Andrew Jackson – December 22, 2020

In the third post of his SIMDFW Fellows blog series on employment and management issues, BravoTECH President and Co-Founder Andrew C. Jackson offers ideas on managing and motivating a remote team.

For context, the following is based on lessons learned from the rapid transition of an office-based team to a completely remote, work-from- home scenario.

One of the most important lessons I learned while navigating our firm through the pandemic was that we need to look at everything related to business through a new lens. Now that vaccines are on their way, it may be comforting to believe that will soon return to pre-pandemic norms – but the reality is that many of the changes we initially viewed as temporary will continue to shape our operations and processes going forward.

For example, managers who used to glean a lot of information about their teams through observation and water cooler discussions are now using new tools and processes to measure productivity in a remote work environment.  If and when people return to the office, the tools and processes that helped us improve productivity during the crisis will continue to be used after the crisis has passed.  One new process we implemented is to have direct reports put their monthly goals and objectives in writing. This not only ensured we were aligned on goals and expected outcomes, it also enhanced their sense of commitment and accountability at a time when they were adjusting to a different management presence.

The importance of coaching has become more apparent as well, and I’d even go so far as to say that a manager who is not interested in nurturing and coaching their team can’t be successful in a remote work environment.  Some employees who were used to receiving a daily check-in from their manager have tended to feel stressed out and isolated at home. Some may not thrive working solo while others need additional training on new technologies you’ve implemented. Some may just need someone to talk to. (I will outline the multiple personas of remote workers in my next article).

To solve for this, our managers are now encouraged to use MS Teams to virtually drop in on staff once or twice a week.  We’ve also begun hosting a number of virtual team events and contests to replace the camaraderie we were missing. Examples are virtual happy hours, scavenger hunts and games with prizes.  One scavenger hunt tasked each person with finding something in their home that was of great personal importance; this exercise helped us learn more about each other than we would have learned at the office.

Another idea our management implemented was a “Good News Only” chat room on Teams.  This is a running online chat where employees post positive feedback, kudos, successes and even funny videos and GIFs.  It helps remind us all that we’re not alone and sends positivity to anyone who may need it..

In summary, I believe the new processes we have put in place to succeed in a remote environment will continue to ensure our success, regardless of where our teams work in the future.