Leading Your Remote Team Throughout COVID-19

We’ve all witnessed firsthand how the ongoing crisis continuously shapes what we consider “normal” in our daily lives. But perhaps one of the most significant impacts COVID-19 has on our routine is how we go about our work.

Since the pandemic started, social distancing has been encouraged (to varying degrees in certain areas). This forced those organizations who can, to transition to a fully remote workforce seemingly overnight. And while remote work isn’t a novelty to most of us, the pace and magnitude that most companies had to adapt to may be jarring for a lot of people. 

But there’s no shortage of help and advice to go around at a difficult time like this. So we’d love to do our part and share some of the best practices that helped us support and manage our team at Global BrainForce (GBF) as we weather through COVID-19 together (yet cautiously afar).

At GBF, our team has been working from home once a week way before the pandemic started which thankfully allowed our team members to be well-equipped for this setup. All of them have laptops and a decent internet connection at home and most team members have a workstation in place.

Make sure your team has the proper infrastructure to work remotely.

If this is your first time working transitioning your team to remote work, involve your IT department to come up with a remote infrastructure checklist: the necessary equipment(s), apps/software that needs to be installed or updated, remote access to these tools, and steps to ensure data security.

Other than these, we also found it extremely helpful to have been using cloud-based technology like Gdrive not just for storing our files but for collaborating as well.

Take advantage of different tools.

Other than using Gdrive, we’re also using other team collaboration tools like Basecamp. It makes it easier to disseminate company-wide information, chat with colleagues, keep track and assign to-dos to, especially when like us, you work on different time zones.

Since it’s easy to lose track of your hours when you’re working in the comforts of your own home, we use TimeDoctor to help everyone monitor working hours and breaks. This in turn greatly minimizes the need for micromanagement. 
There’s also a wide variety of *remote collaboration tools* that you can choose from, depending on your collaboration needs and budget. But if you’d want something more customized to your team’s requirements, open-source collaboration tools like RocketChat and MatterMost might be more up your alley.

 There’s also a wide variety of remote collaboration tools that you can choose from, depending on your collaboration needs and budget. But if you’d want something more customized to your team’s requirements, open-source collaboration tools like RocketChat and MatterMost might be more up your alley.

Non-work interactions are imperative.

The disruption in our daily lives, paired with the anxiety for our health, family, and even our jobs, will no doubt have an impact on our team’s mental health. And as leaders, it’s our responsibility to foster a warm and reassuring environment for them as best as we can.

While it may seem counterproductive to some spending time during your meetings to check-in with your team members, their overall well-being is equally important and directly related to their productivity. Knowing your team’s current situation intimately could influence how and what kind of support you can give them. Which team members are living with old parents or children? Understand that they could be distracted with errands and chores to take care of their families throughout the day. Which ones are living by themselves? They could maybe be the ones in need of more human interactions.

Fortunately for us, our team are experts on how to live by one of our core values, FUN. Even if we’re working far from each other, there’s always jokes, gifs, memes, or funny work-from-home anecdotes floating around our group chat to keep our spirits high. We’re also lucky to have a healthcare provider that offers counseling for people in the height of COVID-19 that our team can avail if needed. If your provider doesn’t offer this service, you can look up organizations providing these services and share their hotline numbers to your team.

Overcommunicating should be your new team norm.

In a time of uncertainty keeping your team in the loop would help reduce unnecessary tension and make them feel supported. Whether it’s important company announcements, answers to basic questions to allow to work properly, or even something as simple as someone’s birthday or work anniversary.

The platform and method you use to communicate also matters a lot. While it’s convenient to send emails or chat, quick video calls can do wonders for people’s psyche at this time. For our team, we find that it’s more effective in reducing miscommunication thanks to the presence of tone, facial expressions, and body language. It also makes it simpler for us to address any concerns or questions in real-time.

Explore different mediums to relay information as well. While process docs and linking helpful articles can be your go-to, we all take in information differently. Screen share recordings, voice memos, and even calls where buddies work side-by-side (virtually) enable your team members to receive information in a way that makes sense to them.

Be flexible about irregular work hours.

No one was prepared for this situation and so existing work policies and processes that worked well before might not be so effective in this situation.

Team members are used to giving 8 hours of uninterrupted work in the office, but that isn’t necessarily the case now that they’re working from home. Distractions (whether it’s kids, errands, or their Netflix queue) abound in their new environment and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how your team members will work efficiently.

Some might like to stick to their continuous regular hours, some might find it easier to work in hourly blocks. Whatever it is, be open to adjustments and have a conversation with your teams so everyone’s aware who’s online during what times.

Set clear expectations and deliverables for the week so that team members are aligned on priorities. No matter how they choose to structure their day, they’re all still working towards accomplishing a common goal.

Our Takeaway

As we slowly settle into our new “normal” and strive to find the balance between work and life, it’s important to keep the human touch, a grounded view, and an empathetic ear. Spare no efforts in keeping your team healthy and safe throughout this period, because they’re your competitive advantage to get things up and running when this all settles.