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Managing remote working for some of us will be a new challenge, and for many of us this might be the first time we are working mostly from home.
We can do many things our self and through support from our manager to make this as easy, supportive, and smooth as possible. This includes adopting working practices to reduce feelings of isolation and stress that working at home may create. This may take time; we will all need to learn along the way and share what is working well. Let us remember to be patient and flexible with one another - we may not find the perfect routine or have all the answers immediately, this is okay.
Top Tips Caring for my team
- Agree ways of working. Make sure everyone is clear about how you will work together remotely, how you keep each other updated, and how frequently.
- Understand & Share the big picture. Remind each other about the big picture and how the work they do fits into it. Review short-term goals regularly and adjust as needed. If some colleagues cannot carry out all their usual work, consider other skills they can lend to others to meet over all goals.
- Set expectations and trust each other. Be clear about mutual expectations and trust each other to get on without micromanaging. Focus on results rather than activity.
- Make sure each colleague has the support and equipment they need. This includes any coaching that might be needed to use online systems or work remotely. Keep your calendars visible and a virtual open door.
- Have a regular virtual huddle. This is essential for keeping connected, and to check in on each other’s wellbeing and keep workflow on track. It need not be long, but regularity is key.
- Keep a rhythm of regular one to one and team meetings. This maintains a sense of structure and continuity for everyone, not everyone wants to say things with an audience.
- Share information and encourage your colleagues to do the same. Without the ‘chats at the coffee machine’, the opportunities to pick up information are more limited. Share appropriate updates or learnings from other meetings and projects and invite your colleagues to do the same.
- Be mindful of feedback, how we speak to each other and communications. People can be more sensitive if they are feeling isolated or anxious, so take this into account when talking or writing. Communicate regularly, not just when things go wrong, whether it is information, praise, or criticism.
- Listen closely and read between the lines. Not being in the same room means you do not have extra information from body language or tone to get the sense of what people are thinking or feeling. Home in on what is not being said and ask questions to clarify.
- Help foster relationships and wellbeing. Make time for social conversations. This increases rapport and eases communication between people who may not meet often. It also reduces feelings of isolation.
Guide to taking care of my team
Health, safety and wellbeing
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus many of us are concerned about our health, both physical and mental, and that of our loved ones. Homeworking over a sustained period can also lead to feelings of isolation.
To support maintaining our own and each other’s wellbeing:
- Encourage colleagues to assess their home workstation. Talk to your them about their home-working arrangements, to ensure they are healthy and safe. Do they have the right equipment? Is it comfortable enough? Have they found a place or mode of working in which they can concentrate without too many distractions when necessary?
- For those colleagues who have reasonable adjustment in place under the Equality Act talk to them at the earliest opportunity, and then regularly, to make sure that these adjustments can be continued if possible. Where they cannot be, discuss alternative adjustments.
- It is important you look out for your own wellbeing too and set your own boundaries It might be helpful to clarify with your team when you are happy to be contacted, and when you are not.
- You may wish to agree with your colleagues that you are going to banish guilt when working remotely It is ok to take regular breaks and to change between work and other activities whilst working from home.
- Check with your colleagues and each other, if they are ok Ask questions like How can I support you? What do you need help with to be successful during this time? Is there anything you are struggling with?
Social & morale
Encourage remote socialising, such as:
- Sharing pictures of what is happening locally, or inspirational posts (you know what will go down well with your team!) to build connection.
- Virtual coffee breaks, that may include short games or quizzes.
- Be sure to continue acknowledging birthdays, professional and personal milestones, and achievements, wherever possible.
- Share successes over video calls – to maintain morale and a sense of progress.
Consider having both a ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ communication plans is important and use appropriate tools for each. For example:
- In addition to holding formal one to ones and team meetings, consider creating an online space to replicate the more spontaneous office chat and questions.
- Microsoft Teams video calls are good for formal catchups, while the Chat function in Teams is great for more informal conversations. For example, having weekly wellbeing catch-ups (no work!) separate from more structured team meetings.
- It may be helpful for everyone to open their diary to their team, so that colleagues can see when they are available.
- Managers/ responsible persons should take the lead in communicating key messages to your teams
Tools and technology
Chevron uses Microsoft Teams to communicate within teams. It allows for audio and video calls/meetings, resource sharing and a chat function:
- If you have members of your team who have mastered using these tools – ask them to assist others where needed.
Output and productivity
Does working remotely impact productivity? Understandably, there maybe concerns about this. However, studies show that for many people, working remotely leads to an increase in productivity.
The following advice may be helpful:
- Set clear expectations. Be clear about deadlines, especially for critical tasks.
- Focus on output rather than activity as a measure of commitment and engagement, i.e. consider whether desired outcomes are being achieved, rather than a high level of online activity or quick responses to messages. This also helps to build trust.
- Encourage an open discussion about motivation, time management and productivity during team meetings, i.e. ask everyone to share one challenge and one tip for managing themselves.
- Talk openly to your colleagues – leading by example – about any issues they are having with productivity or motivation while working remotely. A culture of openness and trust will enable to you to help find constructive solutions, such as assigning different tasks. Role model the behaviour you want others to follow.
Appropriate Behaviour in a Virtual Work Environment
A virtual work environment, with its lack of non-verbal cues, can create a barrier to understanding how your behaviour affects your colleagues. It can also encourage some individuals to be less inhibited about how they express themselves, while others may feel isolated and forgotten.
In this period of transition, there are bound to be moments when managing and communicating across a team remotely is frustrating or challenging. At these times, both our own behaviour and that of our remote working colleagues’ teams can fall short of what is expected in a physical office:
- Everyone should have the right to disconnect and be able to create a boundary between their work and home time.
- Inappropriate behaviour in a remote team setting can reach even further into colleagues’ personal lives than in the physical workplace. Signs that a colleague maybe experiencing such behaviour may include being increasingly withdrawn in online group meetings, less involved in work items or looking visibly upset during online calls. Acting on these concerns promptly is important to ensure any underlying issues are addressed quickly.
- If you are a manager, you should also ensure your own behaviour remains appropriate. It should not be expected that colleagues will be available at all hours. It should also be recognised that some colleagues will take longer than others to adapt to these different working arrangements.
Feedback or Suggestions?
This guide is a first issue and will be added to and amended as we settle into this period of remote working. If you have any suggestions or feedback on this guide, please email email@example.com also if you find find this guide useful? Please do let us know, so we can ensure we are producing valuable information and making a positive impact.