Distance working, whether at home or elsewhere, brings many challenges and opportunities and nowhere more so than in the area of people and team management. These are challenges in the workplace at the best of time but when the team is not physically present or it is on far fewer occasions the challenges for all can seem overwhelming.
Poor teams will continue to underperform and poor managers and poor management techniques will be thrown into sharper relief. These are real challenges and employees will look to senior leaders and HR for acknowledgement of the issues and provide the necessary support and guidance. Guidance and support can be given for management both within short term lockdown scenario and a more permanent distance working scenario.
The first issue to address is that of the technology that will be used. Are all team members at least competent in its use, have received training and support and also have the necessary bandwidth and signal strength to be able to use the technology satisfactorily? This training and support needs to be constant with regular sessions around upgrades and a facility within teams to share experiences and resolve issues.IT security is a particular issue that needs to be addressed.
Team members, roles and responsibilities need to be clarified and key stakeholders both within and outside the business recognised and accommodated. The team leader needs to be clearly identified with arrangements in place if the team leader is not available. The team leaders responsibility is to allocate work and task, confirm deadlines for the individual and team and lead regular team meetings, progress reports, issue identification and hold regular “how are we doing” sessions. Actually this is not a million miles away from normal good practice but it is shown in more sharp relief in this scenario. An important aspect of the team leaders role is the briefer –the person who gives corporate and business briefings, answers questions , denies or confirms rumours – acting as the virtual coffee machine if you like.
Most of the work done by the team will be via zoom or other systems that are taxing especially when used a great deal and the team leader needs to ensure that all their team members are contributing, identifying those who are not, helping them where necessary and encouraging all. Regular how are we doing sessions are extremely helpful as well as being forums where some levity and joking can take place –replicating the office workplace. If meetings can be held in the office they need to be planned well in advance and be both work and bonding experiences.
These are complex issues with far reaching consequences for businesses. Leaders and HR have to step up to the plate, address the issues, learn from others. The alternative is to dire to contemplate.