March has seen an unprecedented shift of work from office to home. Creating the need for many charities to adjust to a new way of working at short notice, making sure all the necessary kit is available and ready to go, and turning minds to supporting people, one another and re prioritising strategic and operational objectives. Safe to say, Covid 19 didn’t feature in too many risk registers!
Over the coming weeks and months lots of adjustment will be needed, personally and professionally, by all of us. And this will no doubt bring challenges, issues and lots of learning. Within the Cranfield Trust we are finding our own way forward both for realigning our external facing services and our internal ways of working. In the current climate, we are mindful of the importance of the role of leaders and managers in keeping up conversations with individuals and within and between teams.
Many colleagues may be adjusting well to the new ways of working, but it’s important to know that many may also be feeling uncertain and worried. What we do now will go a long way to helping others in this time of change – and give the clarity, structure, reassurance and support people need.
There is lots of information available. In the last week alone, thousands of articles have been posted online for how to work well remotely. We thought it would be helpful at this time to do a reminder of some of the basic good practice for managers when managing remotely.
Our top five tips for managing remotely:
1. Helping your team understand their common goals is essential as you move into working remotely for the foreseeable future.
- Have you had a 121 with each member of your team? Weekly meetings in the first few weeks will help to give a sense of connection and an opportunity to discuss how things are going.
- Keep in contact daily as and where needed. And if you notice someone is offline or away unexpectedly, follow this up.
- Some questions for discussion to include in your meetings:
- How are you adjusting to working at home? • How are you managing working remotely?
- What are the areas of work / projects taking most of your time?
- Is your workload manageable? If there are challenges to capacity – such as for caring responsibilities – how can we manage this together?
At this time, it is important to begin to build a picture of your current capacity so you have a good understanding centrally that all your staff are safe and well, and what new and changing capacity and working arrangements may be. Where possible:
- Ask your team to update their Outlook calendars or similar with their availability and any non-working time.
- Be clear about mutual expectations and trust your team to get on without micromanaging. Focus on results/outcomes rather than activity.
- 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.
2. Bring structure to the working week, for the individual and the team.
- Create helpful, supportive spaces for coming together and don’t assume the basics will take care of themselves.
- Be clear and disciplined about how you will communicate, how often and how these meetings will be managed – ideally the same day and time each week.
- Agree and send an agenda in advance with clear start and finish times. Not every meeting has to be chaired by a manager.
3. In your 121s create a rhythm that you and others can rely on, creating norms and practices over a period of time
- Take the time to discuss and establish a helpful structure that works for both of you.
- Take the time to ask and agree what an individuals preferences are for working together remotely. An agreed structure can help including: celebrating success, coaching questions, wellbeing questions, performance management and connecting work back to intended outcomes.
4. Consider how you structure meetings
- In team meetings, make time for checking in, taking a couple of minutes to discuss each member of the team is doing, what’s going well, what’s challenging and why.
- Establish a round robin for leading team meetings. Create engagement and ownership and reduce the burden on one person to always lead from the front.
- Many of us may find ourselves in online back-to-back meetings and missing the few minutes we’d have taken to walk from one meeting to another when in the office. Aim to finish meetings five minutes early, or schedule them for off-hour times, e.g. 10.10 – 10.40am, rather than 10 - 10.30am. Encourage everyone to take a comfort break and stretch their legs, and to move away from their screen.
- At the end of a meeting agree how things could be improved for the next time.
5. Recognise it will be challenging to sustain shared understanding and relations remotely over an extended period, and time and effort is needed by all parties
- If the conversation with an individual or your team is not-quite-right be brave, and take the time to discuss if people are struggling with the situation or if there are issues or difficulties that may be getting in the way.
- While this is an opportunity for everyone to become more confident at collaborating remotely and to use a range of online tools effectively, recognise some people will be less confident, and will need support and encouragement to learn. If others are experts, encourage them to share with colleagues.
- Wherever possible, take time to recognise success, achievements and a job well done. Name check good ideas and a positive contribution. Build a good feeling, a virtual pat on the back can travel a distance in no time at all!
Remember, you can still wander about, checking in on people and maintaining the loose, informal contacts that make you human. You just need to do it digitally and through a screen.