Tips for managing a remote team

The way we manage a remote work team has never been so important as now as Aotearoa works through the early stages of Covid-19 lockdown.

Like us, you may have teams spread throughout the country and keeping everyone connected and motivated is paramount. Here are our top tips, and a few from our members, on how to successfully manage a remote team. 

1. Have the best desk & computer setup that you can 

Not everyone has a home office. More and more we're seeing photos of Kiwis amidst Covid-19 setting up an office on their dining room table, and some even turning the ironing board into a stand-up desk!

While the most ideal situation is to have a proper desk and chair, we're not in 'ideal' times. Our advice is to make sure your screen is an arm's length in front of you and at eye level. Use an old phone book, or A4 ream of paper to prop the screen up if you have to. It's important to have a footstool, again an A4 ream of paper, or a book will do. 

2. Trust your staff and be flexible

Engineer Tony Harrison of Urban Connection says empower staff and focus on outcomes. Make sure they're briefed properly and check in on them - this isn't really any different than if you were in the office. Work on the basis of trust and monitor outcomes over time. No doubt staff won't be able to work the typical nine to five day - being flexible given these unprecedented times is going to be very important to everyone.

3. Use video chat

We use Microsoft Teams and love it. Because some of the team works from home and are across the country anyway, we're a little used to jumping on a Teams Video Call. Research shows and has been proven that video calls over voice calls are ten times more effective. 

We have our weekly team meeting over Teams Video Call every Tuesday. We don't go straight into work mode; we talk about what we have been up to and have a bit of banter. In fact, our calls are very much focused on workload by exception and focus more on our company values, exciting projects we are working on and developments in technology or the industry.

4. Take breaks and get outside 

Caroline Boot, Managing Director of Clever Buying, suggests exercise or getting fresh air at least once a day during is beneficial when we're all self-isolating. A quick walk around the block or in the park is tonic for mental and physical health.

We also have a weekly 'OM' session. It just so happens one of the people in our Wellington office is a yoga teacher and taught weekly meditation sessions before lockdown, so we thought, why not take it online. We've only done one so far, but it was a lot of fun. We've also seen a lot of companies offering cheap yoga classes online during lunchtime. 

5. Set expectations around kids

With schools and daycare closed in Aotearoa, it means parents are having to work from home but also juggle the kids. We've found the best way to manage this is to have an open and frank conversation with your manager around expectations. Proactively communicate that your children are at home so they are aware that you cannot guarantee your work will be interruption-free. Virtual play dates is a fun concept - rally grandparents, aunties, uncles, friends to talk, read and play games with the kids online. And if you can, plan activities that don't need supervision like creating activity boxes that contain games and puzzles.