Are You Suddenly Managing a Remote Team?

Principal Analyst

Top of MInd: Newsworthy for Higher Ed
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

As colleges and universities move to remote work in the coming days, it is a challenging time for leaders who need to stay productive and take care of the health and well-being of their team members. 

If you are responsible for a team that is suddenly remote, here are some tips to help you keep your team productive and healthy:

  1. Respect your team’s ability and desire to be productive. Team members will have new challenges working from home, such as kids who are out of school or family members who are ill or quarantined. Demonstrate your trust in them, and the work will get done.
  2. Ensure your team has the equipment they need. Laptops, cell phones, and tablets are essential devices for working remotely. If you have loaner equipment, give it out. If team members have left critical equipment at the office, let them come back to get it.
  3. Ensure everyone can get to current, team-wide contact information. Cell numbers, backup email addresses, and access to all your chat platforms will be critical for collaboration and virtual meetings.
  4. Keep your calendars up to date and accessible to your team, including personal time away from work. This helps the entire team decide how to contact someone and have clear expectations about when they might expect a response.
  5. Ask the team what works best for them. Use this feedback to adjust your plans and ensure your team that you are listening.
  6. Provide clear guidance.
    • Define which tools should be used for what purposes.
      • Avoid emailing about everything.
      • Use chat apps (decide on one!) for near-real-time discussion.
      • Use video or not? When?
    • Develop culturally relevant guidance on response time expectations.
    • Discuss online meeting etiquette.
    • Provide appropriate schedule flexibility based on the work your team does.
    • Review guidance for incident management—who leads response? This should already be in place, but it is a good time to remind teams of your practice. It is harder to “go find out” when everyone is in a different location.
  7. Practice what you preach. Remind your team about expectations as you communicate with them. Your behavior as a leader will likely be replicated, whether you want it to be or not.
  8. Check-in with team members regularly. Isolation can be unsettling for some people, so periodic contact is important to ensure that everyone is functioning and comfortable in this new dynamic.
  9. Spread the news on great examples of WFH techniques. Make sure to include specific examples from your team and your industry. Here are a few for inspiration.

Our people are our most critical resource. Enable them, coach them, care about them, and in the process of working remotely, pay close attention to the new dynamic of your work. You may find new insights about the way you have been doing things, and new ways to work that improve your processes, tools, and communications for the future.

As this sudden remote work becomes more “normal”, it is expected that the infection will reach large numbers of people over the coming months. Now is the time to plan for that phase of this event.

  • If you have a business continuity plan, follow as much of it as you can.
  • Ensure you have plans for how to function without a percentage of critical staff.
  • Talk openly as a team about who is backing up each function.
  • Keep notes on what you learn, so you can incorporate it into your next business continuity plan revision.

While it is more challenging in remote circumstances to be a visibly present leader, your presence is reassuring. Be visible, positive and accessible!

Stay healthy!

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Principal Analyst
Dave Kieffer spearheads research focused on finance, and HCM applications, data management and other critical higher education technologies at Tambellini Group. He brings more than 30 years of creating, implementing, and managing enterprise-class applications in higher education. His experience includes all levels of applications development and management in higher education. Among other things, he has been responsible for ERP implementations, mobile, and web development, application architecture and integration technologies.

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