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How to manage remotely post-COVID

ku%cc%88ffer-dan-col-sigBusinesses, including government agencies, have been forced to rely heavily on remote work and delay talent acquisition, especially for on-site positions, due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

But as more people are vaccinated the situation is evolving. Employers are starting to ramp up hiring and demand for talent will likely continue to increase, but remote work is unlikely to go away.

Many CEOs are embracing remote work. In fact, 76 percent of them will allow remote work on a full-time basis for all or most employees, according to Predictive Index’s Annual CEO Benchmarking Report 2021. And 97 percent of companies will allow some form of remote work moving forward.

The competition to secure qualified talent (especially project managers, technical solutions architects, and business analysts) is intensifying. It is exacerbated the scarcity of potential on-site workers and the growing popularity of telecommuting. Providing remote work options can increase the potential talent pool, but makes it critical for managers to effectively manage remotely.

Managing a remote team creates challenges. The lack of face-to-face supervision, limited access to information, social isolation and reductions in productivity are real challenges. Consider these tips to maximize remote teams’ chances for success.

Position requirements: COVID-19 has helped employers reevaluate the need for in-person staff and learn that many functions can be effectively performed remotely.  When acquiring new talent, it is vital to determine if they need to be in the office full-time, part time, fully-remote or remote just until vaccination rates are sufficient to ensure safety.

If you determine the role can be performed remotely, it will increase the number of candidates for the position but could make management more challenging.

Self-starters: These employees complete tasks even if they are secluded. They still need direction, but won’t necessarily need specific tasks to be productive. They have forward momentum/tempo and get work done. Live-fire scenarios are an effective way to evaluate if they have the necessary qualities, like initiative and problems solving.

Regular meetings for clear communication: Clear communication becomes more important for remote staff. Nearly half of remote workers said the best managers “checked in frequently and regularly,” according to a study outlined in the Harvard Business Review.

You can never give enough feedback. One-on-one, weekly meetings with each team member are critical to discuss work progress and enable managers to evaluate how the employee is doing professionally and personally. Three questions should always be discussed:

  • What have you accomplished?
  • What are you working on?
  • What support do you need from your manager and colleagues?

Team meetings: Establish weekly, all-hands meetings. If time zones prevent this, arrange different meetings for staff in different zones. Provide updates on what the team is working on, details on any decisions that impact the team and an opportunity for feedback and open communication.

Identifying priorities and measuring progress: Manage expectations and stay focused on goals (what is being accomplished, not necessarily what is being done). It is all about accomplishments, not activity. Use Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) to identify your strategy, help employees see how they contribute to the big picture and how they align with other teams. Ideally, OKRs are reviewed weekly and quarterly.

In-person collaboration: This  is valuable for any team, but even more so for teleworkers. Something unique happens when teammates collaborate in person. Try to convene the team quarterly somewhere for a fun, social event.

Moving forward, there will likely be more opportunities for in-person events. In the meantime, virtual happy hours, fundraisers and brown bags help teams bond.

Reliable tools: If you haven’t already, invest in reliable tools to facilitate telework. Train your managers and develop clear processes to use these tools. The team can’t function if basic capabilities can’t be performed remotely.

There isn’t one tool that will meet all your needs. Most use a combination of tools, especially as they grow and evolve. Managers must also stay informed about the latest tools and resources.

Embrace video: It’s important to turn on webcams because non-verbal communication provides valuable meaning.

Video provides a positive feedback cycle that engages participants who can see the speaker’s expressions, movement, energy and passion. Lighting and background are also very important.

Embracing teleworking: The challenge for leaders and managers is to bring simplicity, harmony and opportunity and this can be complicated by telework. However, it is important to recognize the growing importance of effective telework.

Savvy leaders will embrace this change and maximize the benefits by instituting systems and processes that bolster productivity.

Dan Küffer is vice president and chief of staff at Think Systems, Inc., a national technology and operations adviser that fills professional technology roles.