How to meet the ongoing challenges of remote management

January 19, 2021

Go back almost a year and for many, working from home was new challenge and experience – and one most people got to grips with relatively easily.

Fast forward to January 2021, with another national lockdown, winter and the addition of home schooling, and some might say the novelty has worn off.

Recently released figures show that during the spring lockdown, mental health accounted for almost half (four in 10) fit notes issued by GPs.

Nel Woolcott, recruitment partner at Peterborough-based Anne Corder Recruitment, said: “At the start of the pandemic, many people were thrown into a new way of working and most have overcome hurdles along the way. However, we perhaps didn’t anticipate that a return to the office would still be so far out of reach, and the longer the Government’s working from home advice is in place, the more remote and isolated some employees can start to feel.

“Employers also face their own challenges of managing their teams remotely. It is crucial that staff continue to feel supported in their role and where possible, bosses maintain or re-adopt an ‘open door’ approach – albeit virtually – and also engage with colleagues on the lighter side of a day at the ‘remote’ office.”

Some tips for managing remotely:

  • Communicate: Check in with your team daily if possible – even if it is just a five-minute video call to ask them how they are or what they did at the weekend. Ensure your approach isn’t one which may come across as you ‘checking up’ on them.
  • Motivate: Start a ‘good news conversation’ and tell staff what a great job they are doing in these difficult times; recognise great results, praise individual performance, highlight the value of the team approach, encourage new learning. While it may be hard to be motivated when you lack the skills to complete the task, working from home give the opportunity to let your staff invest in themselves. Set them tasks which will grow their skills; and let them have time to do that online course.
  • Support: Encourage colleagues to take regular breaks – and tell them it is ok swap screen time for a short coffee break or that having a dog barking or small child interrupt a video meeting isn’t the end of the world. Working from home can see some people slacking during the day and overachievers going above and beyond. In the office you can see who is in which camp but working from home makes that invisible. Flagging up issues as they arise will ensure the best outcome for both you and the employee.
  • The fun factor. However big or small your workforce, it is important to retain the team spirit. Encourage staff to come up with fun team building ideas, perhaps offering a prize for the most imaginative. Giving your team ownership of this and carrying out that online quiz or scavenger hunt, Friday afternoon drink, virtual bake off judging or fancy-dress challenge – within working hours – can re-introduce those water cooler moments.

Development specialist and coach, Katy Walton, added: “It’s worth investing time on connection; humans are social beings and crave that interaction – and leaders which enable this to happen reap rewards through decrease in absenteeism and increase in profit and productivity. And of course, it tops up our resilience tanks too!”