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Five tips for managing a socially distanced team during covid

When managing a team in multiple locations, here are some tips on how you can keep connected and close, despite the distance.

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Undoubtedly, face-to-face communication is the most effective when we are talking about managing people. However, since this form has not been possible during the lockdown, we’ve had to find creative ways in order to make, maintain, and even strengthen bonds with our teammates via virtual channels. Even through new challenges and with a bit of forgiveness in managing new situations differently, we need to continue to be the close and motivational leaders we’ve always aimed to be.

Below are six tips for managing your teams virtually through social distances:

1. Stay optimistic

Since we don’t see each other every day, it’s important to show your teams what a great attitude looks like, and smiling is one of the best ways to do it. When you have meetings, make sure your camera is on and try to maintain positive facial expressions, and naturally, it will show that you are radiating a good vibe. Have you ever heard that smiles are contagious? Well it’s true, and it goes further than that – sharing good moods, attitude, a sense of humor and the sense of optimism that you want your team to have will hopefully rub off on your team members, leaving them with a positive and motivating feeling.

2. Be flexible about performance expectations

This might sound mediocre, but it’s not. We are not just working remotely; we are locked down to the confines of our homes for an indefinite period of time due a worldwide pandemic, and realizing this reality can take the best of us sometimes. With this difficult situation, it is essential to understand that our teammates may have a lot going on in their personal lives, too, and separation of work and personal matters may be more difficult to manage than before. Though this isn’t an excuse for failing to meet responsibilities, the pressure can have an effect on productivity and mental health. Your team now is likely not operating at 100% all the time now, so try to plan schedules and deliverables accordingly.

3. Consider team members who are also working parents

Homeschooling is all but easy, so be considerate and empathetic when some team members may need to attend a virtual class, or when their kids ask for help. Working parents need to make adjustments to their time to cover a lot of additional activities, and most of them don’t have help now without schools and teachers. In fact, the change in school schedules may even require more attention from parents to help kids set up new school programs on computers and connect to new virtual schedules. Consider some common situations that parents might be going through:

  • Some parents may need to start their workdays later, or end earlier; ask them to check in with updates, but give them the chance to follow their rhythm and we (managers) will focus on the results.
  • Others may need a day here and there where they’re limited to meetings so they can attend some child-related activities. Offer them that flexibility when possible.
  • Some parents might prefer to block hours of time throughout their days to manage home classes and other childcare activities; check in with each other to be aware of schedules.

4. Check-in with frequent non-work conversations

Business meetings are just for that – business – but sometimes we need to make time to just be… human. As a manager, you should be checking in with your team’s stress levels frequently to assess how they’re feeling. Make sure to set aside some catch-up time with your team so you can build up a good rapport so you can feel comfortable enough with each other to share how everyone is feeling and if there’s anything you can do or help facilitate for them.

5. Communicate: there’s no such thing as over-communication these days!

If it was difficult to guarantee there would be no misconceptions when we were physically together in one place, now is a much bigger challenge. Share messages the times you consider to ensure it is perfectly received by everyone. Try to find ways to make your communications clear, such as using charts, workflows, timelines, tables, or maps, so everyone can clearly understand what it is they need to do, and by when they need to do it.

Keep moving forward, creatively

Your team needs you more than ever and we need to keep creative, be empathetic, and try our best to be in touch no matter the distance. It’s easy to get focused on your own work, but as we lack face-to-face opportunities and gauges of personal feelings up close, it’s important to find ways to keep in touch and make sure your team runs as well as possible.

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