Coronavirus vs. Business: Effectively Managing Remote Teams Amid the Global Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic has turned in a wake-up call for most stakeholders to rethink not only their business strategies and financial plans but also their working policies and guidelines. One month after the announcement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, remote work remains one of the biggest challenges for both small and large companies. Although it’s hardly surprising since, in 2017-2018, only twenty-eight percent of US citizens could work from home. The coronavirus outbreak is sure to change those numbers, but at what cost? 

At TEAM International, there are hundreds of employees globally, and moving them to work remotely overnight wasn’t that easy. Even though being a reputed IT partner and having vast experience in setting up dedicated teams for our clients, we still had to take into account technical capabilities, security measures, and personal factors of all the employees to ensure business continuity and stable performance not only for TEAM but for all the projects. Nevertheless, we had the cards in hands because, as a Microsoft Partner, we had all the tools for remote teams up and running. The shift took two days. 

However, communicating with partners and supporting them with professional crisis management services, we understand that for most teams, these are truly dark times. Not to mention some traps and pitfalls that so far go unnoticed but may result in fallout for their business. That’s why we’ve crafted a detailed checklist for business owners on how to effectively manage remote employees. Whether your teams are already working remotely, you’ve tried and it didn’t work, or you’re just setting it all up — our best practices will be of use. 

Your Ultimate Guide to Managing Remote Employees: Tools, Activities, and Crisis Communication Strategies

Coronavirus in the USA and Europe is making changes in the way most organizations operate. As hospitals are overwhelmed, and still, many people are self-quarantining, everyone else is strongly encouraged to observe social distancing, turning home working into our new reality. So how to ensure appropriate remote monitoring and management to protect business effectiveness? What is the best remote management software to communicate with the team safely? Managing remote workers, how to preserve the corporate culture, and support the team spirits? We’ve collected the proven tips and tricks from our skilled managers to guide you through the uncertainties, so let’s start. 

#1 Set up the infrastructure

This is the first thing that managers and business owners should do to help their workers get ready. Unfortunately, at this point, we don’t have any estimates or predictions on the current coronavirus outbreak, so plan for the long-term, preventing idle hours or inconveniences. Do all the teams have the requisite hardware and software at home? Do they have the necessary technology or access to it? Will they be able to hold conference calls and keep in touch with the rest of the employees? Can your employees access all the resources from home and perform tasks? Immediate supervisors should quickly ascertain that every worker has instant access and all remote working tools at hand, so no one feels left behind. 

#2 Security is still top of mind

Cybersecurity is one of the major questions for devops engineers and direct managers when it comes to managing remote staff. In the office, everything is aligned with corporate standards; meanwhile, it’s a lot more complicated to ensure the same level of security at every home. However, you can start with protecting all devices with proven antivirus software, making sure that operating systems and programs are up-to-date, and utilizing corporate-wide IT services for all interactions. For instance, at TEAM International, we use Microsoft-stack tools. They allow us to streamline collaboration between teams, ensure an instant and secure communication, and promote mobility. Additionally, it will be much easier for employees to return to office life since all the necessary documents or data are stored in the cloud and will be available immediately. 

#3 Identify remote management software tools

We want to start with dispelling myths about remote team productivity since it’s no less efficient, and its productivity doesn’t reduce during home working. When well managed, it can be maintained at the desired level or even improved since typical distractions are gone. Make sure that your employees know what they should do and how success is measured. Direct managers should create realistic expectations by defining the scope of work, deliverables, timelines, and check-ins. To make it easier for teleworkers to run the same projects, it’s highly recommended to opt for one of the following remote monitoring software tools: Jira, Asana, Trello, Microsoft Planner, Smartsheet, or Basecamp. 

#4 Leverage remote team communication tools

Email alone is not satisfactory. Remote teams will stand to gain from having several software options, such as instant messaging, audio calls, or video conferencing. Each of these opportunities makes it easier for teams to solve issues and reach decisions, hold sprint planning or review meetings, deliver training sessions and workshops. Moreover, most individuals are accustomed to the office environment, and since they don’t have traditional coffee conversations, they may feel isolated and lonely. To prevent ‘working from home depression’ and keep their spirits up, it’s recommended for managers to spend five-ten minutes and ask how their co-workers are doing. Choosing the best communication tools for remote teams mainly depends on your corporate tech stack. At TEAM International, we utilize Microsoft Teams, but there are also Google Hangouts, Zoom, Slack, WeChat Business, and others.

#5 Take advantage of remote collaboration tools in every way

These are truly stressful times for most companies and shifting to home working troubles streamlined flows and office-based procedures. The challenges associated with being distributed can be mitigated by creating a fully digital workspace. Clear and timely communication is the first and foremost element of engaging remote employees. However, to prevent delays and internal conflicts, it’s also critical to provide them with a central project team knowledge space with an organized repository and easy version control to enable content co-creation and real-time co-editing, along with quick file and document sharing. Among the best collaboration tools for remote teams, you may find Confluence, Dropbox Business, Sharepoint, Box, and more. 

Additionally, in the context of a sudden shift to home working, it becomes even more critical for managers and executives to ensure emotional support and encouragement to their employees. 

Elaborate a consistent crisis communication plan and confide updates, news, and plans to your workers regularly. Make sure that direct managers share your confidence and verbalize the same values to their teams. 

To cheer up individuals, some companies utilize video conferencing for remote team building activities, including traditional team lunches, cooking challenges, photo contests, or even movie nights. Moreover, there are various online games for remote teams like quiz shows, ‘Words with friends,’ ‘Three truths and a lie,’ or ‘Bucket list challenge’ to keep them collaborative and motivated.

Finally, organizations should stay agile and unbiased. Trying and testing different tools and techniques for remote employee monitoring and managing, be ready to recognize and admit if anything isn’t working and replace it fast. Management teams that persistently learn, discover best practices, and articulate them across the company tend to be the most effective and thriving in the long run. 

Despite the terrible circumstances, these acquirements on how to manage a remote team may prove useful in the future. When the coronavirus crisis ends, we’ll see even more distributed teams and organizations since such an approach will open up a whole new world of opportunities for business. 

TEAM International is a reliable tech partner for industry leaders all over the world, and it has the necessary expertise to make your shift seamless and quick. Contact our team today to future-proof your business and be ready for any force majeure circumstances.

TEAM International

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