Managing remote teams

Samnag Chea
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Speaking with coaching clients and colleagues here in Cambodia over the past couple of weeks has been interesting.  With the recent surge in COVID infections in Phnom Penh most of my calls were with people transitioning to working from home, trying to focus whilst surrounded by housemates, family, workmen and a raft of other different disruptions (including the repeated visit of the icecream man in one case).  Lots of laughter and apologies peppered the conversations but, with a healthy dose of perseverance, we all eventually found a way through to doing the work we needed to do in the moment.

Despite our relative success, it did make me think about how important it is for leaders and managers to work with their teams to help them transition during this challenging time.
An interesting global study by IBM looking at the impact of COVID-19 on businesses showed that while managers felt they were doing a great job supporting their teams whilst working from home, employees saw things very differently. 

Clear communication is a key in ensuring that this gap in understanding doesn’t hit your business, but what does that look like in reality?

  1. Set realistic expectations

Remember, lots of people are currently worried – not only about the work they need to do and how they can do it in this new environment, but also about the health of themselves and their loved ones as well as the long term economic impact of the crisis.  In times like this it is unrealistic to expect your team to be working at 100% so make sure you adjust your expectations to account for this.

  1. Check in regularly

A UK study of workers under the age of 25 found that 20% experienced mood issues caused by isolation from their peers as a result of remote working.  Being remote from the office takes away that vital social connection and so check-ins that focus on social conversation and building relationships remotely can really help to replace that.  

  1. Avoid meetings for meetings sake

Whilst regular communication is important, be aware of the impact of too many virtual meetings on your staff.  According to cyberpsychology researchers in the US, video calls are more challenging than in person meetings for most people.  The lack of exposure to the non verbal cues experienced during face to face interaction means achieving understanding and agreement can be more challenging and, as a result, exhausting.

  1. Focus on the good

When you do have a meeting make sure you’re not just focusing on what’s going wrong.  Take time to give praise and recognition for work done well or even just for showing up.  Remember what we said in point 1- people are stressed and a little positive reinforcement can go a long way to help them feel a bit better.

I hope this gives you some ideas about how to support your team at this time.  If your team members (or you yourself) are struggling, they might like to watch this great video (in Khmer) my colleague Samnang has made with tips to help you to be more productive whilst working from home.

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