Are you managing a remote team for the first time?

You’re not alone.  Many of us are facing the same challenges in this current quarantined world we live in – limited face-to-face supervision or oversight, slower access to information and the social isolation and distractions at home are just a few of them.  You’re even often expected to be a counselor or mental health counselor.

While there are many various sources that can assist with mental support (see below) we are focusing here on just a few tips on successfully supporting and managing your newly remote team.

Establish structured check-ins: This may seem like a no-brainer, but in this quarantine-environment it is important that calls stay on the calendar and don’t get canceled. The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable and that they are a forum in which employees know that they can consult with you and that their concerns and questions will be heard.

Provide several different communication technology options: Do not rely solely on email. Your team will benefit from having a video conferencing option. Even if not everyone turns the video option on, it’s nice to see, not only their face, but also their personality come through in their home-offices or that unexpected visitor walking past.

Offer encouragement and be positive: You’re not expected to have all the answers or provide mental support, but you can provide the encouragement that most people need.  You’ll also be looked at for how others should react.  If you’re positive, your team will be encouraged. Conversely, if you’re negative, then the team will have permission to follow suit.

Acknowledge this is a challenge:  It is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to employees’ anxieties and concerns, and empathize with their struggles.  You’ll also want to recognize that we’re all processing these changes differently and at various speeds and that’s OK, and it will all be OK.

Find time for purely social/non-work-related interactions: The easiest way to establish basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls for non-work items. Other options include virtual team lunches or virtual after-work socials. A little goes a long way in promoting a fun and non-stressful working environment.

Be honest with your team: Let them know you don’t have all the answers.  That you might be working to figure out how to accomplish something that you’ve never done from home.  Ask for their suggestions or help. Let them know that your child interrupted a business call earlier in the day. Remind them that a barking dog while on a call is not the end of the world.  It reminds us we’re all in this together.

As we said at the beginning, you’re not alone.  While it may not be initially apparent, this is a great opportunity to show what a great leader you are and more so, an opportunity to really connect and bond with your team.  Good luck!

Mental Health Resources  

From the National Alliance on Mental Illness here’s a Comprehensive Resource Guide. It Includes resources for financial assistance and essential needs, coping with anxiety and quarantine, health insurance and medical care assistance, business assistance programs, mental and emotional support resources, and more.

Your team is stressed and anxious, find local therapists and crisis support here

Adjusting to work from home from Psychology Today

Adjusting to social distancing from American Psychology Association