How to manage your team remotely

IPA CPD Consultant Gwyn March gives her top tips for keeping your team motivated and running smoothly while working from home.

The Coronavirus outbreak has forced us all to work remotely, but whats's the best way to keep your team running smoothly? IPA CPD Consultant Gwyn March gives her top tips for getting the most out of your team while out of the office.

Some of us already have some experience of managing remote teams when working on international networked accounts. But even so we did it largely from the office, surrounded by our colleagues.

Suddenly everyone in our business is WFH, and getting used to new acronyms. Here is a practical guide to getting the best work from remote teams.

Humans have not changed. Yesterday they were often irrational and needed you to motivate them, today is no different. You need to do everything you were doing before, but remotely.

Listening

Even the most angry or frightened or doesn’t agree with you person will calm down if you make it clear you are listening. Stop anything else you are doing and just listen. Make encouraging noises, if you ask questions then invite them to go on. Five minutes of this per person on your team will motivate them to want to do great work.

Specific, honest, immediate praise

Do it at once or you’ll forget, make it as specific as possible because you want them to replicate that behaviour again. People crave honest praise, and it has an incredible payback versus time taken ratio. Can be email or phone or video.

Motivational feedback

People still need help to grow, so don’t be afraid of 'I liked … and next time to make it even better' conversations. Far better than saying nothing, which worms away at their confidence so they start to think 'OMG he must have hated it'.

You'll also need to ramp up a few key things.

Setting priorities

Never has this been more important. People will naturally panic and start to invent pointless work.  You need to have a vision for this lasting six months and for what the team need to achieve this week.  So long term we need to have many more courses available online, short term we need to work out what are all the ways we can communicate, what is best for the team in each situation. There is plenty to choose from – video meets such as Google Hangouts, Zoom or live chat methods like Slack, Microsoft teams.

Helping them with their resilience

So encourage routines, exercise, sleep, hot food, less social media, fresh air, people radiating positivity, making time to phone family and friends.

Busting stress

Key stress busting techniques include laughter, exercise, drinking less coffee, breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques, perspective, doing things for others.

Anxiety UK advises using the APPLE technique to avoid burnout:

Acknowledge

Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

Pause

Don't react as you normally do. Don't react at all. Pause and breathe.

Pull back

Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don't believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.

Let go

Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don't have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

Explore

Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else - on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else - mindfully with your full attention.

Being able to look people in the eye

Find ways to celebrate any achievement at all and have a laugh. People respond well to eye contact (not unrelenting Paddington Bear stare), it sets off pleasure circuits in the brain. Yesterday a three-hour Zoom meet was enlivened by one participant appearing in front of a green screen.

Finding the good things in this situation and pointing them out to your team.

Adopt a growth mindset

That hour or two saved on commuting can be put to doing some online course or learning a new skill. Get everyone to recommend a book or a podcast, and in rotation, once a week the team 'meets' to discuss. 

Sleeping well

Your team can theoretically get more sleep, which should make them happier and more productive.

Deepthinking

Working in agencies sometimes feels like trying to concentrate in an airport lounge during a crisis. Now you and your team have chance to do some 'deepthinking'. Pick some worthy projects that were on the back burner, not because they weren’t important, but because they were not frantically urgent. Assign people to work on them in pairs or groups.

Creativity

Recognise that the most creative and innovative ideas often come from mundane moments such as washing up, weeding, going for a walk with the dog. They don’t always have to be online, being AFK can often be more useful in the long run.

Embrace the introvert

Introverts may flourish now they are not constantly being asked to be sociable.

Helping others

If you have some time on your hands offer to help someone else – a very good way to bust stress.

Gwyn March is the IPA's CPD Consultant runs a number of our courses and our Training Forum. View a full list of IPA courses and qualifications or get in touch on by emailing learning@ipa.co.uk

Last updated 21 September 2020