14/04/2020 After a few days of confinement, the initial tools for remote work have been more or less installed. Any technical problems have been solved, or are at least in the process of being solved, and a certain etiquette has gradually become respected; including, video call only if necessary, turn the microphone off when you are not speaking, share documents, use instant messaging. Although these adaptations have been essential, they are not enough to effectively manage a team.
As consultants, we are used to working remotely, with teams that sometimes vary depending on the mission or project, and that may even change along the way. However, as is the case for many professionals, we have never experienced such a rapid change in our daily working methods as we have today. What if this period of confinement actually served as an opportunity to further improve our management practices? How can this "new work rhythm" be managed in the face of postponed deadlines, project uncertainty, and invariable team schedules?
Customise your approach
Confinement and the current health situation can generate stress and discomfort: check in with your team members frequently and individually. After all, a team is the sum of individuals…who are more distant now than ever before. Talk about yourself, about your situation as manager, and also as a person.
Share progress and responsibility
Even more than before, structure team work collectively, identify tasks, scopes, and deadlines. Share reference documents and any progress updates. A point of focus: confinement regulations and responsibilities are not the same for everyone. Certain individuals are alone, others may have children or relatives to take care of and may be in a difficult situation. Your employees must help them. According to their role, some team members can even be called upon during a Business Continuity Plan period. Therefore, it is essential to distribute tasks by considering these constraints, with as much fairness and respect for everyone as possible and by organising backup plans and giving a helping hand. Share your team’s progress, roadblocks, and successes, whether they are big or small.
In the current context, the scenario where experienced employees supervise and follow behind the actions of their junior employees is no longer possible. This is an opportunity to let go, to delegate, and to empower teams that, in general, were only ever asking for that.
Document team communications
Since network quality can vary, communication via certain tools can be altered to the detriment of the information being transmitted. Thus, it is useful to document work plans and decisions on easy-to-access platforms for the entire team. During meetings, one participant can take minutes on the main topics being discussed either orally and/or in writing via instant messaging, and share these notes as they could be useful to others or to those who were absent.
Due to the "new work rhythm" mentioned previously, working schedules are not always in sync, compared to pre-confinement. The time for coordination is certainly longer and more formal than during simple face-to-face conversations between colleagues. Workload will potentially increase, especially if projects require the participation of a large number of contributors.
Prioritise what is important
Again, get yourself and your team to differentiate what is urgent and important from what is secondary. With the help of your team, identify what is critical and what is essential.