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  • Annette M. Clayton

My Team Has To Work Remotely, Now What?

This article was originally published in Sass Magazine

We got the email at midday. Be prepared for a sudden shift to work remotely, just in case. Take essential office supplies home, laptops, and ensure your VPN is working. That possible shift to all-remote-status-until-further-notice? It happened the next day.

Coronavirus tension is crackling in the air. I can see it in the faces of mothers, scrambling down the grocery store aisles, pushing their carts just a bit too fast. The contorted face of the man standing next to me in line at Starbucks. I cough from a tickle in my throat. Is it just a cough? Or am I infected? Uncertain, he shifts away. We are all beginning to feel a bit like thin ropes, being stretched too far. How long until we snap? It won’t come to that, my friend, a medical professional says. I’m not so sure. Self-preservation is a funny thing.

Amid all this panic and uncertainly, companies want to ensure its still business as usual, or as close to normal as it can be. Virus or not, life must, indeed, go on. 

Managers across the US are scrambling to get their teams to work remotely together, virtually, and maintain the same level of productivity. No one knows how long schools and businesses will be operating remotely, so we may as well prepare for the haul. 

Below are 5 easy and effective ways to keep your team’s productivity up while they work remotely.

Trust Your Employees To Work Remotely, But Outline Expectations

If your team is made up of dedicated, hardworking employees, there’s no reason to think that the transition to a home office will change their level of commitment. But you’re still the one in charge, and the brunt of the responsibility for productivity falls on your shoulders, so outlining expectations is key. You may choose to do this on your own, or even better, get the whole team involved. Have a reasonable policy regarding response times to emails. Keep your previously schedule one-on-one meetings. Set up interruption-free time if needed. Because team members can’t see if a colleague or supervisor is on the phone, or has their door shut, they don’t know if contacting you with questions is interrupting you or not. We use Skype messaging and you can set your status to green / available, or red with a “do not disturb” mode.

Get Set Up To Meet Virtually

We all know what happens during those phone meetings that involve multiple employees. It usually one person talking endlessly while fifteen other people are on mute, checking their emails. Make the team meetings video chats whenever possible. This will give employees a sense of togetherness, accountability, and maybe even some sense of stability seeing familiar faces during a time of uncertainty. Products like zoom offer virtual video meeting spaces. The free portion gives you 40-minute meetings and you can set up as many as you like. Offer Employees A

Space To Chat

Remote employees have admitted to feeling isolated and out of the loop. Consider a virtual meeting space, not restricted to work-related chat. We use Slack, a virtual chat room of sorts, to check in with each other, say hello, even discuss the weather. With fears mounting across the states, give your employees a space to connect and chat with each other.

Don’t Forget To Show Appreciation!

Just because you’re virtual now, doesn’t mean you have to completely stop fun office activities and notes of appreciation. Can’t have birthday cake in the breakroom? Send that employee a virtual birthday card, and gift them a few extra hours off. There are loads of free ecard services such as Blue Mountain. Keep employee’s spirits up and the tone light. Use sites like to get ideas for funny holiday activities. Did you know Friday May 15th is Pizza Party Day? In your team’s chat room, announce the holiday and ask everyone to share their favorite pizza toppings.

Be Flexible, Be A Leader Who Cares

Does your employee need to shift their scheduled hours while being remote? Why not let them? With schools closing, childcare is going to get hairy, so why not accommodate employees if it’s not affecting business too much? I recently ran into a couple who had zero childcare available to them while school is closed. Daycares are full and their parents live out of state. Their solution? The husband was able to switch to mostly night and weekend hours, temporarily. It’s not ideal, and certainly draining, but both were grateful for the ability to still have income. Trust me, people are going to remember which employers stood by them during these times and those that tossed them aside.

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Annette M. Clayton

Writer of Children's Books. Lover of Grumpy Cat. Sweatpants Enthusiast

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