May 19, 2020
Written by Aimée Sykes, Head of Communications & Engagement for WHEN.
We have been propelled into the world of working remotely quite rapidly in recent weeks. For many of us this is a new way of working, and we’re still navigating what works, and what doesn’t. Some of you may be finding that you’re struggling to manage your teams as well as you used to, whereas some of you may find you feel less supported by your own managers, or that your team spirit is lacking.
It probably comes as no surprise to you that there’s a big difference between managing a team in person, and managing that same person remotely. Your usual approach probably doesn’t translate.
Here at WHEN: Women’s Higher Education Network, we’ve been working remotely for some time. We have a core team in London, but over the last 6 months we’ve grown and we now have team members from across the UK. We’re old hat when it comes to virtual meetings, working collaboratively from afar, as well as staying in touch. So, we thought we’d compile a few tips that may help you adapt to the new normal.
Firstly, there is a big difference in managing teams remotely in the longer term, and managing them remotely as a temporary measure. In times of crisis, more is more when it comes to communication. We all have a need to feel supported, and those monthly one to ones - if you have them - aren’t enough in the current climate. Usually they’re supplemented with corridor chats, or grabbing a quick coffee together, but for now, those moments are parked, meaning many are feeling out on a limb.
For those of you looking for some immediate tips on how best to support your teams currently, look no further:
- Ask each team member what works for them. Maybe they need more frequent contact right now, but then again maybe they don’t. Make sure you’re offering it though, and reiterate your offer from time to time. Being approachable is crucial in maintaining those good working relationships.
- We know all about Zoom fatigue! Nevertheless we’d still recommend you have a weekly chat with each individual in your team. It could be an audio only call, or video if you prefer. Even if they’re coping well, it’s still good to demonstrate you have time for them. And, unlike one to ones, you can keep focus solely on their wellbeing.
- We also recommend a weekly team call too - no more than half an hour - and try to keep it social. The idea is it replaces that office chatter, and facilitates connections. If work topics arise, how about scheduling separate chats/calls to discuss in more depth.
- If you’re a sociable team, and you don’t mind sharing personal contact details, how about a team WhatsApp chat? Alternatively if you like to keep work and home life separate, you could use the chat functionality within Microsoft Teams. It’s less formal than email, and a good way to replicate the office chatter, discuss what you’re binging on Netflix, what you’re having for dinner, or share a few jokes or GIFs.
If you’ve found remotely working is working better for you than you thought, and your team is likely to be working remotely on a more permanent basis, even post-lockdown then here’s some suggestions on how to go about setting up support mechanisms that will last:
- The set up - We’re all just about coping at the moment. Many of us had to make the transition quite quickly. But if you’re setting this up for the long term, then the set up needs to be right. That means laptop risers, workplace risk assessments, and proper chairs. There may be some costs for this, but as an employer there is still a responsibility or duty of care for colleagues working from home.
- Establish long term ways of working - as we’re navigating our way through this, we will begin to pick up what works and what doesn’t. While communicating frequently in the short term is vital, in the longer run it can become overwhelming. Once things have settled, start setting precedents. Move things to monthly if needed. Or eliminate completely.
- Create an induction pack - just as you would for a new starter, ensuring they do all the relevant training, and risk assessments, put together a similar package for anyone making the switch to remote working more permanently. And keep your records around this up to date.
- Managing a mixed bag - it’s very possible that going forwards you will be managing some people face to face, while some team members continue to work remotely. It’s important to ensure that all of your team are being managed appropriately wherever they are located. So, while you might slip back into old habits with those you’re able to see face to face, make sure the remote workers don’t feel isolated. This will mean checking in that they’re able to contribute in team meetings, maintaining more regular contact, and so on.
We would love to hear from you on how you’re coping, and what you’ve found works well for you and your teams.
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