During these uncertain times, many of us business owners find ourselves in completely uncharted territory, which is a scary place to be. One of the issues currently facing us is having teams that may now be dispersed, where staff are working from home. This gives us a set of new challenges as leaders and managers.

So how do we need to adapt as leaders to ensure we’re getting the best from our teams during this time of crisis? Here are my top 5  tips:

1. Keep communicating

Effective communication really is the key to success in these circumstances. Luckily, there are many means of communication we can use when we can’t have face to face meetings – phone calls, face time, video conferencing software, Skype – so there’s really no excuse to abandon our team members.

Make sure you schedule time to catch up with your team members regularly, either individually or as a group, and encourage them to communicate with each other too, where they’re working on a shared project or task.

I would recommend a daily “Huddle.” Get all your team members to zoom in while they have their morning coffee. Review the wins from each of them from yesterday, discuss their current challenges, and what their goal is for today.

Look out for negative body language and tone from anybody; don’t forget that you are not going to see them during the day, so this is your only guide as to their motivation levels. If in doubt, make a note to catch up for a 1:1 later that day.  (For more on holding effective meetings, see my blog on “LION” meetings,  click here.)

You’ll also need to have 1:1 discussions with team members more than you probably would have done previously. When in the workplace, they knew they could pop in and see you at any time, if they needed to. Now they have no idea what you are doing, so make time for 15 minute check-in’s as needed – maybe once a day, or 2-3 times a week.

Remember that out of sight does not mean out of mind, and virtual management takes as much effort as normal management.

2. Plan & measure

If your team members aren’t used to working remotely, it can be difficult for them to maintain focus. Therefore it’s vitally important that all team members are clear about what they are required to do, the deadlines they’re working to, who they need to report progress to, and when.

Getting each team member to e-mail you their daily work plan or to-do list and updating you with progress at the end of the day is a great way to keep them focused, and ensure tasks and projects are staying on track. Using a workflow system like Slack or Paymo can be very useful in these circumstances.

People are motivated by their performance, and sometimes being at home it is more difficult to get feedback on this than it would be in the workplace. People judge themselves by the people around them. If everybody is working hard and you are not, you tend to feel guilty, and get your head down. At home, with family members distracting us, we don’t get the same feedback, and can even feel guilty about working. (Just think back to when you were at school – did you work harder in the class, or when doing home work?)

To maintain motivation levels, set your team simple goals, and get them to track their performance and share at the daily Huddle

3. Build relationships

Another factor in being motivated and happy is feeling wanted and appreciated. In the normal work setting, we tend to get this automatically – the banter at the coffee station, people popping in to your office to say hello and the general hubbub of a busy workplace makes people feel part of something.

This changes when you work from home. You can feel distanced, ignored, and isolated.  Remember, the worst form of corporal punishment is solitary confinement! Feelings of isolation will be influenced upon by a person’s behavioural style. We use DISC behavioural profiling to assess this.

High D’s and C’s generally work OK on their own, especially C’s.  They can just get focused on one thing and see it through to the end. I’s and S’s however, need social interaction far more, I’s especially.

So make sure you know your teams styles, and manage them accordingly. Then encourage the more social ones to communicate with each other more – there is nothing stopping them putting Zoom or Skype on all day, so they can keep in touch.

4. Give them the tools they need

I expect that your work environment has developed over the years. All the tools you need are there to make your work life easier. That means that you can’t just send somebody home to work, and expect the same level of performance from them as normal. You have to assess whether they have quiet space to work in at home, the right computer and internet connection, and suitable desks and chairs for health and safety purposes.

I learnt years ago that people complain when things are wrong far less than you might think. Most good people will put up with a lot of crap before they do. This is especially true in these tough times, when they know you are already under pressure. So take time to talk to your team members and understand where and how they are working, and what you can do to help make it easier for them.

5. Up the training

Team members may be working alone where previously they have had colleagues around them to help them if they need it. So make sure that support, coaching and mentoring is still available within the team.

People love learning, getting better and improving their skills. While they are at home and locked down, they may have more time on their hands that they could put to learning. They key here is to make it relevant, fun, and their idea, not something you’ve forced on them.

In your meetings, ask your team members a simple question: “How could you come out of this lock-down an improved version of you?” They could research some ideas to improve efficiency, or maybe complete the learning programmes on the software they have been using for years! They could read a business book each, and teach the rest of the team what they’ve learned.

The key here though is you have to lead the way. If you are stagnant in your learning, they will be too. Remember, a fish rots from the head down!

These are my top tips to getting your remote team rockin’ – though they are working apart, with your leadership, this different way of working could bring them closer together in the end. Good luck, and if you need any help, just contact me!