Steps your manager can take to improve engagement and promote productivity from your remote team.
The world has changed forever for millions of employees now working remotely due to COVID-19 — or for their managers. Managers need to understand that remote workers face increased feelings of isolation, lack access to timely information and have unavoidable personal demands at home.
Experienced and effective managers know how to take steps to help you prevent burnout, adapt to online working, and balance work with family obligations. As a remote worker, you should expect and ask your manager to:
Expectation #1 - Open up multiple communication channels
Email is best for conveying detailed, precise messages. It is better suited for formal messages that require less immediate response. In a remote environment, your manager should provide communication channels that offer quick, casual responses which can compensate for the daily watercooler moments. Chat-first apps such as Slack and Teams are suited for urgent messages, real-time collaboration, team-building chats and brainstorming sessions.
Your manager should also provide video conferencing because it offers many advantages. Body language cues increase understanding, and particularly effective for discussing sensitive topics or complex topics.
Expectation #2 - Have regular check-ins
Regular, even daily, calls with your manager gives you opportunities to receive training or coaching and guidance, ensuring your concerns are addressed. Check-ins can be one-on-one, or in group setting if the nature of your work is highly dependent of team members. Ask your manager to schedule check-ins that are regular and predictable.
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Expectation #3 - Establish rules of engagement
Managers should establish “rules of engagement” with you and your team mates early on, during your initial check-in meetings. It is important that employees understand and share the same set of expectations for interactions with the team.
For instance, your manager should facilitate sharing of each team member's best way and time to be reached you during the workday. Other ground rules to establish are frequency, channels and optional timing of communications (e.g. IM chats or phone calls for urgent topics, videoconferencing for check-ins).
Expectation #4 - Mix it up
It's not all about work. Social interaction (i.e. informal chats about non-work topics) is essential to promoting a sense of belonging and reducing feelings of loneliness.
An easy way for your manager to encourage social interaction is to dedicate time at the beginning of team meetings for non-work topics. For example, "Let's spend a few minutes to catch up. What are your weekend plans?" Other options include virtual office lunches (when team members join simultaneously to share lunchtime) or host opt-in meetings with no formal agenda. While these things may seem contrived, research shows that virtual events ease workplace stress and prevent burnout.
Expectation #5 - Provide encouragement
Remote work can add additional stress and anxieties. A successful manager should be asking, "How is this situation working out for you so far?” Remote managers should listen to your concerns, and coach you through difficult situations while providing emotional support. Knowing these expectations from your remote manager will help you succeed in your job.
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To be your best, you need your manager to be at her or his best. Today's successful managers do not quietly quit, but instead they: set up regular check-ins, offer multiple communication channels, promote non-work interactions, provide emotional support and establish consistent ground rules. Expect no less from your remote manager,.