​​Coronavirus is a global threat we are all facing this year and a lot of people being forced to work from home. Obviously, the change brings the challenge of disruption in normal work patterns. Still, companies and governments understand that personal safety is more important than anything else and have made a conscious decision to implement work from home as a part of the strategy to beat the epidemic.

Balancing the scales, however, gets tough because aligning with these unexpected and drastic work changes is easier said than done. We are now coming to terms with the gravity of the situation and devising strategies to manage remote teams effectively to maintain the levels of productivity, efficiency and collaboration. Here is how you can do it better and be more effective in managing a remote work workforce.

Have a remote leadership team in place

Switching the entire workforce to remote is nothing short of a rude shock. Mitigation is the only solution, which is best done by rallying a team of people who have done this before. The leadership team needs to communicate nuances, resolve queries of the first-timers, and set clear guidelines. This team should include managers and senior-level executives to set an example for the remaining workforce. You can assign some people the task of documenting challenges in real time for future referencing.

Map skills, capacity and tasks

While having leadership positions is vital, you need to map skills, capacity and tasks at a widespread scale. Organisations often have team members working on multiple teams and projects. Some projects may face glitches in such volatile times, while there will be skills redundancy in the team as well. Though you cannot escape the situation, the stress can be reduced by identifying the tasks that can be handled remotely and having clarity on gaps in skills and capacity of resources.

Create a universal handbook

A critical step of going remote is to have a universal handbook that covers the pressing questions that anyone on the team may want to ask. Communicate it company-wide to start with. Keep updating with new questions and information that come in real time. Ensure that everyone is in loop and you may well have a resource that your business can use for a lifetime.

Establish a communication protocol

As a part of the remote workforce management strategy, you need to establish a formal (and informal) communication protocol. Essentially, the plan should have detailed contact information of all employees at one place, clarify the primary communication channels; explain how and when teams will coordinate and how they must respond to customers. Besides professional communication, have a system in place for personal interactions as well. Relying on tools like FaceTime, Skype, video conferences and web chats is a good way to humanise communication.

Implement a system for day-to-day tasks

While seeing the big picture is important when you suddenly have to make the sudden switch, you cannot ignore day to day team management on a granular level. Team managers need to implement a system to ensure that day-to-day tasks run like clockwork. To start with, they must have a clear delivery plan and communicate it to everyone in their team. Daily check-ins and updates are equally important to make sure that everything runs on schedule. Regular video calls with the team are mandatory to replace the brainstorming sessions and stand-ups that are a part of the regular work culture.

Create a culture of trust, transparency and accountability

Although using the right tools and having a remote working protocol are essential, team managers cannot overlook the human factor. Everything boils down to creating a culture of trust, transparency and accountability. There will be doubts whether your people will actually work from home, but you need to realise that mutual trust is the only thing that keeps the world going in such crisis situations. Be open about your expectations and communicate them to the team members. A majority of your team members will live up to them! And be transparent and accountable to your customers as well. Most importantly, make sure that you deliver on all these requirements too.

Gear up for the new normal

While working from home involves new distractions, there is the potential for misunderstandings too. People fail to understand each other’s environment, which could have a far-reaching impact on individual behaviours. The best approach would be to orient each other and tell the team that this is the new normal, at least for now. A team meeting before going remote, where people are encouraged to speak up about their prospective work environments, would be a good way to set expectations and prevent stereotypical assumptions.

This is a crisis situation, when people and teams are going to be tested in the face of the unexpected such as isolation and social distancing. However, like always, the human spirit will prevail and set examples through flexible and organised work response that will keep the show going on!