With social distancing being required more and more around the globe due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, workplaces are increasingly having their employees work from home when possible. Although telecommuting has nearly doubled since 2002, for many managers remote work is a new dynamic to introduce with their teams, especially at larger organizations.

We’ve offered a work from home option since the beginning of Grouptrail in 2004, and I wanted to share my top three tips for leading a remote team focusing on culture, communication, and clarity:

1. Build a culture that embraces both the work and life components of work-life flexibility.

By reducing commuting times, people working from home inherently have more time for taking care of broader life needs. And during this spread of COVID-19, it’s even more important to stay in virtual contact with and care for loved ones. So not only provide the opportunity for your team to address work and life responsibilities on their own, but also give space for them to talk about work and life during meetings. We always start each virtual meeting by catching up on what’s on everyone’s mind. It’s important to embrace the whole person that each of your team members represent, not just their work side. And when you’re all working remotely, you miss out on the side conversations that happen which fill each other in on their lives.

2. Set a collaborative communication cadence.

For some managers, it can feel like a loss of control when they can’t see their team in person at any point in the day by just walking over to their desk. So to ease the transition to remote working, incorporate a weekly schedule for when team meetings happen, whether it’s our Monday virtual meetings to plan the week and recap the previous week, daily first thing in the morning 15 minute check ins, or other ideas that work for you all. This gives a sense of normalcy when it comes to expectations of being able to communicate with each other while providing boundaries to help your team get work done without too many ad hoc interruptions which impact concentration and focus on completing tasks. And be open to collaborative feedback about the cadence because there will be times when you need to meet more often or less frequently depending on the workload.

3. Manage the noise by establishing clarity around longer term goals.

There can be a lot of distractions in a telecommuting situation, from a stream of chat messages at a volume potentially much larger than emails appearing in your inbox, to endless lists of tasks across your project management and CRM systems, and the lack of physical visual reminders omnipresent in central office spaces that show upcoming initiatives, strategies, and plans. To mitigate this, have an agreed upon way to share and track team expectations over the medium to long term. We identify quarterly plans by department that are reviewed periodically during our meetings, along with specific web-based tools the team can use to track these goals at any time. This goal clarity goes a long way to reducing remote working related confusion and alignment around what’s required to achieve success.

Let me know if you have tips or feedback and I’ll be sure to update

Justin Yuen

Justin Yuen