Managing teamwork in your business successfully in a remote environment
How can you successfully manage a team when you’re not with them every day? This new conundrum has been served upon you as one of a multitude of consequences of the pandemic and is one for which most managers don’t have a list of best practice.
But when you successfully manage your remote team, you are future-proofing your business.
Pre-pandemic, you had probably considered remote-working practices, if not partially adopted them. But these were probably sporadic days here or there – opportunities to work from home to accomplish the odd chunk of work which needed specific attention.
Very few businesses had made the change completely.
Your office was still probably the central point, the beating heart of your business activity, where your team congregated to collaborate.
Having remote working thrust upon us was a massive sea-change to which we’ve been forced to adapt, often without a pre-prepared playbook telling us exactly what to do and when.
Research undertaken by Harvard Business Review (HBR) states that the success of the conversion process to remote working has, unsurprisingly, differed substantially from team to team. Such variability puts tremendous strain on individual employees who are now navigating a whole new way of working.
Even before the pandemic, research on teams pointed to significant challenges that people experienced when trying to work together. Difficulties in feeling connected to teammates, perceived differences in personality, the strain of working across different time-zones – many factors were cited.
Add to the mix the stress of pandemic-centric issues such as remote-working, rapidly shifting goals and objectives plus the stress of the crisis itself and it’s apparent that many businesses could be caught in a perfect storm.
Years of research by HBR has shown that many ingredients – unclear missions, inconsistent social norms, unclear roles – are the recipe for team disasters. They result in inefficient, often unproductive teams full of disconnected, sometimes disgruntled members.
And the warning signs are now being seen today. Managers and team members with a lack of clarity about their role in the business; fading interpersonal connections due to remote work; low motivation; overwhelming workloads.
Sirota’s model of motivation in the workplace is worth examining here. Dr. David Sirota conducted research into ways of motivating employees.
In essence this boiled down to an assertion that to create and maintain an enthusiastic workforce, you need to give your employees what they want. These wants and desires were distilled into three factors:-
- A sense of fairness/equity – your team want to be treated fairly at work
- A sense of achievement – your team want to do important, useful work, and be recognised for doing so
- A sense of camaraderie – your team want to enjoy good relationships with co-workers
In this context, looking at the symptoms of ill-performing teams helps us to understand why they are not performing.
After all, it’s very difficult to maintain camaraderie when everyone is working remotely.
It’s hard for your team to know if they are being treated fairly when they’re remote and can’t engage in the ‘water-cooler’ chat which fuels the informal social wheels in your business.
And if you don’t have accountability around numbers, how do you know if your winning every week? This can lead to disenchantment in your team as there is nothing tangible to tell them the score.
Businesses which have done well have recognised these issues and worked hard not only to anticipate them but also to deal with them head-on.
Fairness – by being really transparent about what’s going on; by regular communications via different media; by being seen to be consistent
Camaraderie – by providing the mechanisms to be in touch with each other, collectively and in smaller groups; by providing online social events to replace the offline Friday evening visit to the pub; by working hard at retaining a sense of fun throughout challenging times
Achievement – by working towards a results-only work environment (ROWE) where team members have accountability around their numbers; working in the knowledge that achievement of their numbers is not linked to a checking-in via a time clock; knowing how the achievement of their numbers immediately translates to what the business as a whole is trying to accomplish.
We are all in a new working environment now…
Your business may be back to the old normal and returned to the office to carry on as before. Or you may have realised that this new way of working is sustainable and taps into the world view of many of your younger employees.