One by one, companies across the world are facing the inevitability of remote work as coronavirus spreads. Country lockdowns and voluntary self-isolation are digitizing work culture at lightning speed.
And some companies are proving more prepared than others.
While other countries had plans or systems in place at least partially, telework in Japan has been a “long-standing taboo.” Now, breaking the stigma in huge corporations like Panasonic, NEC, and Mitsubishi is sure to make an impact on the spread of coronavirus. Luckily, companies are catching on. As of March 2020, over 80% of Japanese businesses have put their employees on home office or remote work.
Of course, such a hasty transition is causing problems, including confusion over how to manage remote teams and keep them productive. Abrupt changes in lifestyle can affect your team’s performance.
“As much as 70% of employees need some time to prepare for the workplace changes that affect their lifestyle,” says Marie Fincher, a researcher at TrustMyPaper.
If this sounds familiar, here are four useful tips and tools that should help, whether you’re in Japan or any other country.
Tips for Team Leads on Managing Remote Workers
1. Work Out a System
It’s easy to get distracted from a home office, especially if you are not used to it. Things are tougher still if you have children at home to look after while also doing your job.
So before you launch into remote work, discuss the details with your team. Clarify everyone’s availability and restrictions. This includes scheduling team briefings and private meetings, organizing remote training, establishing deadlines, and determining the general pace of work.
2. Organize Responsibilities
There is a chance that a large number of team members won’t be able to perform some of their duties from home, whether it’s due to digital restrictions like internet connectivity or physical barriers like being away from certain equipment.
To make sure that they remain productive and have tasks while working remotely, you’ll need to help them re-organize their working day and assign new responsibilities.
Start by revisiting the job descriptions of each team member to identify which duties can and cannot be performed remotely. From those, prioritize critical tasks, such as doing invoices and organizing financial reports. If some of these high-impact tasks cannot be performed remotely, discuss alternatives with your team.
Then make a list of tasks assigned to each team member.
This list will hold you and them accountable for the work they do in a day, ensuring high productivity and respect for deadlines.
3. Do Daily Briefings
A daily meeting at the beginning of the workday can help boost your team’s productivity, as well as track KPIs and overall progress.
During daily briefings, you get the opportunity to discuss the progress of active projects, give and receive feedback, check the availability of resources that your team needs to perform their tasks, and, of course, check up on your team’s well-being.
If you used to do daily briefings before the quarantine (or whatever kicked off your team’s remote work), make sure that you maintain the same schedule during the home office period. By doing so, you will decrease stress through the reliability of routine.
4. Do Activities Outside Work Together
Speaking of decreasing stress, you and your team should keep spending time together outside of working hours, just as you would have done before. In the current situation, of course, you won’t be able to gather after work for a drink or have a barbeque on the weekend. Luckily, there are more digital alternatives every day.
You can watch movies together with watch parties on Facebook or the Netflix Party Chrome extension. Even something as mundane as water cooler conversations can go online with private chats on Slack or Google Hangouts. Thanks to Zoom, team lunches are also easy to take online.
As Japan and the rest of the world dive into remote work, it is important to make the transition as organized and stress free as possible. To do so, you and your team will need a clear plan.
Make sure that you and your team systematically follow a list of daily responsibilities, regularly check up on progress during daily briefings, and constantly exchange feedback.
But most importantly, try not to overwork yourself or your team. Allow a few moments to do something outside of your work responsibilities. The biggest challenge for many people working from home is the merging of their professional space with their personal space. Communicate to your team that you’re aware of the challenges and let them take a breather when they need it.