by Karin Bonev

April 27, 2020

Regardless if your organization was ready or not, working remotely is now a reality for everyone. Managers who already led remote colleagues likely adjusted quickly to the new normal. But for managers who saw their colleagues in the office every day, the change was sudden and overwhelming.

In addition, what started as a temporary fix is now becoming a long-term solution. As organizations realize that remote working environments can be very successful, they are likely to adopt permanent remote work policies enabling them to expand their recruiting footprint and attract and retain top talent. All managers now need to have the necessary skills to manage colleagues near and far.

So, how can your organization help managers adapt to leading and supporting remote teams? The following framework is a good place to start.

  1. You set the tone.
    Managers have always been a trusted source for their teams and their role has become even more critical during this time of tremendous uncertainty and change. Managers who lead with empathy, support and flexibility will develop teams that are adaptable and willing to rise to the challenge.
  2. Trust your team.
    We have all heard stories of managers becoming micromanagers, asking teams to submit written reports of daily activities and using monitoring software to make sure employees are actually working. These actions signal only one thing – “I don’t trust you.” Without trust, there is no team. Managers need to assume positive intent and that employees will do what is needed.
  3. Manage for the long-term, not just the current situation.
    While we do need to navigate the changes brought on by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there will be a point when we move back to a more normal state. Managers who take a long-term view will have teams that are ready to capitalize on opportunities as business ramps back up.
  4. Be open to new ways of working.
    Many organizations are finding that they already have helpful tools for a virtual world on their laptops, tablets and phones. We may not have used them before, but we can certainly take advantage of them now. Managers may not be able to stop by a colleague’s office, but they can chat via video conference. Brainstorming and strategy sessions can still take place using virtual whiteboards on Zoom or Microsoft Teams. And online editing tools can streamline feedback from multiple people. Experiment with your team to see what works best for you.
  5. Respect and encourage downtime.
    Schedules have become more flexible as employees navigate working from home while also taking care of themselves, family and communities. Work may not always occur between 9am and 5pm, but that doesn’t mean we should adopt an “always on” attitude. When employees need to step away, respect their time. In fact, you may even want to encourage them to take a break to mentally reset and refresh. They’ll appreciate the support and be ready to tackle what’s next when they are back online.

Wondering what your organization should be doing to support managers and their remote teams? We’re here to think through strategy and specific next steps.