This is a guest post by Jennie Yelvington, Program Manager, HR Organization and Professional Development
As many of us adjust to working remotely, the situation also requires a thoughtful, strategic approach from managers. Communication to and within a team is more critical than ever, especially since the landscape continues to change at a rapid pace. People may be feeling unsure, anxious about using new skills, and not quite up to speed as they juggle home and work responsibilities. This can also lead to team members being on edge with each other. It is critical that managers set a tone of clarity, compassion, patience, cooperation, and problem-solving (versus blame).
VitalSmarts also recommends the following strategies to help managers keep things on track during this unprecedented time:
- Frequent and Consistent Check-ins. Check-in frequently and regularly with remote employees. The cadence of the check-ins can vary from daily to bi-weekly to weekly but should always be consistent and entail a standing meeting or scheduled one-on-one.
- Face-to-Face or Voice-to-Voice. Insist on some face time with remote employees. When in-person meetings are not possible, try video conferencing technology or pick up the phone to ensure colleagues occasionally see one another’s face or hear one another’s voice.
- Exemplify Solid Communication Skills. You cannot overemphasize the importance of general, stellar communication with remote teams. Be a great listener, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating. At times it can be ok to have a conversation over the phone, and then email out the details to confirm people are on the same page with you.
- Explicit Expectations. When it comes to managing remote teams, be very clear about expectations. This is especially important now, because the “rules” of work have suddenly changed. Never leave people in the dark about projects, roles, deadlines, etc.
- Be Accessible. Be available quickly and throughout the day, letting people know when you will not be available. Go above and beyond to maintain an open-door policy for remote employees—keep your calendar up-to-date and use multiple means of technology (Microsoft Teams, email, phone, text, etc.). Remote employees should be able to count on you to respond quickly to pressing concerns.
- Mix Up the Tech. Try to use multiple means of communication to connect with your remote workers. Don’t just resort to phone or email but get familiar with video conferencing technologies and a variety of services like Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Get skilled at setting up and running meetings using these technologies, as if this was going to be your new reality moving forward.
- Prioritize Relationships. Team building and camaraderie are important for any team and remote teams are no exception. I challenge you to go out of your way to form personal bonds with your remote folks. Use check-in time to ask about their personal life, families, and hobbies. Allow team meeting time for “water cooler” conversation so the whole team can create personal connections and strengthen relationships.
Encourage team members to help each other with technology and other challenges and be sure to recognize people for their effort. Additionally, remember that benefit-eligible MSU employees have access to elevateU, an online learning resources with courses, videos, books and more. There you will find ideas for group activities (look for the Team Talks link under MSU highlighted programs, then look at the Custom tab), learning related to a variety of content areas that could align with development plans, and thousands of books and videos to accelerate learning. Be sure to share with your team what you are learning as well. Learn more about elevateU for professional development while working remotely.