Time marches on and change is inevitable. Two truths all business owners must deal with regularly. Current events have increased the number of remote employees in numbers that have previously been unrealized. Microsoft reported an increase in Microsoft Teams usage from 32 million users March 11, 2020, to 44 million by March 18, 2020. That’s a 25% increase!
Many professional service industry businesses are operating as normally as possible while a majority of employees find themselves working from home offices or kitchen tables. Organizations are experiencing the change from busy and thriving office environments to online communities. If this is the new business world in which you find yourself, then your employees and customers need your leadership more than ever. Here are some strategies to help you transition them to a place of security and balance.
Leadership Thoughts for Managing a Remote Workforce
It can be an uncomfortable change to move from on-site leadership and management to off-site remote management if you weren’t prepared in advance. It’s one thing to be able to see and talk to your team in person, but in many cases, immediate distance will cause a leader to question productivity. Are employees on task? Are they taking this seriously?
Even the most seasoned manager with a tried and true team may be troubled by these thoughts. It’s natural and to be expected. But, thanks to current technology, leading a team during these trying times may be a little easier than one may fear.
Utilizing Microsoft Office to Maintain and Increase Productivity
There can be many ways to keep in touch with your team during social distancing. Keeping the whole group moving toward the strategic goals and objectives, production quotas, high levels of efficient communication, and building relationships like you would around the coffee pot will be different now, but not impossible. Try some of these tools and techniques with your decentralized team.
Believe it or not, meeting structure does not have to change significantly with remote employees. In fact, you might find that meetings are even more efficient during this time. While working remotely, here are some tricks to keeping your meetings on track and efficient using Microsoft Teams:
When you schedule a meeting, you create a temporary group. In that group, you can upload documents, have meeting specific conversation via text, and document key takeaways from that meeting.
Meetings can be recorded and accessible by the team once the meeting has concluded. No more questions about who said what. This intrinsically increases accountability and productivity by creating multiple systems of important note capture for the team.
TEAMS and CHANNELS:
Working in a group, or as a department, or even a group in a department, has never been easier or more efficient. Quickly wind up a Teams group that you want to be focused and working together. Let them collaborate in that Team and even create small focus channels where documents, ideas, and collaboration can be stored and documented for all.
ONE on ONES:
Teams is an excellent location to have private, check-in one-on-ones. Either in a chat scenario or webcam-to-webcam. Documenting a coaching session can be a challenge after a great meeting. With Teams, you can take notes during the session that are visible to the invited participants, record the session for recall at a later time, and still share documents and resources as though you were working together.
ALL TEAM HUDDLES:
Quickly launch a check-in with the entire organization. Instead of sending an email that will, unfortunately, end up lost in the chaos of message management, you can create a quick video check-in with the team to share organization news, leadership insights, and direction for the day or week going forward.
Lead by Example
Employees, volunteers, and teams will look to leadership for a clear view of organizational goals, transitions, and guidance. As you are transitioning, even if only temporarily, your team is looking to you for direction.
Working remotely from home can feel like a vacation in the beginning. But a couple of days into it can create havoc on a productive schedule if you don’t plan correctly. Some simple tips and tricks to get the most out of the new remote work environment that you can lead your team by exemplifying in yourself include:
- Sharing your goals for the day/week and asking employees to share theirs. What the Big Three things that you commit to getting done today or this week?
- Treat your workday like you would treat your office workday. For example, you should keep to your usual morning routine, dress for work, and then perhaps take a walk around the block for a breath of fresh air as your “commute.” Then “go to work” and get after it!
- Communicate your schedule to the other people in your household like a spouse, children, roommates, and yes even your pets.
- Keep the usual standing meeting schedules, because consistency breeds familiarity.
- Consider identifying an accountability partner peer. Someone who will check on you that you’re on task and not distracted. Or if you feel like you’re starting to get distracted, they can help encourage you back to focus. Additionally, you can encourage your team to do the same thing.
It’s important to show your employees that you are working with them to make their remote work experience productive. At the end of the day, your team shares your goals and wants to move the organization forward, just as you do.
Trust Employees to Complete Their Work
Trust employees to complete their work and tasks, but also verify the completion of that work. It requires planning on both sides. From assigning work with due dates and expectations, as well as scheduling time for yourself to review and provide feedback to the team member. A great detractor of motivation for a team is receiving work assignments but not getting direct feedback about that work. This is true for teams performing in person as well as telecommuting.
Teams will perform best when they sense trust from their leaders and when leaders demonstrate they are present and engaged. Providing timely and honest feedback to a team will keep engagement high and create a greater level of trust. But remember that the adage, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is true not only for the leader but also for the team. Yes, working quietly without regular check-ins may work for some people. But many teams will begin to be isolated. When faced with frustration, they’ll feel as if they have no access to help. Regular communication will prove that you, as the leader, trust them to complete their work but are available to remove obstacles and blockades as well. As you read above, Microsoft Teams is a great tool to help you achieve all of this and even more.
At Advisicon, we are not above, or better than, these issues and opportunities outlined here. In fact, I’m writing this in my new remote “office” which is a desk in my bedroom. We practice what we preach and are willing to share our experiences at any time. In fact, as a Microsoft Gold Partner, we can help your organization get set up with a 6-month free trial of Microsoft Teams right away. All you need to do is email Contact@Advisicon.com and ask about getting set up with a free 6-month Teams trial.
Until we all get back to normal (whatever that looks like after this historic experience), here’s to your success and leadership in a new era of working from home!