How not to monitor, but Lead WFH Teams

The ongoing Coronavirus crisis has impacted world economies, businesses, and people alike. Amid all the challenges and changes that organizations are adapting to, one thing that comes to the forefront is the way organizations have to align their business strategy with their people strategy. Change is never easy, and in unprecedented times like these, it is even more important for leaders to create an atmosphere where their team is willing to give their best without feeling pressured and monitored.

You can successfully crack this code if you address three important aspects of leading in times of social distancing – communication, empowering remote work, and prompt reporting. If you haven’t already, you must create a set of channels for communication (intranet, social media, emails, etc.), efficient tools for remote work, and daily reporting capabilities.

5 Ways of Leading Remote Teams Effectively

Avoid bias in the virtual workplace

Left unchecked, unconscious biases creep into even the most inclusive teams, especially during periods of uncertainty or increased stress like we’re facing now. You need to be especially alert to bias and making assumptions about your team members when teams are conducting routine business through virtual meetings and calls. Hearing a child in the background or seeing a pet strolling on camera should not influence the business at hand. It also helps to remember that body language doesn’t always necessarily translate well via video conference.

To counter this, challenge your assumptions. Don’t assume that certain team members are taking on most of the domestic duties and caring responsibilities in their households. Every person and situation right now deserve to be understood without preconceived notions of what you, as a leader, may consider “typical.” Ensure that your perception of the impact of their caregiving responsibilities doesn’t unduly influence assignment opportunities.

Maintain high transparency

Set expectations and boundaries with clear and transparent guidelines for communicating and meeting deadlines. Hold individual and team discussions on what support they need and the kinds of assignments they feel they can manage in the current environment. Try to focus on output and quality as the primary metrics of success, rather than hours or availability.

If you are looking to add new talent into your team, keep an open and transparent dialogue with all candidates in the pipeline to have a positive, thoughtful, and high-touch new hire onboarding virtual experience.

Over-communicate

I’ve said it before, and you will probably hear me say it again: Check in on your team! Hold regular video meetings with each team member to find out how assignments are unfolding and whether there have been any changes/challenges to individual circumstances. During these interactions, lead with empathy so team members feel comfortable discussing any challenges.

Offer opportunities to continue learning

Find creative ways to provide continued development opportunities. For instance, create opportunities for your team to learn and grow virtually, and work with them to identify online training and development opportunities. At IT By Design, we have customized digital learning sessions for this month and included webinars like Turn Setbacks Into Comebacks with Shiv Khera into our L&D schedule. From a learning perspective, these initiatives ensure that our employees feel motivated and energized as they work remotely. We also ask our internal experts to share their knowledge through informal lunch and learns.

Ask for their feedback

Work with HR to put your team members at the center of work from home policy design as you continue to improve these policies through constant feedback. Their feedback and inputs can help you arrive at interesting and relevant solutions and proactively address needs that are unique to the variety of talent that you have across the team. And, don’t forget that eventually your team will need to return to the office, start discussing ideas for a seamless transition with them now.

Final Thought: Working virtually brings different challenges—and potentially reveals new, underlying assumptions that can damage the effective functioning of your team. Being mindful of unconscious bias, communication, and learning opportunities, leaders can offer everyone in the team a chance to shine.