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Remote Working : How to lead your practice team from a distance

Managing a team that’s sitting in front of you is no easy thing, but this is exacerbated even more with the current climate as more practices are choosing to work remotely. For staff that aren’t used to it, switching from the workplace to the spare-bedroom office can be a shock to the system, but how do you make it work?

So whether you use the phone, email, Skype, Teams or whatever, here’s some quick tips on how you can keep your practice dream team on track…

BE OPEN/COMMUNICATE OFTEN

It probably goes without saying that you should be in regular communication with your team. One of the hardest things about working from home (especially if you're used to an office environment), is the sense of loneliness and isolation that can set in considering that we are told to be social distancing.

  • Tell your team what needs to be done rather than how it should be done
  • Don’t overwhelm them with long to-do lists – keep it simple by sticking to the priority jobs.
  • Make sure they have the resources they need to help them solve problems on their own – links to files, contacts and helpful online access to information will all help.
  • Give them guidance and reinforce the messages – follow up a phone/video call with an email to make sure they understand what you’ve asked them to do.

Us the technology available – Skype and Microsoft Teams are common tools for video conferencing or instant chat, as well as Webex or Zoom, but use them the right way and it can make communicating with your team much easier.

RECOGNISE THAT WORKING FROM HOME WILL BE NEW TO SOME

Take time to ask each of them what will help in the transition. Everyone is different; some people will adapt pretty quickly, others might not. Be sensitive to what each person might need while you balance their preferences with the specific needs of running the practice.

Plan in some general check-ins each week. A morning group call followed up by a one-to-one chat later is a good balance. It helps your people feel connected and also gives them an opportunity to talk to you.

This kind of schedule also gives everyone the opportunity to fit in project-related calls with other contacts and to do more focused work.

DEFINE CLEAR EXPECTATIONS AND OBJECTIVES

It’s essential that you set clear and deliberate expectations at the start for your team about how jobs and communications will happen. Everyone should know exactly;

  • What they are expected to deliver for the next day/week/month
  • Defining everyone’s role and the work they are responsible for so everyone knows who is doing what job
  • Who to contact for specific issues and how to do it
  • tell your team what needs to be done, rather than how you want it to be done. This autonomous working style saves you both time and can help you motivate your employees.
KEEP THEM INFORMED ABOUT THE PRACTICE

Working remotely will make some feel isolated and out of touch with the workplace goings-on and feel disconnected. A weekly meeting where you can include an update on what has been happening with the practice – how many pieces of work completed, an update from the partners, latest information on consultations etc. keeps your team feeling connected.

STAY FOCUSED ON GOALS, NOT ACTIVITY

Working from home is all about accomplishment, not activity. It is important to manage expectations and staying focused on the goals, so don't worry as much about what is being done. Instead, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If you are meeting your goals, then great. If not, then look into the situation further.

BE FLEXIBLE ABOUT WORKING HOURS

OK, so this might not be possible, but it could be something to think about – your targets will still be the same but you could discuss with the team (or individuals) the possibility of being in charge of their own schedules and they can set a timetable that suits you, them and the Practice.

GIVE THEM HELP WHEN THEY NEED IT

Even though you may be out of sight, don’t let them be out of mind - unexpected problems, or questions on how the work is being done will still be common. If they have an issue, something is bothering them or they are feeling under the weather, you need to understand the clues they might be giving you and give them a helping hand.

RECOGNISE YOUR TEAM'S HARD WORK

Working remotely can make people feel isolated and unappreciated. Make sure your team knows how valued they are by recognising and thanking them. It doesn’t need to be a grand gesture, a simple “thanks for today” at the end of a shift goes a long way.

MAKE TIME FOR SOME “SOCIAL SPACE”

You get it at work and it does help to keep people engaged and motivated – whether it’s a quick chat, a group video chat or an end of the week “online drinky-poos”, factor in some time at the start of meetings to ask how people are and share any personal news. If you have a weekly meeting, then ask your team to share a personal and work achievement from the previous week. Or just do a pub quiz for fun!

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Closing Date: 10 June 2020

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