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How to focus your team for remote working

Amongst the chaos caused by the rapid spread of Coronavirus, companies are facing escalating financial, workplace and communication challenges. All while struggling to keep their workforce safe. In an effort to maintain normal business function, and in line with government guidelines, most have resorted to remote working.  

While remote working isn’t a new concept for most scaling technology companies, having the entirety of your workforce dispersed to their homes in a matter of days is not without its challenges. Both leadership teams and employees are going to be distracted and disrupted – not to mention the looming threat of cabin fever. 

We’ve collated some top tips from global experts to help you stay on track with a connected and engaged team: 

Start with a conversation 

In their recent article on remote workingHarvard Business Review recommend opening up communication by first acknowledging the situation. This is a simple step, but it can be easily forgotten in the midst of all the other activity. Leaders can then encourage their team to have an input on the level of communication required moving forward, by launching it together.  

“Figure out: How often should we communicate? What’s the best way for us to work together? You’ve got to help people understand how to do remote work and give them confidence that it will work” 

HBR recommends group meetings at least once a week – and sticking to them.  Meetings that are usually held should continue to be virtually run. You can also add extra meetings to support critical projects and team members who need additional one-to-ones.  

“All these things can help maintain the connections you had in the office….it just requires discipline.”  

Have the tools to collaborate 

As an already entirely remote workforce, Zapier have a wealth of experience to offer those finding themselves quickly immersed in this world. In their crash course, they emphasise the importance of creating the right technical infrastructure for teams to collaborate and thrive.  

 “In a remote team, you’ll need the right tools to make sure everyone stays on the same page and can continue to execute without a physical person standing next to them. While the exact tools aren’t important, you’ll likely need a tool in certain categories like group chat and video conferencing to make remote successful.” 

Zapier list Slack, Zoom, Trello and Google Docs as some of their top tools for keeping the team aligned and in touch – we use a combination of these ourselves. And there are plenty more examples out there for every budget. 

Most tools designed to support remote workers require little to no training, but it’s a good idea to cover the basics of these tools in your first few remote calls. Work together to set them up in a way that works for everyone. Make the team feel included and capable to ensure they can maintain focus on what’s important.  

“These tools can make the difference between wasting hours on a task versus getting it done as efficiently as possible.” 

Clarify your new position 

In an article on leading a remote workforce, Forbes highlight the importance of setting new boundaries and guidelines – as the environment changes so does output and process. They suggest creating new measures and metrics to establish what success looks like for your team. Getting your team to align on specific goals, rather than activity can mean more focused use of their time and a better-quality output. 

“It’s important to manage expectations and stay focused on goals when embracing a remote workforce. Don’t worry so much about what is being done. Instead, concentrate on what is being accomplished.”  

Working remotely is also a great opportunity to realign the team on roles, responsibilities, team objectives and each individual’s contributions to these. With the added benefit that “clarifying roles among the team helps people understand when they can turn to their peers instead of the leader, which prevents the leader from becoming the bottleneck”.  

Encourage social engagement 

Working remotely can be an isolating experience, especially for the majority of workers used to a social office environment. Many people have been moved abruptly with no time to mentally prepare for what’s ahead.  Taking care of your team’s psychological health is a top priority.  

HBR demonstrate the importance of encouraging social interaction through work, to ensure a sense of community and support for your teams.   

“The easiest way to establish some basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls for non-work items.” They also offer suggestions of shared team lunches, parties and other socials. And while it may seem like forced fun, experienced managers of remote teams say the “events help reduce feelings of isolation, promoting a sense of belonging”. 

Although this is a confusing time for everyone, the challenges of remote working can help you reinvent the way you work and better integrate your team. But most importantly, in times like these we need to look out for each other. So keep in touch, video chat, even organise virtual gym classes – anything that helps you continue to connect with your teammates. 

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