping on top of essential tasks, what are the expectations for working hours? Is there an element of flexibility? Must core hours be covered? If so, think about whether these can be shared across a rota system to ensure that productivity is maintained. Communicate clearly about breaks too – no matter how busy they are, it’s important that your team know that they can venture away from their desks so that they feel refreshed and rested
  • The importance of routine - nobody feels on top of their game whilst wearing their PJ’s! Give your team guidance on getting up, getting dressed and following a structured routine. Provide advice on the importance of not blurring the lines between home life and work life – this will benefit both productivity and personal wellbeing.

Keeping in touch

Without regular interventions, the personal communication and team bonding that we take for granted within the office environment can be quickly lost. It’s important that you put measures in place to avoid this.

  • Think about creating a virtual ‘hub’ for your team. Virtual environments where you can all get together and share information and updates – both formally and informally - are really valuable. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts can be a great place to collaborate and share ideas
  • Regular team meetings and updates will keep people informed, nip problems in the bud and reduce anxiety around issues, problems and concerns. Being isolated for substantial periods of time can, in some cases, result in increased anxiety and depression. Increased engagement with the rest of the team can alleviate feelings of loneliness.
  • Use video as much as possible - body language plays a large part in how we communicate and - certainly for those at home alone, seeing friendly faces can be a real boost. For you as a manager, it will also help you to gauge reactions and establish the general mood and sense of wellbeing

According to Buffer State of Remote Work report, these are the major challenges with remote work in general:

What's your biggest struggle with working remotely?

  • If at all possible, regularly make contact with each member of your team individually. Group sessions are valuable, but some people need one on one support. If you are managing a large team and it simply isn’t feasible to personally make contact with each of your team members, think about introducing a buddy system. Assess the strengths and weaknesses within the team when deciding on buddies. Remember this is about effective working and not who gets along best.

Supporting those who are struggling

If a member of your team is struggling with the change, work with them to establish how you can support them and what would help. The current situation is highly unusual so don’t be surprised if they struggle to pinpoint the support they need. Have some questions prepared – this will give you a better understanding as to specifically what it is that they are finding difficult.

  • Talk me through your daily routine.
  • How do you plan your day?
  • What part of the day do you find particularly challenging?
  • Are you utilising the team ‘hub’ tools? How are you finding these?
  • What has your buddy done to support you? / How have you supported your buddy?
  • How could I or the team better support you?

Make it clear that they are trusted. It will be natural for people to feel a bit fed up at times or lose motivation for a task. Make sure that you’ve given a message that at these times then it’s okay to stop and make a cuppa, empty the washing machine, feed the cat, or go for a quick walk round the garden. Long concentrated periods alone in front of a screen are not good for anyone and in an average day at the office there are multiple breaks and distractions that naturally occur as part of the working day and which people don’t ever think about as “not at work” so try and replicate a bit of normal down time during the working day.

Whilst the show must go on, try to be mindful that your team may be feeling overwhelmed in the current environment. Whilst that’s not an excuse to let things slip, it is important for you to be aware that you may witness behaviours that are ‘out of character’. As a manager, you won’t have all of the answers but, by supporting a structured working day, plenty of short breaks and encouraging regular and effective communication, you are equipping your team to be as effective as possible.

Encourage Innovation

Don’t forget the old saying that “necessity is the motherhood of invention”. As we are all faced with perhaps months of home working, over the next few weeks people will start to find new ways to achieve tasks and some activities will become more effective. This is a time to encourage your teams to try out new ideas so make time for virtual brainstorming sessions and “mad ideas” discussions. Out of this may come some positive changes that would never have been thought of before, that really benefit your people and your business.

Working Transitions support Organisational Change and Personal Transition. Get in touch to discuss any additional support requirements.

01604 744100

[email protected]


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Working Transitions
23 March 2020
Supporting effective and successful organisational change


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