The FYXER Blueprint: managing remote teams effectively during Covid-19

Posted by Archie on Mar 20, 2020 4:14:19 PM

No matter their size or industry, the coronavirus situation will affect each and every UK company with circumstances changing on a weekly basis. With no guarantee of when the situation will dissipate, the only certainty is that businesses need to adapt to survive. 

As a fully remote company, FYXER may be better prepared for some aspects of the upheaval than others, but all business is ultimately linked to the wider economy. Our clients, from start-ups to corporates, have told us about the ways Covid-19 is impacting them with many executives experiencing similar problems, such as increasing personal responsibilities and the stress of managing remotely. 

As a company that frees up executives’ time to focus on what matters, we have therefore devised this blueprint to ease some of executives' pressing issues during this unprecedented situation. 

Going remote

All European countries are enforcing various degrees of social distancing, which has a direct impact on 'business as usual’. In particular, all those that can work from home are being encouraged to do so and therefore many companies will be operating remotely for the first time. Given the situation looks likely to last until the summer at least, businesses need to put a plan in place to function effectively over the next few months. 

At FYXER, we have been operating semi-remotely for the last four years and fully remotely for the last nine months. From our experience, a company must adopt a bespoke remote working solution that is best suited to their business, but there are two common areas that are vital for all companies: clear communication lines and effective team management. 

Communication Lines

Without the ability to talk to a colleague on a whim, clear lines of communication are essential to remote working. They are the arteries of the system that keep everything running smoothly and must be open, recorded and consistent in order to work effectively. 

Platform

Nowadays, there is a wide range of communication platforms that are specifically designed for remote team working, such as Slack, Zoom and Google Hangout. As a first port of call, remote working companies must choose a preferred platform(s) and ensure that all employees have access to it and understand how and when to use it. Then, companies should:

  • Make it someone's job to structure and manage the mediums of communication. For example, they should ensure that you are using threads on Slack and set the purpose of each channel, such as for discussions on a particular client, accounting or even social chat. 
    • At FYXER, we have a number of specific channels, including:
      • A Watercooler channel for teams to have conversations outside of the scope of work. 
      • A channel for parents to share tips and tricks on how to work remotely with children.
      • A wellbeing channel for employees to chat about mental and physical health. 
  • Avoid using private channels. Keep communication open otherwise employees will spend all day checking various message threads. 
  • Automate where possible (e.g. alerts about upcoming events; company updates; reminders to send invoices; requests for sales numbers etc.) using Slack integrations. 
  • Set up Donut for team engagement. In lieu of an office, it’s a great tool for encouraging interaction between remote team members and can be added to Slack. 

Process

Having set up the relevant communication channels, managers need to use them effectively. Managers should:

  • Aim for at least three face-to-face touch points (e.g. video calls or conferences) per day. This can be with clients, suppliers, team members or other management. 
  • Organise a 15-minute team call at 10.30am each day in order to check in on individual productivity and pick up on pinch points that may occur that day. 
    • By regularly reviewing an individual's to-do list (e.g. by referring to project management updates on Asana or Trello), it is easier to find out if an employee is disengaged. 
  • Ensure that team members document all completed tasks and provide continuous updates via the selected channel.
  • Make sure video call invitations are sent to each attendee even if organised between two people five minutes in advance. If using Zoom, for example, this ensures that the video link is clearly accessible in the calendar and email invite, while attendees also receive a reminder notification. Attendees will therefore arrive on the call ready to start on time. 
  • Plan Zoom calls to increase engagement. 
    • We've found it’s best when managers speak against a set agenda and someone else on the call collates all the questions via Zoom chat to avoid interruptions. 
  • Send an EOP email on Friday afternoons summarising the highlights of the week. 
    • FYXER’s EOP emails include:
      • An update from each Head - People, Client Success, Sales and the CEO.
      • Input from team members, such as a 'week in the life of...' segment. 
      • Nominations for value awards.
      • Top tips for working remotely / with clients.
    • We get a 90% open rate and it's often highlighted as a favourite of the teams in feedback surveys. 
  • Encourage employees to use phone calls to discuss lengthy issues. Don’t let the team debate via a long Slack thread. 
  • Be wary of the meaning of written messages. Some people can read Slack differently to how it may have been written or intended, especially with no body language or voice tone as clues. Therefore, be wary of firing back messages straight away. Take a breath and consider another angle before responding.

Team Management 

When you’re not seeing your team face-to-face each day, it's vitally important to set up an effective team management plan. This not only ensures that your employees are engaged, productive and hitting their targets independently, but also makes sure you have oversight of their mental and physical well-being. 

Preparing employees for working from home (WFH)

  • Ask employees if they are expecting any post to be delivered to the office so that alternative arrangements can be made. Ask for all other orders to be cancelled or rerouted. 
  • Circulate info on the correct desk set-up for home working. If employees require a particular set-up (e.g. two monitors), arrange for these to be delivered to their homes.
    • For example, pay for them to take a taxi home with extra monitors and equipment. 
  • Ensure all systems, programmes and drives can be accessed remotely.
  • Offer to enhance employees’ set-up so they can WFH effectively. For example, offer to purchase:
    • Signal boosters for those with poor wifi at home. 
    • Mouse, keyboards or an office chair. It may seem an additional outlay, but given this situation has an indefinite end date, the efficiency rewards outweigh the financial costs. 

Keeping your team engaged and productive 

Managers should encourage their employees to:

  • Follow an “arrive at your desk” policy. This includes sticking to your regular working routines, such as taking a shower, getting changed into normal clothes and having a balanced breakfast before sitting down to work at a proper desk with a professional background. 
    • We find that asking employees to get some fresh air (at least five minutes out the house) each morning helps prepare them for the day ahead. 
  • Take daily physical activity. 
  • Eat well and healthy. Use the extra time at home to cook well-balanced meals. 
  • Take regular breaks. 5-10 minutes away from the ‘desk’ will keep the mind fresh throughout the working day. 
  • Stay in contact with family & friends. 

Supporting your team's mental health and well-being

Managers should:

  • Foster company culture remotely. For example, set up weekly photo competitions (e.g. best snap from a socially-distanced walk or best home office set-up), creative challenges and games or ways to share healthy lunch recipes or book ideas. 
  • Ensure team meetings have time set aside for an "open forum" to discuss non-work items. 
    • We find ‘morning coffee catch-ups’ via Zoom can work well too. 
  • Prepare specific questions to monitor well-being. For example, don’t ask ‘are you ok?’ as it’s too easy to say yes. 
  • Be open and transparent. Employees will likely not be aware of what is happening in other parts of the business, so keep them informed of key developments. 
  • Have an open door policy. Be available throughout the day, evenings and weekends. 
  • Set reminders on Slack for employees to drink water, stretch and breath. It may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget when engrossed in work. 

Managers should also consider: 

  • Offering a well-being budget. Consider giving employees funds to purchase wellness products, such as a yoga mat. 
  • Creating a ‘buddy’ system for junior roles. Connecting two people in similar roles can encourage employees to reach out for support, advice and guidance on the different aspects of the role.

Get in touch 

FYXER has been working semi-remotely since 2015 and fully remotely since 2019. Our Fyxers and management team are experts in this field and will help you not only prepare for remote working, but take advantage of the situation. With no set end date and the chance for repeat spikes in coming years, establishing effective conditions and processes for remote working early can have long-lasting benefits.

 

 

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Topics: Virtual Assistants, Executive Assistants, Remote Working, Outsourcing, Covid-19, Coronavirus