Vector image of manager working from home

Remote working is here to stay. 67% of employers are planning a remote working strategy post pandemic*. With physical distancing rules being part of the workplace for the foreseeable future, remote working will stay a reality for many employees AND their managers.

Over the past period there have been many articles for people new to remote working. However, there is another aspect to remote working: ‘Managing a remote workforce’. Inixion’s workforce has been remote since its inception over 13 years ago, so the Inixion Management Team are very well placed to share the following 9 tips to help you Manage from home effectively.

ENCOURAGE FLEXIBILITY

Inixion is structured so we can manage our teams based on a ‘case-by-case’ basis. One size doesn’t fit all; we can review the needs of each individual team-member, as well as the team as a whole. Having that level of flexibility with staff provides benefits both ways. By being flexible towards the team, team members are flexible if any problems arise outside of work hours with many hands to the pump to solve the issue without any hesitation.

In the current climate we have put in place support for those employees who have had family issues to deal with, such as home schooling or, should the need arise, having to look after family members who are ill.

REGULAR UPDATES

Scheduling regular updates with team members helps to ensure that items are on track. These updates can take the form of a series of regularly scheduled one-on-one calls and/or team calls to ensure that the team as a whole is engaged and updated. We tend to schedule the update calls at the start or the end of the working day, so they do not interrupt our ‘regular’ work.

COMMUNICATION

Greg Hackney, Inixion’s Sales Director, got his taste of remote management over 30 years ago and below shares how that experience has shaped the way he deals with his remote team now:

At the tender age of 21 (over 30 years ago!), I found myself as a manager of a team. A team of around 30 people all older and, in my view, considerably more experienced than myself. They were all experienced in what they were doing, the requirements and processes we undertook to get a product to a saleable state. That team were also all ‘remote’. Spread over a considerable geographical area and linked by rough dirt roads and a single telephone line per 10+ people, it was definitely ‘remote working’! Back then to keep in touch with my team I would drive out to see them, talk to them about the requirements over the coming days and weeks and deal with everything from health problems to HR issues. It was possibly the best experience I could have had for where we are now.

Elements of personal communication with graph

Whilst it’s important in any situation, be it a sales engagement, dealing with a customer requirement or managing a remote team, it’s important to listen, but that’s only a smaller part of effective communication. 55% of personal communication is made up of interpretation of body language, which is why our modern communication tools make this so much easier!

We encourage the Inixion team to use a webcam where possible. It enables a level of interaction that, other than directly in person, we’ve never used so much before.

WORKING ENVIRONMENT

Employers’ responsibilities are not lowered due to people working from home. Just as for a company office, for instance, it is equally important to ensure that employees are aware that risk assessments and required health and safety checks are carried out in their work environment; their home working space. As an employer, be ready to identify and resolve issues relating to the home working environment for employees.

Image of person sitting at deskPlease find below some information which you may find useful:

 

EMPATHY/SOCIAL

With the management of any team, however you communicate, comes a responsibility: this is wrapped up in lots of descriptive synonyms like empathy, sympathy, and respect. Those three are key, to any management: management of a team, a situation, or any interaction. As a leader it’s your responsibility to recognise a situation, determine an action and communicate effectively. All ‘management 101’. Doing it remotely just makes it more challenging, but it does not take away the responsibility. In fact, it probably heightens it.

Asking someone ‘how are you doing’ is likely to result in the, expected, ‘I’m fine’, answer. We all do it, it’s human nature. But how do you really know if your team member is really fine? Happy to not happy scale Spending time on the calls to talk about anything other than work, can reap huge reward in this respect. You may not be able to directly talk about them, their circumstances, or the challenges they have; but often by talking about your own can help even the most reserved to ‘open up’.

Working from home can be lonely, so encourage your employees to schedule and take part in lunchtime conference calls or to call each other for a non-work-related chat. We know that our support team regularly banter about football (soccer) amongst the team.

At the start of the Covid lock-down we introduced a Friday lunchtime virtual ‘pub-lunch’, which was positively received by the team members, as it allowed individuals from different teams to get to know each-other better. As lock-down eases, we’ve reduced the frequency but still hold these social sessions from time to time.

WORKING HOURS

Working from home has been common practice for over 13 years for Inixion but is new for some. Just because your remote team member is working from their own home does not mean they are available at any time. Respect the working day – whatever your defined hours are – for your colleague and yourself; this helps with not just ‘work-life’ balance for all, but ensures that the boundaries between work and home life, which could become somewhat blurred, are maintained. Encourage your team to do this too, with their colleagues and the customers they interact with.

REMOTE MEETINGS

Encourage employees to embrace the remote working ethos. It may seem daunting to think that you can run a day long training session with 15 (or more!) people interacting…. But it can be done. If you are leading the meeting, have a clear plan, and encourage attendees to add to the plan and participate. Lay out the plan for the meeting:

  • Schedule refreshment/comfort and lunch breaks
  • Set a time to return to the meeting – don’t go off ‘for a break’ – the Chairperson should state what time to return to the meeting
  • Switch webcams off when on breaks and back on when you return to the meeting – just like people sitting back at a table in a normal meeting room

Remote Meeting Etiquette:

  • Webcams on – don’t let people stare at a blank screenInixion team zoom call screenshot
  • Sort out your background – don’t make your background a distraction
  • Have a clear ‘Chairperson’ for each meeting
  • If lots of people have things to say – have the Chairperson orchestrate the meeting
    • Introduce times for questions
    • Go ‘round the table’ asking for ‘any other business’
    • Use the ‘hands up’ function in meeting tools for people to ask questions
  • If you have nothing to say – GO ON MUTE – do not let background noise or echoes of what is being said get picked up by your microphone
  • Avoid multitasking.  Engage with the meeting as if everyone was in the room – the Chairperson should encourage attendees to turn off email, instant messaging and other distractions

ACCOUNTABILITY AND ENGAGEMENT

Remote working has given Inixion the ‘luxury’ of being able to hire the right talent for the role and business, irrespective of geographical location. To date we have had zero employee attrition, a fact we’re very proud of.

We make our employees accountable for the role and the work they do, so they can drive the necessary output themselves. It may be tempting to monitor when your team is logged in and doing their work, but that reduces YOUR productivity, part of learning to manage remotely is to trust your team to deliver required results.

Creating a culture where employees don’t just feel engaged with the team, but also with the company can reap benefits. Some of the changes implemented within Inixion have come from suggestions of staff members. To know that the management team values their opinions drives engagement within our team.

Showing appreciation for your teams and team-members will also help to drive engagement, which is why the management at Inixion makes a point of giving team members their due.

You may also find this blog of interest: Leading remotely – Managers need to keep teams engaged

WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM

Lastly how do you make sure the job gets done…., remotely? By setting clear objectives, a pathway to the result and, this is key, answer the question; even if subjectively, ‘what’s in it for them’. We all go to work for, mostly, the same reason: we need to earn money to support our personal circumstances including a roof over our heads and food on the table. The ‘what’s in it for them’ cannot be ‘you’ll get paid’: if that’s all it is, human nature will soon lead to resentment of one form or another. Not because they don’t want to be paid but because what we all want is to know that what we are doing has a purpose. This could be learning new skills, promotion, etc. We actively encourage our employees to formulate what motivates them and support them in reaching their goals.

So, key to any management, is to answer that ‘what’s in it for them’ question.

*Nextmapping