Stephanie O’Brien, MBA, ACC, Cleo Lead Career Coach
As the public health crisis grows, everyday life for working parents will change. More and more managers are grappling with the topic of effectively managing a remote team through today’s COVID-19 reality. Managers must acknowledge the unique stress working parents face during these challenging times amid school and daycare closures, social distancing, and many other stress-inducing factors. Discover tips and strategies to adapt to a new way of working to better manage, engage and support your employees and each other—from a distance.
Start with YOU: Self-management is always important as a leader but especially crucial in times of rapid change and uncertainty. Whether you’re used to working from home and managing a remote team or you’ve just shifted online, it’s critical to check in with yourself. How are you doing? What thoughts and emotions are present for you? It’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions in times of change, and acknowledging them keeps you present. Create healthy strategies to keep your cool and give yourself what you need, be it a snack, a check-in with a peer, or some time to yourself.
It can also be helpful to be proactive. Take some time to reflect on how you will respond to anxiety, criticism, or other challenges that may arise as your team and customers continue to face uncertainty. These self-management strategies will serve you during this crisis, but they will also translate into your leadership long-term.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Communication can be tough when teams work remotely, but great communication is most necessary in times of uncertainty.
- The What: Keep your team in the loop with updates and decisions being made by your leaders and the wider organization through regular emails. Hold your team meetings regardless (see “The How” below). If you don’t currently have regular meetings, consider scheduling them to give updates, answer questions, and connect. Be honest with your team about what you’re doing to self-manage, and ask them how they’re doing and what they need. If you don’t have answers to their questions, let your team know if and when you’ll have more information for them. Whatever behavior you model in terms of communication, others will likely follow. If you expect to be hearing more from people, be clear about those expectations.
- The How: Your team probably uses remote communication tools already (phone, email, slack, zoom, etc), so make sure everyone is set up to use these resources and consider creating a protocol for what types of communication are appropriate within each tool. If your team is using a particular tool, make sure you’re using it too. Again, modeling the behavior you expect from your team is at the heart of leadership, especially when your regular channels for modeling leadership are cut off.
Bring It Back to Mission & Values: Why are you doing what you’re doing? How are you doing it? Reminding yourself and your team of the company’s mission and values (even better, a team-specific mission!) can renew focus on what needs to get done. Times of uncertainty and changing work habits call for innovation and strategic shifts. Honing in on mission and values will lead to clearer, more focused strategies moving forward.
Create Community: With in-office culture on pause, find virtual ways to create community so that folks continue to feel connected to one another. Community-building might simply happen via a new Slack channel, #HomeWork, for sharing funny pictures and anecdotes, or a daily email from an individual team member (on a rotating basis) sharing their thoughts or advice. Consider nominating a “culture carrier” or two to help generate ideas and find ways for the team to engage beyond specific work tasks.
Promote Trust: Changes to working conditions aren’t easy, especially in times of uncertainty, and bumps will occur. Therefore, trust is essential to productivity. Let your team know that you have faith in their ability to work remotely and in their collective ability to adapt and respond to whatever comes their way. Then show that trust. Recognize that folks may be managing irregular situations when working from home, such as childcare or sharing space with roommates, and consider offering greater flexibility with things like specific hours in front of the computer or email response times. Encourage productivity by defining it: tell your team you’re confident they’ll get things done, and done well, while working remotely. Through giving trust, you will build trust, which will carry over into long-term team commitment, solidarity and performance.
For more tips on navigating family and work life amid COVID-19, visit hicleo.com/covid-19-support.