Ashleigh Bean / 13 May
Managing & motivating your remote team
The recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) has seen the vast majority of the investment management sector forced to work from home for the first time ever, bringing a new host of unique challenges to the workforce that could not have been predicted.
As a sector which ordinarily sees its employees commuting each day into an office whereby they work alongside other colleagues, the investment management industry has had to quickly adapt to the new norm. Some challenges businesses may be facing amidst this include; cohesion struggles within the team, lack of clarity on roles and tasks, difficulty maintaining a work life balance or finding the right working environment.
To help combat these issues, we have put together 8 simple steps to help managers lead remote teams, ensuring they are productive, engaged and motivated during lockdown.
- Communication is key
Communication within a business is the key to success. Whether you’re hosting a meeting, emailing or on the phone to clients, or simply updating the status of a project to your team, communication is at the forefront of everything we do and miscommunication may result in messages being diluted or incorrect information being passed. It is vital to master the art of communicating effectively with your remote team so that all team members are aligned and your business can succeed.
It is useful to implement structure in terms of frequency of communication. Check in with your team in the morning as this will allow everyone to agree on priorities and targets for the day ahead. Ensure virtual meetings are on time and have clear purpose. They should act as an opportunity to share updates, company news and announcements. As well as consistent team meetings, you should also be having regular one-to-ones to keep your team feeling valued and included individually. Consistency is key here – try not to cancel or reschedule catch-ups that have already been set and communicate with each member of the team via the method they prefer, whether that is via phone call, instant messenger, video chat or email.
When communicating with your team ensure clarity – don’t assume that others understand your cues. Spend time ensuring communication is completely clear to avoid the team wasting time trying to interpret messages. If there is the possibility that messaging could be misunderstood or evoke an emotional reaction, it is best to pick up the phone. Your tone of voice is a much better communicator of emotion than email.
- Leverage technology
Remote employees need email, video conferencing tools, a direct messaging platform, and a way to share and download files. Make sure that specialised roles like project managers and analysts also have access to the software they need to be successful. Budget for updated, reliable technology to avoid laptops crashing or sluggish programs that slow down daily tasks and dampen productivity and demotivate your team. To make sure you integrate new technology effectively, set business rules and processes about which technology to use for specific purposes. Maybe ask for a volunteer from within the team to act as a “superuser” for the system (which will also encourage autonomy, as per the next point). Always be patient with any technical issues and provide prompt support wherever possible.
- Promote autonomy
Managing remotely requires developing a sense of trust with your team. As you can no longer physically see your team working, this may lead to the temptation to micromanage. Instead, empower them to share ideas, take the lead on specific projects and think about skills they would like to build on. Support their efforts to proactively upskill in the areas where they feel they need improvement. It’s also a good idea to provide your team with the autonomy to set their own targets, which you can then tweak if required. Autonomy can also be encouraged through daily Zoom meetings being hosted by different members of the team and not necessarily always by you, the Manager.
- Set realistic targets, deadlines and expectations
If you work in a role where setting targets comes in to play, be clear about your expectations, including who is responsible for which tasks and the estimated deadlines. Whilst you cannot physically see your team working, their output is a clear indicator of completing tasks. If colleagues are regularly missing deadlines, this can be a sign that they need support and are struggling with the task or perhaps that the target is unrealistic. Either way it is important that the issue is confronted and remedied so that the employee does not lose motivation and become unhappy. To create a sense of accomplishment and positivity, it is a good idea to have a round up at the end of the week to celebrate targets that have been met and share achievements with the rest of the team.
- Be inclusive
During remote working, it can be easy for some members of the team to feel excluded or forgotten. It is imperative to encourage and create a culture of asking questions or voicing thoughts and opinions during virtual meetings and one-to-ones. If one-to-one reviews are part of your monthly routine at work, these should still go ahead remotely. During these meetings, invite and be open to feedback and ideas that your team may have on projects so that they feel that their opinion is valued. Listen to your team members and make sure any potential issues are raised and resolved. As a Manager, you must appreciate the unique circumstances and potential challenges that your team members may be facing that might impact on the way that they are working – such as childcare responsibilities or caring for relatives. Let your team members know they can talk to you about any concerns.
- Work-life balance
Poor work-life balance negatively impacts health and happiness. If your team is not differentiating the two they are more likely to become stressed and less in control at work. Give your team the freedom to schedule their own workload and manage any other responsibilities or commitments that they have, and lead by example by setting clear boundaries between work-time and home-time. With easy access to the work laptop, the temptation to work through the night or at weekends may be easier than usual. Also, express the importance of wellbeing, including the need to take regular breaks, avoid taking lunch at their makeshift desks and exercising at a time that suits them. You can help encourage this behaviour by organising a virtual workout or suggesting team members have lunch in the garden or go for a walk outside.
- Boost morale
It is important to keep team morale up when working remotely, as the change from working in a team to working in isolation can be daunting and demotivating for some. This may particularly impact employees in the investment management sector who are now being exposed to extreme market fluctuations and crashes, which may leave them feeling deflated. As a Manager, you can keep team spirit up by sharing positive economic news stories and predictions for an economic restart. Reinforcing company culture through team-building exercises is another way of lifting spirits – this helps remind team members how their role contributes to the bigger picture. Transparency is also key. Keep the team informed and reassured on what is happening within the market and the wider business, despite not being in the office. Social and team-building activities should also still be encouraged among remote teams, using platforms like Skype or Zoom to initiate casual conversations or host activities such as quizzes to perk up the day. Some businesses are even hosting their after-work Friday drinks via Zoom rather than the pub. Remember to celebrate achievements and share positive news or feedback.
- Support team wellbeing
All managers have a duty of care to their team in regards to their wellbeing. This can be considered more challenging when done remotely as the manager is not able to visually observe the behaviour of team members. For some, working remotely can be very isolating, particularly if they live alone or have underlying illnesses. It is essential to check in with each member of the team and ensure conversations are not purely task oriented as an employee who continues to work whilst unwell (physically or mentally) is likely to end up burned out. Being attentive to the wellbeing of your team both physically and mentally is an essential aspect of remote management and is crucial to long term success.
Despite the unusual times we are currently facing, we want to reassure our clients and candidates that it is still business as usual here at Mason Blake and that we are available to answer any questions or concerns you may have about potential disruptions to your recruitment processes or job search.
If you’d like further support or more advice on how to manage your team remotely, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org