Blog | Managing remote teams during the Coronavirus pandemic

Published March 30, 2020

Managing remote teams during the Coronavirus pandemic

The sudden move from being office based to working remotely has of course been challenging for many of us. Whilst we have all needed to adapt to this new working arrangement, people have been inundated with advice, help and resources on how to best establish a routine, cope with isolation and juggle different priorities alongside their working days. We’re all now experts on tools such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype, helping increase communications and productivity.

However, line managers are one group that has had a particularly steep learning curve. Not only have they faced the same challenges as every other new home worker, and the wider stresses of the current situation, but at the same time they need to manage and support their teams as well. For line managers with previously office based teams, they have gone from knowing exactly what their team are doing each day, understanding their stresses and sensing their mood through quick catch ups to having a team who are distant and quite possibly distracted, whether that be from not having a convenient work area at home, worrying about sick and elderly relatives or coping with noisy kids.

Emerging findings from our own research at Questback shows that this is translating into their feelings about home working. Feedback we’ve collected from line managers shows that they are less positive than their colleagues about the processes they need to follow, less confident in their ability to collaborate effectively with colleagues and less likely to feel they can manage their work responsibilities in a way that allows them to maintain a healthy work/life balance.

To help line managers, here are our top tips for managing remote teams effectively, based on our experience at Questback:

  1. Compassion and care come first – this is a difficult time for everyone, and most important is everybody’s health, safety and wellbeing. Make time to check in with your team individually to understand how they are coping with their transition to homeworking, and how you can best support them
  2. Clarify goals and priorities – for many businesses, priorities have swiftly changed, and it is important that all employees know how they should be spending their time, particularly as they are now working more independently than ever. As a line manager you are the conduit for explaining company strategy and communications from the top – so take the time to understand these messages, enabling you to convey them to your teams in ways that resonate with them personally.
  3. Accept that flexibility will be needed and judge employees on outputs not hours. With employees now balancing work with more personal commitments than ever, offer them the flexibility to work at slightly different times to enable them to manage their other responsibilities, as long as their work can still get done. Many people have taken on additional responsibilities within their community, such as an NHS volunteer, and you need to balance supporting these positive actions with helping them keep on top of their workloads.
  4. Stay connected – it is easy to feel isolated from the rest of the team when you are working remotely, so schedule regular team catch ups, ideally where the team can all see each other and everyone can participate. Communication is more important than ever during uncertain times, so provide frequent updates on company progress and priorities, inviting questions and discussion.
  5. Focus on the medium, as well as the short term – people are clearly worried about the spread of Covid-19 and its impact on themselves, their family and friends. But they are also concerned about what it means for their jobs and incomes in the longer term. While it can be difficult to provide certainty at the current time, you need to balance honesty with reassurance, empathy and understanding.
  6. Seek regular feedback so that you can continue to improve the way you work as a remote team. What are people’s concerns and how can you best address them? A regular pulse check on your people can help inform and drive your actions and where you need to provide support.

As a feedback platform provider at Questback we already use weekly surveys to help us to improve our ways of working. It definitely helps us to build a strong company culture across different locations by listening and acting on what people feel and say.

Given the current working environment provides unique challenges we want to help line managers to be as effective as possible. We’ve therefore launched some free, easy to use pulse surveys to help managers better understand employee perceptions during these challenging times. You can access these at https://www.qubie.app/  We hope they prove useful and provide you with valuable insights.

Want to see how Questback can work for your business?