Our Guide to Working from Home in 2020: Setting Your Team up for Success and Managing a Team Remotely

BAmira Bird, Midwich Digital Content Creator 

Keeping up morale, productivity and communication often falls upon managers. In a time like this, it’s also incredibly important that teams function properly to keep the ball rolling. If one team in the business fails, it’ll cause a ripple effect across everyone else. 

Now, I’m very lucky to have an amazing manager who has formed a healthy and productive team. We’ve transitioned into working from home rather smoothly and as much as I’d like to say it’s because we’re fantastic humans who are great at our jobs, I know it’s largely down to excellent management of the team.  

Helene Beales, our Digital Marketing Manager, set clear expectations from day one and since then, has ensured we all communicated effectively.  

 

Amira BirdManaging a team from a distance must pose some real challenges, what do you think is the biggest hurdle you’ve needed to overcome?  

Helene BealesI would say first and foremost that it isn’t as challenging as I would have first thought it would be! I’m very lucky to have a great team of individuals working in my team who are highly motivated, driven and are always striving to do their best, advancing what we do as marketing team  therefore this attitude/culture has remained the same, regardless of whether they are working from home or in the office.   

Of course, there have been challenges such as intermittent internet issues, getting used tconference call etiquette and communicating effectively. My biggest hurdle this week was trying to brief amends to one of our designers via email – it is so much easier just to pop to a desk and verbally instruct where you want the changes to be made and do the amends there and then. However, as we get more comfortable using screen sharing on video calls – this could be a simple way around it.  

Amira BirdYou’ve set quite clear expectations with your team, how do find the balance between structure and rigidity?  

Helene BealesLike I have said above, my team are self-motivated and are well placed to manage their own time effectively without too much micro-management from me. We already use Microsoft Planner as our task and time management tool – so we can always see what jobs are due, who is working on them, and what progress has been made. The simple communication strategy I have adopted to complement this is: 

Daily 

  • First thing in the morning – each of us communicates via the Teams App to outline our working hours for the day (how long and when we plan to have lunch) and a quick overview of what we are working on that day. 
  • End of the day – each of us to communicates via the Teams App to outline how we got on with the day’s tasks. 

Monday Mornings 

  • We still have our Monday morning meetings via Teams where I share my screen and go through Microsoft Planner and what we have booked in our marketing calendar as normal. 

Wednesday Afternoons  

  • Optional informal catch up via Teams to catch up socially – sharing our top tips for remote working, funny stories for the week, websites/apps/tools we’ve found helpful, any online learning resources we are using to upskill while we have the time. 

Fridays 

  • By the end of the day Friday my team send their ‘SOFT’ (Successes, Opportunities, Threats, Failures) reports to me – so I can see their successes for the week, any opportunities they might have in the following week, any failures (so we can help mitigate them) and any threats for the following week (so we can identify ways to reduce or deal with these). 

Amira BirdWhat do you think has been most beneficial to ensure your team has everything they need to succeed while working from home? 

Helene BealesI think knowing that we are all in it together! As we would in the office, we support each other as a team. If one person is struggling with a high workload or issue, other team members will rally round to help. 

We were very lucky that our company planned ahead for us to work from home and did some ‘test days’ before we were officially instructed by the government to work from home. We were also allowed to take our whole computer setups home (monitors, computers, mouse, keyboard etc.), meaning that we have all the hardware equipment to easily to our job. 

Amira BirdWhat would be your advice for other managers who are transitioning to a remote workforce?  

Helene BealesDon’t see it as a bad thing. Now is not the time for strict micro-management. Instil a culture of trust and allow your employees to plan and prioritize their own days. Set up a gooregular communication strategy as a team (such as the one mentioned above) and set expectations around what you expect to be completed.  

Flexibility is key too, ensure your staff feel confident to plan their day so it fits around their current situation, i.e. if they are home-schooling they may want to reduce the hours they are doing during regular daytime hours and pick up some time in the evening when their child has gone to bed instead. As long as this is clearly communicated with the team, this can work well too.  

Finally, look after your teams’ mental health, regularly check in with them and ensure they feel supported in the workplace, catch up socially online as well as discussing work. Team morale will be boosted no end if you do this.

 

I walked out (metaphorically) of our first Wednesday social feeling refreshed and with a smile on my face. For our next one, we’ll be having a bake-off, and as the resident baker, I couldn’t be more excited. Having our Teams chat for the group allows for good communication, but it’s the social call that helps keep the team bond intact.

View more - Our Guide to Working from Home in 2020