Managing remote teams has been a harder change for some industries as opposed to others. Thankfully for us San Diego marketers, it is fairly easy to get a lot of our work done with just a laptop and Wi-Fi connection.
Since COVID-19 first became a point of concern within the US, millions of Americans had to suddenly pack up their offices and start working from home. As of the latest reports, more than 75 million employees said that at least part of their duties are now done from the comfort of their own homes. However, 70% of businesses have lost some of their employees because this transition was not possible.
If you are the one in charge of managing a remote team for the first time, you are probably feeling a bit overwhelmed. This decision to send employees home was not planned for most businesses, so no one was given much time to prepare. Further, working remotely comes with a new set of challenges, even when COVID-19 is not looming on the back of people’s minds.
According to a report from Buffer, employees stated that the most common issues they had with working remotely included troubles with communication and collaboration.
Obviously, these two things are vital in managing remote teams!
So how can you properly lead your digital marketing team from afar and ensure that things run just as smoothly as before?
Here are some tips to help you with remote team management during COVID-19.
1. Pick One or Two Programs
One of the first tips you will hear from just about anyone on managing remote teams is to utilize software and online tools. There are plenty of great collaboration and communication tools out there – but having too many can be incredibly confusing and lead to even more issues down the road.
When a file is being bounced around from tool-to-tool (say from Google Drive to Asana then to an email), there are more chances that it could get deleted or the latest version could get lost and things could slip through the cracks.
Instead, choose just one or two programs that are more comprehensive and include all of the features you need. For digital marketing, this would include:
- Task assignment for individual projects
- Project tracking (has this project been started, is it ready for edits, is it ready for submission)
- Secure file sharing
- Instant communication
- Editing and collaboration for shared files
- Time tracking
From personal experience, Trello is great for project management and tracking, DropBox for filesharing, and Skype for video conferencing or instant communication. Asana and Basecamp are comparable options for project management and task assignments.
There might be a period of trial and error until you find the system that works best for your team. Thankfully, a lot of companies offer free trials or are extending one due to COVID-19. But the key is to simplify and find just a few programs that will get the job done.2. Enforce Communication Protocols
Communication (or a lack thereof) is one of the leading challenges in managing remote teams of any kind. Even though employees should be instantly available through IM chat or emails, you have to remember that many are working from home, along with their kids, roommates, pets, and other distractions.
Furthermore, people do not have the luxury of communicating face-to-face with their team members. And frankly, some people just are not good at digital communication.
To ensure that nothing gets lost along the way, set communication standards for everyone to follow. For instance, set a regular time when everyone needs to be present for a conference call and host these as often as needed.
You might not need to do this daily with every team, but for others, it could be quite essential. The key is consistency so that all employees can base their daily schedule around that time.
Do they need to be clocked in at 8 am sharp and not log off until 5 pm? Or can they take breaks here and there, so long as their important tasks get completed? Who should they contact for questions on specific subjects?
Be sure to clarify all of these questions as soon as possible.
Team leaders should also set expectations for how their daily workload needs to look.
It is interesting to note that the majority of people feel the most productive and creative in the morning. These numbers drop dramatically around lunch time. Additionally, employees who were allowed to take a break every hour have much higher productivity rates than employees who were “tied to their desks” for eight hours straight.
The work-life balance is more important and prevalent of an issue than ever before.
Understand that many of your employees may not be able to provide their undivided attention to work at all times. But be very clear on what you expect them to get done and communicate this to them as directly as possible to avoid any confusion.
3. Encourage Honest Feedback
This is a scary, frustrating time for everyone – and there is no doubt that mistakes will be made. Files may get accidently deleted, messages may go unread, and some deadlines may be missed due to technical difficulties. Plus, as a team leader, you might not have everything all figured out, either!
Encourage your team members to share their thoughts and suggestions on ways that things could improve, what isn’t working, where they need more support, and so on. They may have some ideas on ways to make their remote working situation a bit smoother.
If people don’t feel entirely comfortable submitting negative feedback, you can use an anonymous system as well to avoid any awkward conversations.4. Focus on the Good
Now is a great time to be a digital marketer. Not only do we have the technology to operate remotely almost seamlessly, but content marketing is incredibly important for all businesses at this time. Hopefully, your agency is working harder than ever before to help your business or clients continue to grow during the pandemic.
Leaders need to focus on the positive aspects rather than perpetuating negativity and worry. Unfortunately, it is easy for remote workers to feel isolated (even more so if they are quarantined alone). This can lead to disengagement and lowered productivity
Be sure that you are still keeping your employees highly engaged and providing positive reinforcement. Congratulate team members on a job well done and check in with them frequently to see how things are going.
If your company is in a position to provide extra assistance to employees, this can certainly be a huge morale booster.
For example, Ally Financial is offering additional health-related services through each employee’s insurance plans for testing, mental health support, and expanded childcare support. Some companies have simply bought dinner for their employees and their families. Any little bit of support can be huge during this time – and people will remember it.
The only way we are going to get through this time is by working together – even if it is from afar. Managing remote teams for the first time can be challenging during a time when connection matters more than ever.
At the end of the day, compassion and understanding is what will help your newly remote team succeed. Find systems that work best for you unique marketing team, listen to their ideas, and focus on open, honest communication.
Joanna Besley is a Content Marketing Writer for E2M Solutions Inc., whose primary writing focus is on marketing topics and SEO. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the San Diego area hikes, traveling outside of the country, and trying out new vegan restaurants.