Has Covid-19 forced your company to change its relationship with the office? The lockdown and social distancing measures mean tens of thousands of companies have introduced new remote working strategies – by April 2020 almost half of the UK workforce was working from home.

While remote working has broadly been a success, it still introduces plenty of challenges and a recent survey found that 1 in 5 business leaders feel unprepared for managing a remote team. However, with the right techniques and tools, it is perfectly possible to set up and manage your remote working team.

Common Challenges with Remote Working Teams

Setting up a remote working team can be very challenging – you are asking your colleagues to radically alter habits, working styles and communication methods they have been using for years and asking them to behave in a totally new way. As our recent eBook on business change management argues, people are not opposed to change, but it’s crucial to communicate it in an effective manner.

Here are some of the main obstacles to managing remote working teams:

  • Changing personal routines

Getting up, travelling to the office and sitting down at their office desk is, to many people, the signal that work has started. Adjusting to a new routine means many struggle to ‘switch on’ in the morning.

  • Reduced social interaction

With surveys showing that 20% of remote workers report loneliness, keeping employee morale up when managing remote working teams can be a challenge.

  • Lack of transparent presence

It can be hard for team leaders to know who is working and who is away from their desk, and it can be hard for team members to let their colleagues know they are ready to work or are finished for the day.

  • Break in processes

So many business processes continue to be managed through verbal, in-person interactions – one employee will tell another that X action is complete so their colleague can start on Y task. When this face-to-face interaction is no longer possible, processes may slow down due to communication delays.

Managing remote working teams: tips you can use right away

Have you been managing a remote team during the lockdown but find that things haven’t worked as smoothly as they usually do? The following ideas may help you address the pain points outlined above when your teams are working from home.

Remote Working Routines

  • Staff need to find somewhere to work without distractions.

It is valuable to set aside space in a room where they will not be distracted by family, children or flat mates. Working in bedrooms is not ideal, but this may allow them to focus more consistently than in the lounge or kitchen.

  • Separate work from life

When it’s time to stop work, your colleagues should leave the working space behind. Especially under a lockdown, leaving the working environment may be challenging but we are still allowed outside to walk and exercise so it’s worth encouraging your employees to mentally separate out their working day from their free time by leaving the house (as long as they follow the government’s rules).

Reduced Social Interactions:

  • Use technology to encourage interaction

Set your organisation up with a collaboration tool that allows you to both socialise and work together remotely. Ideally something that can separate the two within the tool, so you can choose when to work and when to have a social break, sharing articles, memes etc.

At FITTS we love Microsoft Teams and we have dedicated working spaces for various teams in the company. We also have a social space where people can share life updates (for example, we welcomed a new baby to the FITTS Family earlier this year over Teams!) and generally connect on a personal level.

Lack of Presence:

  • Set up a daily check-in

A great technique for managing remote working teams is to have a quick stand up meeting or just a simple WhatsApp buzz-in where everyone checks in and lets their colleagues know what they will be working on today. This helps to signal the start of the day for everyone and allow people to create a boundary around their day.

  • Use presence markers in your apps

Again, Microsoft Teams is brilliant for this. Built in indicators allow you to tell everyone if you are online, away from your desk, busy, or offline. This is perfect for letting people draw a line when it’s time to be with their family or away from work.

Break in Processes:

  • Use work management tools to share work tasks

Task management apps are just as good as (if not better than!) face-to-face communication about project tasks. Work management tools provide real time updates on progress – check out tools like Huddle, Microsoft Planner, Wrike, Trello, etc. They all help keep the wheels turning on high pace projects.

  • Define your channels for managing work

It is important for everyone to know how they are expected to communicate. Clarify what will be done in meetings, what will be done through text updates and what can go straight into your work management tools. For all meetings, have a clear agenda and a moderator to keep the focus

Other tips for remote working teams

At FITTS we have long encouraged a culture of remote working and many of our colleagues worked remotely full time even before the coronavirus lockdown. Other techniques that we’ve found useful include:

  • Use video calls!

We can all be shy sometimes, but a remote team is much more functional when the video is on – it gets less awkward the more you practice! When doing a video call; use a wired connection, sit straight on from the camera and test the quality before any important meetings. As a team leader, set the expectation with your team before they go remote that video calls are part of the plan.

  • Manage meetings better

Don’t always make your daily meeting leaders the moderators; allow the presenter to focus on content and delegate someone to keep an eye on time and the agenda.

Remote working Is Here to Stay

All the evidence suggests that even after the Covid-19 pandemic has receded, more of us are going to continue working remotely, at least some of the time. When businesses introduced remote working at the beginning of the lockdown, many had little time to prepare or experience of this new way of working. Nevertheless, with the right tools and techniques thousands of businesses have adjusted and are improving their ways of working with this model.

At FITTS we help organisations use the best tools to support their remote working. To learn how we can help you get the most from remote working now and in future, contact us today.