We're in a situation we more and more of us are managing staff remotely. Before COVID-19 remote working was on the up, more and more people were working other than their normal workplace either at home or in a remote location.   As COVID continues, the reality is that it is likely to be the norm for many people in the future.  Remote working requires some key skills from managers, and I want to reinforce these key areas that should be considered:

Resources - Make sure your team has the technology it needs to get the work done. If you suddenly have a team of remote workers, that means there's a good chance they need tools like laptops, software, mobile devices, or even a high-speed internet connection. It's not reasonable to assume that everyone has all of those things, and it's your responsibility as a manager to make sure they do.   Furthermore, this also means staff may need support and additional learning too.  Never assume that everyone has the level of knowledge to operate effectively.

Communicate – And I mean a LOT! - You should be in regular communication with your team. One of the hardest things about working from home, especially if you're used to an office environment, is the sense of loneliness and isolation that can set in. Whenever possible, you should have a daily check-in; this should be one-on-one and face-to-face via video. Phone conversations and email go only so far, email on its own is particularly bad. Your team needs to see you, and you need to see them. The good news is that services like Zoom or Google's Team Hangouts make this relatively easy.  It doesn't have to be for long, or it will steal your time, sometimes it may be a quick "Hi" as you would if you were passing them on the stairs.  When we do speak to them longer, use great open questions to find out how they are and what could we do better, such as "How could I support remote staff like you better?"  Also, key to remember that staff still need developing.

Delegate - Remember, the number one reason we delegate is to develop people. We should follow the following stages:

  1. Selection of Work/Personel
  2. State Expectations – The What, Why and When
  3. Appropriate Level of Monitoring
  4. Timely & Effective Feedback

Be Flexible - Understand that, especially in the current environment, your team has a lot going on. That's not an excuse for not getting things done, but it is a reason to reconsider what productivity means. Punching a clock for eight hours is out. Regular work hours are also probably out for many people. Instead, trust your team and give them the freedom and flexibility to get work done on the schedule that helps them be the most productive.

Workforce Wellbeing - This is essential, and you need to be aware – A recent pre COVID-19 research found the following with working remotely when asked the question, "What's your biggest struggle with remote working".  22% said unplugging or switching off, 19% said Loneliness, and 17% said Communication.  Switching off is so important and if we are not careful, anxiety and depression can take hold.

Motivation – Staff still need motivating, and social and esteem needs are crucial here.  This is why we need to communicate more than we would normally.

Conflict - Be careful with conflict and managing people remotely.  Remember, we have to be flexible but also we must still manage.  If we do have a situation, we should avoid responding via email, it never works and will only add fuel to the fire.  All issues should be face to face so that tone and body language can be seen.

As we experience remote working, we will gain experience with managing people.  Remember, we will also make mistakes.  Learn from those mistakes, ask what we could do differently and we will all improve.

Ralph Moody is the founder of Target Training and specialises in trainer and management development.  You can read more about him here.