Managing a Remote Team:
How to Stay Productive and Secure Online
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the entire world into a state of flux. Things that were once constant have now become intermittent or have disappeared entirely. Few sectors of life have felt this as strongly as the business sector. Organizations that were once staunchly against having remote workers have now decided or have been forced to have their workers carry out their tasks from home.
This unfamiliar work from home environment has been challenging for employees who have tried to find their footing in unfamiliar territory. It has been more challenging for managers who are for the first time attempting to manage a group of people who are not under the same roof as they are.
When there is a major shift, as has been seen with so many employees working from home, it is preferable to create a training program in advance and establish clear policies involving the use of pre-approved devices, outlining network security measures, and training employees on protect themselves from phishing scams and malware.
A recent report by Gartner showed that employee education was the number one threat to cybersecurity with 33% of employees in major companies being unaware of cybersecurity threats.
Unfortunately, the rapid nature of the change has made creating and enforcing these policies all but impossible. Thankfully, there are some steps that managers can take to successfully support remote employees.
Establish Structure by Creating Daily Check-Ins
Each manager will face their own unique situation, so their approach to creating daily check-ins must also be unique.
Some managers have opted to do one-on-one daily phone calls with each employee under their purview. Others, especially those who work with a team that needs to collaborate closely with each other, might use video conference software to talk with the entire team simultaneously.
It’s not so much the way the call is made that is important, but it’s predictability and regularity that really matter. Employees feel comforted when they know that at a set time every single day they will receive a phone call from management that either checks on their progress or gives them instructions on how to move forward with their projects.
It’s also important for employees to feel that they have a mechanism where they can easily communicate with management. They need to know that even though they are not in the same building with management, there is a way for them to have their concerns heard and get answers to key questions.
Provide Multiple Secure Technologies for Communication
Email is perfect for the office environment. This is because email is usually complemented with face-to-face meetings, instant messaging, and phone calls. However, emails are not enough for work from home employees.
Work from home employees benefit from comprehensive technologies that allow them to get the same visual cues they would have if they were working with their management face-to-face. Videoconferencing tools can be used for large-scale meetings. Zoom, for example, offers the ability to connect hundreds of people together. However, we have seen that video conferencing works better for smaller groups where everyone in the video conference can be seen on the screen simultaneously.
This is because the visual cues that you get from a group of co-workers helps to increase mutual knowledge when attacking a collaborative project. Also, being able to see your co-workers face-to-face reduces the feeling of stress and loneliness that a person might have when working from home.
Managers may need to have sensitive conversations with their employees, and these are better handled using a video conference software as opposed to sending a written email or having a conversation over the phone.
If the conversation is quick and just bits of information need to be transmitted, management teams may want to use software like Microsoft Teams or WhatsApp. Both products allow for quick instant messaging and audio and video conversations.
Security is key when using any form of online communication. Management teams should work closely with their IT department to ensure that they have the proper level of data security prior to using any tool for communication.
Schedule Weekly All-Hands Team Meetings
These meetings differ from the daily communication managers have with their team. These meetings are designed to address issues or give updates on particular points. Managers need to make sure that these meetings do not waste time. They should add value to the work the employees are doing.
The frequency of the meetings managers have with their employees will fluctuate based on the situation. If there is a crisis, the team might meet every single day. If there is a deadline on the horizon, meetings might be scaled back to give the team the time they need to work on their projects.
One thing about remote work that employees enjoy is flexibility. Managers need to be flexible with when they schedule their meetings, how long the meetings should last, and the information presented at the meetings so that it works with their team’s preference.
Weekly meetings should be set in stone. They create a structure around which a team can gel. The meetings need to be well prepared so that employees want to show up and want to mentally participate.
Something that managers can do to make these online meetings more engaging is to include their team in preparation of an agenda. Someone can be assigned to take notes at the meeting and distribute these notes to the entire team, especially so that those who can’t attend can catch up later.
Managers will need to frequently remind their employees about cyber security challenges that could threaten their personal devices and the organization’s network. Many of the cyber security breaches that have been recorded in the months since the pandemic began can be traced back to employees who unwittingly opened an email or clicked on a link that led to their device being infected, leading to the infection being passed to their organization's network. Reminders about cyber security should be given frequently but not so frequently that employees see them as background noise.
Managing a remote team may require that more time is spent on helping the team maintain their emotional health and their sense of purpose. There are challenges involved with managing a remote team, but there are so many benefits. With time and patience, managing a remote team successfully is possible.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.
Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.
About the Author
Kate Noether is a PR Specialist, SEO expert and all-round tech enthusiast. Apart from that she enjoys biking on weekends and spending time in nature.