Tim Minahan, CMO and EVP of business strategy at Citrix, discusses how to navigate managing a remote team while remaining laser-focused on a unified strategy as we confront the â€œnew normalâ€ of working from home.
Working remote is perhaps the biggest change in the way business is done that the world has ever seen. But as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, it is fast becoming the new normal. Remote work is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Companies that invest in technology to give employees access to the applications and information they need to be informed, collaborate and get work done from their homes safely and securely gain the agility, speed, and efficiency required to manage resources in the dynamic way that unpredictable business environments demand and position themselves well for the future.
But you cannot just throw technology at employees and expect them to embrace it â€“ particularly in times like these.
How to Set Up Your Remote Team for Success
To emerge successfully from the crisis, businesses need to take a different approach. Here are a few tips to keep employees and productive while working remotely.
1. Design for digital engagement
Working from home is not â€˜business as usual.’ You cannot expect to keep a globally distributed and remote team’s attention with multi-hour meetings with multiple topics. Instead, keep things short, focused, and engaging. Businesses should encourage shorter, more frequent meetings on single topics that allow teams to prepare and keep them engaged and focused.
2. Force frequent communications
With the COVID-19 situation changing every day, teams need to be far more connected and agile than ever. One way to stay informed and aligned is through virtual stand-up meetings twice per week. These meetings should be short and designed to provide transparency of evolving communications, programs, and blockers that need to be addressed. The purpose of these stand-ups should not be to strategize or resolve issues. Workplace collaboration tools like Slack channels can be used to extend vital information and gain key insights from the broader organization.
3. Don’t neglect virtual â€œface-to-faceâ€
There is a camera button on all major online meeting tools. Use it. Consider instituting a â€œcameras onâ€ policy to ensure that team members can look at each other in the eye and engage in a much more genuine way. It can uncomfortable at first, but people will likely recognize how invaluable it is to keep focused and connected. And it makes for far more meaningful meetings.
4. Implement virtual office hours
Uncertain times raise lots of questions. Working remotely, employees lose the opportunity to swing by their manager’s office to get a question answered or to just be reassured. Managers and other members of a leadership team can institute virtual office hours and create a standing online meeting for employees who might want to drop by to get an answer to an urgent question or to share an idea of how they can better help customers or fellow employees.
5. Don’t skip the watercooler
While having its benefits, working from home can lack the social engagement that keeps teams connected and motivated. Consider encouraging employees to share photos of their work from home environment, tactics, and the people and creatures they interact with there on company social media channels and other platforms like Slack. It is incredibly satisfying to see the personal side of the people you work with.
6. Create a productive place
Securing a separate office space with a door in your home or apartment is ideal. If employees cannot declare a defined space, have them set expectations with family about work hours, and set boundaries for what that means. One tip is for employees to use â€œMeeting in Progressâ€ post-it notes to signal to a family when they absolutely cannot be disturbed.
7. Encourage â€œme timeâ€
Do not let work overtake life. Too often, remote workers find it hard to stop working as that device or Slack message is only a few feet away. Encourage employees to establish set office hours and communicate them clearly with teammates and family. Also, be sure to have them set time for regular breaks to stretch, step outside, or meditate. Host company-wide virtual mindful sessions multiple times each week to guide employees through a brief meditation to recharge and enhance focus or organize virtual happy hours with team members.
8. Be safe out there
Sending everyone to work from home with a laptop can keep them out of harm’s way, but it introduces new security risks. People want to know that their devices and the personal and company information on them are safe. One way to assure this is by requiring employees to only access their applications and content through company-provided digital workspace solutions.
9. Lead by example
Executive leadership teams should adopt similar approaches to stay informed and connected through the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis. In addition to having regular staff meetings, leaders should host weekly check-ins that specifically focus on reporting about the rapidly emerging situation, impacts on employees and customers, and programs and actions they are implementing to help. Executive teams should constantly monitor the situation and drive a communications strategy to keep employees, customers, and communities informed through company blogs, remote work best practices posts, FAQs, and hotlines.
10. Embrace the silver lining
It may not seem like it right now, but the world will eventually recover from this current pandemic. When we take a retrospect of lessons learned from the crisis, one positive outcome will be that corporations and employees will embrace more flexible work models. The very same approaches and technologies that have helped organizations keep their employees safe and connected and their businesses running during this crisis will provide new levels of agility to capitalize on new opportunities and unlock entirely new pools of talent â€“ such as workers in remote locales, retirees, gig workers, and stay-at-home parents â€“ who were previously inaccessible to companies reluctant to use remote work models.
Remote work is the new normal. By delivering a superior employee experience, you can ensure employees’ physical and mental well-being, keep them engaged and productive, and drive the agility your organization needs to better meet the needs of your customers and the broader community in both good and challenging times.