Keeping Connected with Your Team as a Manager during Remote Working
Following on from previous tips on remote working, this blog aims to share some tips for managers in keeping connected to their teams. These tips aren’t rocket science and are generally common sense, as sometimes we don’t always do the most obvious thing during turbulent times. They are ways to keep in contact, stay in connection with your teams and give teams a sense of a shared vision and focus. Please also see the team huddle template at the end of the blog.
It can be difficult for a manager of teams to stay connected to each of their team members, help manage their own and others’ stress, maintain team morale and motivation, run engaged meetings, track and communicate progress, and help their team to focus and shed non-essential work.
We are hoping in sharing these tips with you they can help to reduce manager and employee stress, address concerns about employee work progress, increase productivity for them and their teams, and maintain communication.
Tip 1 - Support them to feel connected through frequent team connections.
Connect in with your teams once a day, where possible. We recommend having team huddles (please see the suggested template for team huddles below) through video conferencing platforms such as Zoom as part of normal office hours. It is important to allow people time to ask questions. Below are some questions you can ask the team during the team huddle time:
'share 1 word that describes how we are feeling'
'what do we all need to be aware of today?'
'What questions do you have for me today?'
'Is there anything you need from me?'
'I’ve just heard about X and want you to be the first to know.'
'What went well yesterday?'
'What are we learning in working this way and what do we need to do differently?'
Using team huddles can be a good way of managing the frequency of connections, it can help you to keep a proactive way of supporting the team to keep focus and enhance productivity, particularly for those who are less likely to reach out to you. It is important to keep structure, as rituals provide some predictability and flow for the day and can help keep the team connected.
Tip 2 - Offer 1-1 support as well as huddles
Not all members of a team will be happy to share their questions or worries as part of the team connection time/huddles. It is important after daily connections to offer individual time. This can be done using video conferencing or telephone as when one person joins you can lock the meeting room - the online version of shutting the office door, providing a confidential space to talk.
It is important to be clear, transparent about your availability, then set boundaries and invite others to do the same.
You can say, for example, “I’m prioritising my time with you. I’ll reach out in a variety of ways, from checking in with you daily as part of our huddles, to having some 1-1 time, but I am having lunch with my family each day at 12:30 so I am not available then." That way, they know that there are boundaries in place.
It is important that individuals also know it is also okay if they need some space or prefer not to talk, so they don’t feel they have to connect quite so frequently. For example, they can email any issues, worries, or fears they have. Be clear though that you may not come back instantly, for example "I’ll also do my best to respond to your messages the same day but it maybe 48 hours…" By setting expectations and giving others space, we meet people where they are and give them permission to set their own boundaries.
Tip 3 - Invite staff to say what the problems are as well as finding the solutions
In current times of unpredictability, it is important that we see problems or issues through other peoples' world lens. Invite staff to come to you with problems, it may be that the previous rules of being solution-focused may need to be changed to ensure that they come to you with problems, even if they don’t yet have solutions.
It is worth stating, though, that you may also not have clear immediate solutions - “in this current situation, we all may have questions and may not always have immediate answers. Bring your problems and issues and together we’ll devise experiments to tackle the challenge.”
Explicitly signal that you want to know the issues and that they can be discussed as a team, which may help to give access to broader sets of solutions from all the team rather than an expectation that you have all the answers.
Tip 4 – Remind staff of the support available to them
As human beings we are all different and cope in different ways. Whilst the above tips are best practice in keeping teams connected and communicating. It is important that staff are also clear on what to do and where to go I they need support in addition to the support you are providing as a manager.
Having some ground rules for people to talk openly as part of your huddles is important. It is also equally important that staff know of other support available to them such as support for resilience and wellbeing (keep an eye out for our tools, techniques, and blogs on resilience).
Signpost and flag on a regular basis the support available, tools and techniques, occupational health support etc, and make it okay to say 'I am not alright' and support staff to find ways to cope.
Health and Wellbeing resources:
NHS UK: www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health (some charges apply)
Tip 5 – Celebrate and acknowledge achievements
Ensure that you structure some time for positive feedback for good work. Everyone is different and some people need this more than others. It can be helpful as a team to talk about what is going well, as sometimes team members may want to get into just talking about problems when things are chaotic and disruptive. Ask all in the team to share 'what is going well,' 'one thing that you're proud of' etc.
Doing this as a regular form of communication can help and give people a sense of optimism rather than negativity. Appreciation of how well people are working can help with keeping individuals and the team motivated, build optimism and resilience and can help keep people engaged.
While the shift to remote work can cause stress and uncertainty to daily activities, your role as a manager is to remove as many barriers to keep as much momentum as possible. By communicating regularly, you can help your team members feel better connected to you and address any questions or worries as they arise.
Team Huddle Guide Example
What is the huddle? Ground rules
We are professional and live our values
There are no right or wrong conversations
We give our full attention, no interruptions
We listen, non-judgmentally and respectfully
It’s okay to say you’re not okay and ask for support
We will keep optimistic, structured and pro-active
We may need further opportunities to discuss things
Need to know
What happened today?
What is our focus today?
Would anyone like to share thoughts from yesterday or what is needed today?
What do we all need to be aware of today?
What questions do you have for me today?
How are we all feeling?
Is there anything that anyone would like to catch up on?
Does anyone have any unanswered questions?
What is going well, what can we share to celebrate?
Need to do
What do we need right now?
What information can we get to help us with this?
What decisions do we need to make?
Let’s just be clear what we are all going to do now/next?
Has everyone who wants to shared their plan?
Is everyone clear about what they want to do next?
What are we going to do after this huddle to make this happen?
How do we update on this?
The way we feel is absolutely normal for these circumstances
What did go well yesterday/today/this week?
How did we support each other?
Can we learn anything from today?
Has everyone spoken who wishes to?
Is everyone comfortable for the huddle to finish?
If you have any other worries personally or about a colleague – how people link in with you re their concerns please check the reverse of this sheet for additional help, support and resources
Thank you for your contribution today and to our team huddle
Please ensure all your team are aware of the resources available to them through staff support/occupational health and other wellbeing support.