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How to Help Your Team Through a Remote Transition

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Guess who’s in charge?

You’ve got a group of people who have suddenly gone from being in the office to working from home (WFH). The speed of change caused by COVID-19 has pushed preparation to the wayside.

Spoiler alert: Consider looking elsewhere if your objective is to get advice on technology and tools for remote work. Sure, the right tools are important, but the right approach is even more so. That’s what this article is all about. Remote work happens now. Here’s how you can lead the change.

Not ready for this

A virus 1/600th the diameter of a human hair has been able to cause even some of the world’s biggest companies to stumble. A recent Forbes article observes that many organizations haven’t taken the benefits of technology seriously. Video conferencing solutions, for example, weren’t taken seriously. They regarded it as Ogilvy vice-chairman Rory Sutherland says, “the poor man’s alternative to air travel, not the rich man’s phone call.”

Those nimble, bootstrapping startups who owe their existence to technology that facilitates a distributed team. Not only does it support team engagement, but it also allows for data-driven decisions. Before COVID-19, it was what allowed for 4.3 million people in the United States alone to work from home at least half the time.

Even so, at least 44% of the world’s employers did not allow remote work at all. Most were unprepared. For them, and perhaps for you, it’s time to close the gap.

Focus on management, not policies

How often have you discovered that a policy implemented simply doesn’t end up helping? A remote team will definitely want to know the rules – but you’ll likely generate those as you discover what works and what doesn’t for your team.

It’s not a democracy, more like herding cats. However, one thing is certain: your new rules and methods will not be met with unanimous acceptance. Make it your goal to replicate the kind of communication you achieved at the office.

Your people have already determined the preferred method of communication for their clients. The preferred method for your team should be to facilitate project management.

The ability to attach collaborative documents to real-time communication threads are why platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams are widely used.

It’s going to be a personal decision you have to make for your team. Should you boldly go where no one (on your team) has gone before and move to one of these platforms? Or does it make more sense to start with a combination of the old standards of email, phone calls, and file sharing with Dropbox?

Choose the method that quickly establishes team engagement and moves project management forward the deciding factor. You can always transition to a more efficient platform over time.

Incubation time

As in the span it’ll take for your team to settle into the routine created by working from home. They didn’t sign up for this (well, you didn’t either). What you and your team do know well is what it felt like to work together at the office.

Software integrator company Zapier has a remote workforce of more than 250 employees spread across the United States and 23 other countries. It attributes collaborative success to being able to mimic office culture remotely.

Zapier recently shared suggestions on how to accomplish this. They noted that technology offers us a way to hold on to the sense of community, purpose, and mission we feel when we physically congregate at the office.

What will your team miss most about the office culture they have to abandon – at least temporarily? Did they often eat lunch together? Video conferencing platforms can replicate this. Just be extra careful that no one ends up with soup on the keyboard.

When you embrace the practical reality of how much of the workday is attached to social activities, you’ll understand why it’s crucial to find ways to inject this into how your team interacts remotely.

You may not get any of this right on the very first try but remember that it might be time to reconsider the concept of what’s right for your team. Standard procedures and the idea of “normal” will be challenged. Their respective lives and routines would have been upended even if your team was still back at the office.

They’ll appreciate transparency on your part. Share why you want to accomplish things and acknowledge that it might take a couple of tries to get to the “how.” Micromanaging done remotely sucks just as much as it does in real life.

More of this, less of that

Guess who’s in charge? A leadership position means that your team will look to you for solutions, and that means showing them positive ways to approach what’s become an unprecedented and unimaginable scenario.

  • Move the focus away from jobs and business and help your team commit to maintaining relationships as they work remotely. It’s a time to look outward, not inward.
  • Spark conversations about opportunities and steer the team away from losses.
  • Celebrate progress and mitigate the natural desire to obsess over failure. This is easier when you help your team remain focused on what’s available rather than what’s been lost or currently is unavailable.
  • Help to guide conversations to concentrate on what’s happening now. Remind your team (and yourself) that you have the choice to react or respond – and the latter is always the wiser move.

The way it used to be is no more – at least for the time being. We’ll ultimately be defined by how we respond to the changes thrust upon us. Technology provides you with the tools you’ll need to guide your team and facilitate productivity as all the action happens from home. But it’s not a laptop with a camera or a Slack account that will arm them with confidence and a willingness to abruptly do just about every part of their job a different way.

It’s you. You are the key. It’s time for you to lead the way toward discovering what your team can be – as a group and as individuals – when we come in for a landing on the other side.

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