One of the key challenges with a remote working environment is the loss of the daily face to face interaction with employees. So, it’s important to try and re-create that virtually. As well as team video calls, it’s important to schedule in some regular one-to-one video call catch-ups with your team members, which can cover work but also this is an opportunity to check in on their well-being to make sure they are coping with the change to their working environment. It’s a challenging time for everyone but it’s important to try and lead your team with positive energy and language as this will help maintain motivation and morale levels.
Feedback is important during a change to a working environment, particularly given the unusual nature of this change. Continue to give positive and constructive feedback during this time. The communication method may change from a face to face ‘well done’ to a personal message on Microsoft Teams or via email but positive feedback will help to maintain good morale within your team and across the organisation. If you have any constructive feedback to provide, do this via video call, so that your intentions come across. Particularly given that there are multiple non-verbal cues that are exchanged in a face to face interaction, it’s important to try and see as many of these as possible during a video meeting where constructive feedback is being given. Where you can try and celebrate any successes and recognise achievements; it might even be a small success of having your first virtual team meeting, but it’s important to share small successes as well as any organisational wide achievement.
Virtual Team Meetings
During this time many meetings are going to be conducted via video call or by phone, so it is important to try and create a regular rhythm of meetings with your team as quickly as possible. Remember to keep a structure and focus to meetings, as would be the same in the face to face setting. Be clear about the purpose of the video or phone meeting so your team can come to the virtual meeting prepared to contribute as they would face to face. You may even want to rotate who takes a note of actions from the meeting to ensure everyone has a role to play. Where possible, try and set up daily informal catch-ups where each person has a maximum of 5 minutes to share; what they are going to achieve today, what they achieved yesterday and any challenges they have encountered. In addition, try to set a weekly tactical meeting, which will focus on the work priorities, how they are progressing and actions that need to be taken together. Finally, you may need to hold some one-off big agenda item meetings to focus on one area of work, issue or opportunity. The key is making staff aware in advance what type of meeting they are joining and how they can contribute.
When communicating digitally you never quite know what the other person is doing at that moment. They might be at their laptop or answering your email or on their phone whilst trying to make their kids some lunch. Prefacing communication with your context can really help to prevent any miscommunication. For example, ‘I’m currently working on this job, happy to catch up on the video call later today’. Using emojis is not for everyone but they can help to keep communication informal in the chat messaging function on Microsoft Team or whatever platform you are using and can also help to add context to some forms of communication.
It’s worth noting that employees may feel like they constantly need to be “visible” in their digital workspaces to prove they are working. They may feel pressure to be present for every discussion or chat or can’t let a notification go unanswered for more than a few minutes. This pressure can create unnecessary anxiety for employees, instead of being able to do their work, they are constantly worried about how their contributions are being perceived. It’s worth having an open discussion with your teams about this and answer any concerns they may have.
Timing of tasks
Some employees will be dealing with multiple home priorities as well as trying to work, so it’s worth bearing this in mind when you are allocating tasks. Employees may need additional support to help them prioritise tasks so it’s important to be clear on deadlines so that employees can highlight early any challenges they may have with meeting deadlines or getting the job done.
When increasing the amount of technology you are using to communicate, for example; emails, Microsoft Teams or Zoom for example, you might want to consider identifying what channels you use for different forms of communication. You may only use Microsoft Teams for video calls and emails for all other forms of communication. You may decide to move as much as possible over to Microsoft Teams, whatever works best for your team, communicate the process and get feedback on how it is working over the coming weeks.
Calendars & Timesheets
It’s easy to assume that because someone is always home that they are available to answer a quick work question at any time. One way to tackle this is to ask employees to use their digital calendars to add their daily work ‘to do’ lists and their available hours.
Keep important information accessible to everyone. You can record team video calls very easily on Microsoft Teams just in case everyone can’t be on the call but needs to hear the content of the conversations. Remember to record key actions and share after the call, again so there is visibility of information. This may seem like straightforward meeting etiquette but sometimes when there is a move to temporary remote working, normal meeting rules are parked or forgotten.
Remember that to help your employees with particular jobs or tasks they are struggling with, you can share your screen or they can share their screen with you and you can take control of their screen to help them. You can do this using Microsoft Teams or Zoom and there are easy to follow instructions online to help you do this.
Coaching and supporting employees during this time is more important than ever. To help with that we have included two coaching tools below, which support both face to face coaching and remote coaching.
Coaching Skills Matrix
As is always the case, the coaching approach you take with an individual needs to vary depending on the person who you are coaching. The coaching skills matrix is a matrix to help you select the right approach. The variables are the person’s skill and enthusiasm levels. For example, if you have a team member who is high in Skill and low in Enthusiasm the suggested coaching approach is to motivate them to improve their performance.
There are four steps to take as follows:
Step 1. Review all the people from your team.
Step 2. Score them out of 10 on their skill level and level of enthusiasm (1 being low and 10 being high)
Step 3. Plot each person on the coaching matrix
Step 4. Look at where each has plotted and come up with 3 key actions for each person to better coach or assist them based on the suggested coaching strategy (instruct, trust, supervise, or motivate).
GROW Coaching Model
The GROW model is a simple method for goal setting and problem solving. It is based on four key steps as following:
- Establish the Goal
- Examine the Current Reality
- Explore the Options
- Establish the Will
How to use the model
1. Establish the Goal
First, you and your team member need to establish the goal that you want to achieve. Make sure this is a SMART goal: one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. When doing this it is useful to ask questions like:
- How will you know that you have achieved your goal? How will you know that the problem or issue has been solved?
- How does this goal fit into your overall objectives? How does it fit with the team’s objectives?
2. Examine the Current Reality
Next, ask your team member to describe the current reality.
This is an important step. Too often, people try to solve a problem or reach a goal without fully considering their starting point, and often they’re missing some information that they need in order to reach their goal effectively.
As your team member starts to tell you about their current reality, the solution may start to emerge. Questions to ask at this stage include the following:
- What is happening now (what, who, when, and how often)? What is the effect or result of this?
- Have you already taken any steps towards your goal?
- Does this goal conflict with any other goals or objectives
3. Explore the Options
Once you and your team member have explored the current reality, it’s time to determine what is possible – meaning all of the possible options for reaching their goal.
Help your team member brainstorm as many good options as possible. Then, discuss these and help them decide on the best ones. By all means, offer your own suggestions in this step. But let your team member offer suggestions first and let them do most of the talking. It’s important to guide them without making the decision for them. Some questions to ask are as follows:
- What else could you do?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option?
- What factors or considerations will you use to weigh the options?
- What do you need to stop doing in order to achieve this goal?
- What obstacles stand in your way?
4. Establish the Will
By examining the current reality and exploring the options, your team member will now have a good idea of how to achieve their goal. That’s great but may not be enough. The final step is to get your team member to commit to specific actions in order to move forward towards their goal. In doing this, you will need to help them establish their will and boost their motivation. Typical questions to ask at this stage are:
- So, what will you do now, and when? What else will you do?
- What could stop you moving forward? How will you overcome this?
- How can you keep yourself motivated?
- When do you need to review progress? Daily, weekly, monthly?
Finally, decide on a date when you’ll both review their progress. This will provide some accountability and allow them to change their approach if the plan is not working.
Get in touch
If you have any questions regarding this guide, please email David Smith on firstname.lastname@example.org or use our contact form below.