I count myself lucky right now, in the midst of the havoc of COVID-19: I continue to have a busy and fulfilling job, which includes managing a newly remote team of creative eLearning specialists.
Like many, we’ve had to quickly figure out how to preserve the face-to-face collaboration and spontaneous problem-solving we rely on in our open-concept office. With everyone working from home to maintain safe physical distancing, we are adjusting to not seeing each other out of the corners of our eyes.
Since managing a remote team is new to me, I asked my team what they need to succeed while they work from home. Here’s what they said.
Clear deadlines and processes
Thank goodness for our project management tool for keeping us all on track with clear deadlines and processes! Like any project management software, ours takes a bit of time to set up but once the tasks, sequence, team members, and interdependencies are identified, it’s a daily guiding light for managers and teams alike.
Our is an open, collaborative tool so everyone—not just managers—can look forward to clicking completed tasks to see that eLearning standard: a green check mark.
A solid and shared system for keeping track of work assignments and project schedules is crucial at any time, but even more so now when organizations (that are continuing to function) are doing their best to find even a semblance of business as usual.
Clear protocols for communication
Knowing how and when to connect with each other, and sharing expectations for which tools or channels to use, gives everyone the assurance they need.
Regular all-team meetings—now held using video-conferencing—are more important than ever, as they are an opportunity for leadership to provide reassurance and direction in uncertain times—not to mention a chance for remote employees to feel connected with their workday community.
Most organizations are clear on which channels to use for business communication but that can change when everyone is working from home and networks and bandwidth aren’t handling the load well. In my organization we use email for client-facing communication; and a group chat and collaboration app for project teams, one-on-one, and impromptu chats throughout the day. Thankfully, it also allows us to video conference and we’re all enjoying the ability to see each other as often as we did in the office.
My team has asked that we continue to hold our weekly and impromptu check-ins, as it helps employees feel that their work is being actively considered and there’s someone “on the other side of the line”, in the words of one my team members. Regular check-ins to review priorities and progress help ensure everyone’s efforts are focused on the right tasks and both sides are clear on how things are going.
In my organization we have a practice we call “end-of-day updates”, whereby each team member posts their progress in project channels so that the rest of the team can anticipate next steps for everyone. Always helpful, those EoD updates are now even more crucial when we’re all working remotely—in the office it's sometimes easier to get an intuitive sense of how things are going just by being there.
Clear expectations for availability
Creating eLearning courses, videos, and performance support involves constantly passing different parts and pieces back and forth between and among learning designers, graphic designers, and courseware developers for peer reviews and quality assurance testing.
It’s therefore important that everyone be available during a similar time frame so that no one is waiting (and wasting) hours for the next person to pick up the baton, so to speak.
Setting clear expectations for consistent work hours and availability lets us connect with each other when we need to. That being said, managers need to acknowledge that parents with children who are self-isolated with them at home will be interrupted during the day.
Nevertheless, as long as they are meeting their deadlines, managers need to trust that employees will be creative and find a way to make up any time lost to parenting duties.
Clear on making health and well being a priority
Being as clear as possible and knowing that their manager cares seems to be the top priority for my team.
As always (and now more than ever) managers need to support their employees as we all grapple with how to manage our blended work and home lives, and stay healthy and hopeful.
And on that note, I hope that all of you dear readers stay well and remain hopeful that this pandemic will bring out the best in all of us, and a renewed appreciation for all that we have in common with our neighbors, wherever they may be.