Last week, things around the world got a little more serious due to COVID-19. Schools shut down. People started working from home. And in some countries, governments have mandated businesses to lock their doors for a period of time. We already wrote an article about how to work from home and stay productive. But what about business owners and managers? With everyone working from home, how do you manage remote workers during this coronavirus pandemic?
At the time of this article, we really don’t have any idea how long it is going to take for things to get better. So, it’s time for companies of all sizes to start preparing. That means figuring out how to support a work-from-home team.
We just so happen to be experts on this matter. Not only do many DoneDone users work for remote companies, but we ourselves have been working as a distributed team for more than 8 years!
So, let’s get into it. Here are four simple tips for how to manage remote workers successfully.
1. Choose a communication method and stick to it!
First-time remote managers often make the fatal mistake of letting everyone use whatever communication method they like. One employee might work exclusively through email and never answer their phone, while another relies solely on texting and chat to communicate with peers and colleagues.
You get the picture. In this type of environment, any manager will lose their mind trying to keep track of who knows what, who said what where, and where that thing went with the important information on it…
That’s why you must choose a central communication method and stick to it.
First, customers use DoneDone to track and manage to-dos, tasks and customer conversations. They’ll pass information from the customer help desk into the product team’s backlog, so the voice of the customer never gets lost. Using the DoneDone comment function, and the ability to drop links to needed documentation makes this process simple.
Then, they integrate DoneDone with Slack, which functions beautifully on both desktop and mobile. Customers will create Slack channels for teams or topics of interest and send project notifications to relevant Slack channels. Everyone within the company is within reach.
So as a remote manager, prioritize defining and selecting your communication method. Then, train your team to use it. We like the saying, “If it’s not in DoneDone or Slack, then it doesn’t exist!” Put a sense of urgency and accountability into your remote communication plan.
2. Set up a cloud-based task management system.
You won’t be able to walk around the office and look over peoples’ shoulders anymore. So, you need a central platform like DoneDone to track tasks and projects.
Here are some of the ways a task manager helps, and the features you will need to get your work done.
Assign and reassign tasks.
You and your team members should be able to easily create tasks and projects. Also, you should be able to reassign tasks to other team members when they require attention from someone else.
Watchers are all the people that need to know about the status of a task. This is a great way to help managers keep a close watch on the status of tasks their team is working on. It’s also useful to keep other team members up to date on someone else’s task that will impact their work.
Save in-line communication about each task.
A task manager like DoneDone displays all comments about a task in chronological order. This makes it easy for remote workers to get all the relevant information they need in one place. No sorting through emails. No goose chases.
3. Meet frequently on video chat.
First-time remote workers often get distracted by friends, games, social media, housework, or an endless number of other things to tinker with. This is especially true when people are faced with a life-threatening pandemic. For some, concentrating on work may not seem like a priority.
You can help your team stay motivated and get work done by proactively defeating distractions before they start. What’s the best way to do it? Hold short but frequent video chats just to touch base on progress. Preferably first thing in the morning.
Many fully remote companies already operate a daily 7-15 minute “good morning” chat on Google Hangouts or Skype for Business. Depending on the size of your company, you may want to have a single meeting for your entire organization, or you may need to have a bunch of small meetings with different teams.
But this is important. It accomplishes 2 things:
- Employees are motivated to get up on time, shower, wear something other than their pajamas, and start thinking about work.
- It gives you a chance to find out if anyone is stuck on a project. Here’s a good question to ask at the end of a 10-minute catch-up: “Is anyone stuck on any task or project today? Say yes or no. For those who said yes, message me immediately after this call so we can set up another call to talk about what you need to get unstuck.”
This is a really great process for motivating remote teams. Just be sure to not let your daily meetings get out of control. Resist the urge to talk about anything and everything. It’s just a touch-base call.
4. Invest in software applications that replace physical activities
Now is a great time to reassess a lot of your business processes. You may find that there is a better way to do some of the things you’ve been doing the same way for years. Here is a shortlist of additional software tools that can replace physical activities for remote workers.
Document Management and Signing
Don’t let a locked-up company printer stop your team from moving contracts through the pipeline. Invest in an online document and signature management system like Docusign, which even works on mobile.
Company Telephone Lines
Resist the urge to make your employees use their personal phones to carry on business activities. Nobody wants their personal phone number to end up in the hands of a customer who may pester them for eternity. Instead, invest in a softphone like RingCentral, which provides your entire team with telephone numbers, a virtual receptionist, and company voicemail. Fully functional on desktop and mobile!
Tools like TimeDoctor and Harvest can be installed on your remote workers’ computers to help them track time spent on various activities. These are especially helpful for agencies and professional services companies who may bill customers according to hourly time. But any remote worker can utilize these tools for some extra accountability.
Global governments and medical professionals are searching for answers to COVID-19. We don’t know what lies ahead, but we know that more people will have to get used to working remotely. In the meantime, we hope you find these resources helpful!
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