Managing your team through a small screen

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Joe Bidem Kamila Harris

More companies are switching to remote workflows due to COVID-19 and the added benefits it offers. But how can you manage a team through a small screen?

Modern problems require modern solutions. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, many companies (even tech ones) scrambled to set up a remote workflow so they could continue to work even whilst staff were unable to leave their homes.

There was a rush to set up platforms like Zoom to ensure that the entire team could communicate effectively and work from home. Many believed it to be a temporary change and that we’d be back in the office in a couple of weeks.

But that didn’t happen

Instead, most of us are still stuck working from home. While it initially seemed like a problem, more and more teams are starting to take notice of the benefits of remote workflows. Whether it’s the cost savings from no commuting or allowing your employees to be more comfortable in their work environment, there are a surprising number of benefits that we can expect from working remotely.

My company, Capital Business Media, has been operating on a hybrid remote working model since 2011. Staff only went into the office two or three days per week, and that was before COVID-19 even happened. Nowadays, we’ve switched to almost exclusively using a remote workflow and only going into the office when we absolutely need to have a face-to-face meeting. As a team that adopted this style of workflow early on, we’ve faced a lot of trial and error which was necessary to perfect our remote workflow. So hopefully here I can pass on some of the most important lessons we’ve learned and how you can also manage your team through just a small screen.

Keeping track of everything that happens

Since you’re working remotely, you won’t be able to see your staff or what they’re doing. As such, it’s vital that you keep track of everything when it comes to their work responsibilities and duties. For instance, I don’t keep track of their working hours as I am far more focused on the output, but if you bill your clients by the hour then make sure that you have the ability to do so. You should be asking your team for updates on what they’re doing, and you should have your own spreadsheets and dashboards that will help you lead your staff.

Keeping track of my staff helps me understand where they’re at, what tasks they’re on and what they should be doing next. Since you’re working remotely, information and communication become two of the most important factors that you absolutely need to keep an eye on.

Adopt a proactive approach to communicating with staff

Unlike working in an office, you don’t have to immediately respond when you work remotely. After all, your recipient could be in the toilet, walking the dog, stretching their legs or even making a drink. If you have an urgent message to tell them, you can’t just speak to them and catch their attention.

When you’re managing your team through a small screen, you have to remember that they can only interact with you through a screen too. This makes immediate conversations difficult to sustain and grabbing their attention becomes tough. As a result, you’ll need to switch to a more proactive approach to communicating with your staff. This involves:

  • Planning ahead with your team so everyone knows what they’re doing for the rest of the week as opposed to just a single day.
  • Responding to emails and messages even if you don’t have a full response. Just letting someone know you’ve received the message will help ensure there’s no assumptions or miscommunication.
  • Establish a shared message board or chat program where people can leave messages and communicate with each other even if they’re not online at the same time. The goal is to keep things orderly and to ensure everyone knows what they’re doing.
  • Communicate as much info as you can in a single message as long as it’s relevant to the conversation or your work. Don’t break up your responses or information into multiple parts. This will ensure that everyone reads the entire message instead of waiting for your response and potentially missing something.

Platforms like Zoom allow you to easily adopt a proactive approach to communicating with staff. Instead of just relying on emails, you’ll need to integrate instant messaging, group calls and video calls to ensure that everyone is one the same page. You also need to embrace the fact that your team might miss messages now and then, so packing as much information as you can into a single message will ensure that it is read in its entirety.

It’s difficult to adapt to the idea of managing your team through a screen. The most important concept to learn is that information becomes incredibly important. Understanding the status of your staff members and what they’re doing will be the key to unlocking your team’s remote potential and managing them with the least amount of stress.

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Managing your team through a small screen

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