Remote management during COVID-19: There’s nothing like being thrust into a world of remote working to really test a business’ preparedness for managing and performing under all kinds of different conditions, and with a heap of variables in play. A month or so into this new modus operandi, I’ve discovered a few simple enhancements that I’ve benefited hugely from in my ability to remain an effective leader.
1. Remote agendas, trackers and time management
Clear Agendas: One of the simplest (and yet most important) ways to keep everything on track and productive is to really understand and implement clear agendas, and have action trackers that really make sense and are useful. Or rather, one of the easiest ways to descend into remote chaos is to not have these in place. Where a catch-up with a team member can, when you’re face-to-face, get away with being a little more of a ‘surgery’ thanks to constantly being in the same space and a lot more able to bring up questions or help points as they emerge, this consistent awareness can’t exist nearly so easily over sporadic video calls.
Thorough weekly trackers; with regular agendas, where both parties are fully aware of what they need to prepare and what’s on the virtual table for discussion, will ensure everything still gets covered off in the most effective way. I find a repeatable and exhaustive (but high-level as possible) agenda in the calendar invite, coupled with a Google Sheet of discussion points, actions and owners, to be a winning formula.
Managing your time: As a manager, the amount of time spent actually managing teams will increase at distance – or at least that’s certainly what I’ve found over the past month. This, in turn, means that personal delivery time is at a bit of a premium – when not managed correctly, these precious solo slots can easily evaporate with little to show for them, which then impacts how you assess your own day and the impact you’ve been able to have. For me, a simple way to mitigate this has been to translate the to-do list straight into my calendar at the end of every day ready for the next one. It means I wake up super prepared for the team stand-up and also have the comfort of knowing exactly what I’ll deliver outside of team management, and when it’ll be delivered by.
2. Managing bookmarks and filing systems
Filing system: There’s nothing like a long stretch of having your team scattered all over the place to really kick the tyres on your internal filing system. With a compromised ability to just turn to the right colleague and ask where that proposal you wrote for that client in 2017 lives in Google Drive, things have to be really findable. From my own experience, having a rock-solid filing and naming system is something surprisingly few start-ups get absolutely right, and moving overnight to a completely remote model is the ultimate litmus test for this. With this new model also comes a necessarily more commercial focus – with everyone pulling together to keep cash flow healthy, maintaining a good base for day-to-day operations can easily end up deprioritised.
Bookmark hacks: In the absence of being able to devote time to a wholesale file reshuffle, I’ve found a long-overdue tidy of my Chrome bookmarks pretty effective for hacking some extra remote productivity. We’re all contending with varying internet speeds and different naming conventions, and searching for a document you really need but whose name you don’t know when the owner may well have left the company years ago is made even harder when your connection won’t let the search bar load. It sounds like the simplest thing ever, but the productivity gains I’ve seen from reorganising the folders I know I’ll need into browser bookmarks has saved me bags of time every day and made my job as a manager a lot easier.
3. Remembering to have some fun!
With all this focus on ways to get more organised, it can be easy to forget to actually have fun – this is still possible when working remote, even without turning yourself into a potato! Ultimately a group that counts team spirit among its main assets, as ours definitely does, will miss the daily break for a quick music quiz, team drinks, or just the ‘water cooler moments’.
I’m sure every company has its own take on these, but here’s our top three that have helped keep the cohesion alive:
Sharing achievements/things we’ve learned in isolation at the end of our weekly all-company call. From learning Norwegian and guitar to curating indoor vegetable patches, baking banana bread and painting, we’ve been trying new things, sharing our tips and enjoying hearing about them from others!
Virtual pub quizzes If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard the ‘what’s the world’s biggest lake?’ question in the last few weeks… Doing these with friends is an obvious way to keep in touch and have a central activity to add purpose to the video chats. It’s just as important with your colleagues! While I’m the common denominator on all losing teams so far, they’ve really helped keep the team spirit alive.
Virtual coffee/Tea groups, switched up every week. It’s so easy to forget to just check in with each other, and keep building strong internal relationships – setting aside half an hour a week to just brew a coffee/tea and have a good catch up has really added another slightly different thing to look forward to in our teams’ diaries.
So many of these form part of the set of things we’d take for granted when working physically together in a space – we’ve certainly found that finding ways to replace them remotely has been both productive and fun.
Wishing you all prosperity and safety throughout!
Greg, Head of Commercial
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