26. January 2022 By Saskia Wieg
Five tips for managers and employees on managing their relationship with their team members remotely
2020 was the year of change. The spread of Covid-19 saw an abrupt change to our working world. Working from home has become the new normal for many people. Virtual collaboration replaced being together in the office, which meant the way we communicate and approach both projects and team matters needed a rethink.
Before we get to the tips, let’s look at what managing remotely actually is. Management in general refers to a process of interaction in which managers lead their employees to achieving goals in the best possible way through positive influence. This can be done by assuming a position of power, with the help of motivation, or a combination of both approaches. ‘Remote’ can mean different things. In this case, however, we are talking about physical separation, that is, the distance between colleagues who work remotely from different places, such as their homes.
In order to answer the questions of how we can communicate well and work together successfully at a distance, I conducted a survey in various Lines of Business and departments at adesso as part of my master’s thesis. I’d now like to give you five tips on how to do this:
Tip 1: Communicate openly and honestly with each other
Transparent communication has never been as important as it is now. Short conversations in video conferences make it difficult to assess the emotional state of the other person in the call and can create a feeling of helplessness and superfluousness. An open, honest culture of communication, in which every employee can express ideas, feelings and feedback, allows us to work together and ensure that we keep hold of that #oneadesso feeling and that everyone feels comfortable.
In order to be able to (even) better assess employees’ feelings and to strengthen team spirit, it is advisable to organise daily or weekly check-in meetings. These meetings allow everyone involved, including the manager, to talk about how they are doing, what tasks they have on their plate that day, whether they have run into any difficulties/issues or whether they have any ideas, plans or news they would like to share. The important thing is that the employee is front and centre. It is best to schedule a series of regular, shorter meetings, if possible, rather than longer ones that only happen every so often.
Tip 2: Create a unified organisational structure
Quickly running over to someone else’s office and asking them about the current status of work processes is not exactly feasible when everyone is working from home. A standardised type of feedback for work results or processes creates order, transparency and traceability. An Excel list, a SharePoint page or a separate team (in Microsoft Teams) can help here. Plus, files can also be uploaded and linked and the access rights to them managed within the software. This means that people can view the status of the task whenever they need to, even if others are absent, or the process can be taken over by another staff member at short notice. Having a unified structure for your daily and weekly check-in meetings, both in the team and in individual meetings, aids the further development of each team member. Record your results in a set place and maintain them continuously.
A unified organisational structure can help with the personal development of staff. Any feedback that is collected and passed on is recorded so that it can be worked on further. This allows you to provide your team with targeted support and continue their development.
Tip 3: Create an environment of appreciation and trust
Trust and appreciation are the cornerstone of any functioning relationship. That also goes for between managers and employees or between employees themselves. A lack of contact or exchange can cause this foundation to become fragile due to the remote nature of the set-up and the feeling of unity might fade, resulting in staff feeling demotivated and not being as productive. To prevent this, it is important that you take time for your colleagues, listen to them and give them a helping hand. Organise regular team events, be they in person or virtual events. This will help you create a feeling of closeness, strengthen the sense of team and belonging, create a trusting and appreciative atmosphere and also have a lot of fun! Combining all of this with daily or weekly check-in meetings (tip 1) will strengthen your foundation and create a bond, even if you are all working remotely.
Tip 4: Create virtual proximity while everyone is working remotely
Little chats in the corridor, spontaneously grabbing lunch together or heading out for a drink after work are the moments in our professional lives that make us briefly forget our daily work routines and make us feel accepted and comfortable. This helps makes us feel closer to other people and boosts team spirit and that sense of belonging. When was the last time you had a spontaneous social event with a colleague? The pandemic is making doing these sorts of things difficult as well. But every employee in the company, be they manager or staff member, can help to ensure that they don’t lose this feeling of closeness by staying in touch via virtual means. Having regular chats, whether scheduled or spontaneous, signals interest and strengthens the bond. Having your camera switched on suggests both openness and closeness. ‘Go’ to colleagues and involve them regularly. This will also help you contribute to making everyone feel close despite the distance.
Tip 5: One for all and all for one
Team spirit, support and cohesion are three of the most important building blocks of a successful team. Remote work can easily lead to misunderstandings or exclusion, as working from home often means that interpersonal relations are neglected. Be there for each other, support each other at all times and motivate each other. This will ensure that each and every employee also feels like what he or she is: an important part.
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