Telecommuting is a trend that has grown in popularity among businesses in recent years. In times of personal or unexpected need, remote work plans provide a great “Plan B” to keep things running as smoothly as possible.
With something as sudden as COVID-19, however, many companies did not even get a chance to effectively plan for a remote work environment, let alone how to continue work as usual. But even with the overwhelming nature of the pandemic, it is actually very important to continue work as usual as much as possible. Not just for the wellbeing of the business, but to also keep you and your team on a routine for everyone’s mental wellbeing. But how do you manage a team that is geographically spread out all over the place?
1: Establish Reliable Communication.
First and foremost, you have to figure out the best way to go over projects and exchange ideas with your team. For some jobs, a simple system of emails and occasional phone calls is enough. But with those that require a lot of back and forth, collaboration, and even visual elements, it may be wise to consider a more direct way of communicating.
For instance, Slack is a great way to connect with your team more personally and efficiently. Slack offers a great host of work-friendly features such as having different boards for different discussions/people, instant messaging, file exchange, “whiteboard” scribbles, and so much more to make it intuitive and even a bit fun. Some other options include Zoom Video Communications, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams.
2: Set a check-in schedule.
One of the most complained-about aspects of remote work is the difficulty in getting responses from people. Before diving into action, figure out the best times throughout the day to reach your team.
For some, remote work still means maintaining the typical work schedule you have in the office, but for others, this may not be the case, especially during COVID-19 quarantine. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as needing to take care of family members at home, assisting children with distance learning, or other growing responsibilities. Therefore, knowing the best (and worst) times and days for everyone to get in touch will allow a better idea of how to structure communication and deadlines.
Then, set a schedule for you and your team so that things are more structured and in your control. An idea may be to have daily check-ins in the morning, followed by video call follow-ups at the end of the day.
3: Organize. Organize. Organize.
This is crucial when your team is working apart. A method of organization needs to be implemented so that everyone knows what they have to do, they have everything they need to do it, and you can monitor how things are and where the team is headed.
There are many reliable resources and task managers out there that can help maintain organization for not just you, but your whole team. For example, Monday allows you to create tasks and schedules that can be split up into different categories, and also offers widgets like project timeline, assigned names, file upload, and much more for each task. Having a system like this in place is also beneficial because it helps to eliminate staff hand-holding; everyone can see what they need to do and have all their resources right in front of them without you (or them) having to check-in on them every hour.
4: Be Flexible
From all the previous points, it becomes evident just how important communication and structure are. But it is just as important to be flexible and understanding of the circumstances at hand. At the end of the day, we are more than just employees. There is a lot of responsibility, pressure, and uncertainty that has been placed on people’s shoulders in a very short amount of time. Be a motivator and supporter, not a pushover.
Focus on the outcomes of your team rather than exactly what they are doing and how long they are doing it for. Offer resources and assistance to them when needed, even if it may not specifically be project related. Also, trust your team to get things done and do the right thing; address unproductivity when, or if, it actually occurs.
Kimberly R. Roffi, CPA
Kim, who has been a member of the firm since 2001, has over 19 years of public accounting experience. Today, she is a partner of the firm and previously served as Director for the firm’s tax and business advisory practice and Director of Finance and Operations for the firm internally. Kim has written Practice Insights for Lexis Nexis’ tax research platform and has been published in Building Long Island magazine.