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Best Practices for Managing a Remote Team

Effective March 18, 2020, Iona College will transition the majority of our faculty and staff to working remotely from home. Our Coronavirus Task Force has been meeting several time a day for the past week and monitoring all recommendations from the state and local officials. In order to ensure the safety and well-being of employees and our local community, we will limit onsite employees to include facilities, security and residential life. All other employees should work with their manager on developing their transition to work remote plan. Employees will have access to their offices on Wednesday to pick up any items needed to successfully transition to this new arrangement.

We are hopeful that social distancing and preventative practices will help not only contain, but eliminate the spread of this virus. These are challenging times but together we will prevail and show the world the strength and resilience of the Iona Community.

Best Practices for Managers & Employees

1. Set Clear Expectations

Clarity around expectations will be the key to success. Ensure manager and employee are both clear on specific goals and deliverables. Highlight by showing examples of what you expect to be done, calendar sharing, excel spreadsheets or whatever works best for your team. When in doubt ask questions.

2. Treat Remote as Local

Treat your remote office like your Iona office. Be available to each other as much as possible. Respond to each other as quickly as possible. To ensure ease of communication provide each other the best way to reach you – text, call or email.

A great suggestion is to transfer your Iona phone to your cell phone for easy accessibility for those leveraging the employee directory. IT can help transfer your phone if you do not plan to return to the office.

3. Engage Regularly and Keep Engaging

Engage as a team on a daily basis through some kind of communication. A great option is a virtual morning stand up meeting, possibly a Zoom meeting, that allows each team member to share their high priorities for the day, request support from their team members and hear daily updates from their manager. This is a great way to ensure the team starts with a virtual touch point from their manager and peers. Use multiple channels to communicate and work together as often as possible. Maintain a regular 1-on-1 with manager and employee. This should be a dedicated time to discuss your projects and overall wellbeing.

4. Schedule Video-Based Coaching & Collaboration Tools

Schedule time and look at one another when you're speaking. On the management end, check in frequently (daily) using collaboration tools, shared docs and spreadsheets, phone calls, chat, and video to invest in the relationship.

5. Establish Work from Home Guidelines

Set up work-from-home guidelines, such as emails must be responded to within 2 hours, use text for urgent matters, and no calls between certain hours to make sure teammates are not working around the clock. Take into account the special circumstances we are dealing with at this time. Employees and managers should talk openly about the challenges they are facing that makes a standard schedule difficult and how they can best work around them.

6. Stay Focused On Goals, Not Activity

It is important to manage expectations and stay focused on goals when embracing a remote workforce. Don't worry as much about what or when something is being done. Instead, concentrate on what is being accomplished. If we are meeting our goals, then great. If not, we need to look into the situation further.

7. Create A Communication Strategy

Managing a productive team remotely begins with a strategy for communication. First, arrange for the appropriate number of weekly formal "report-ins." Second, set guidelines about daily needs. Some people work better with a shopping list of questions and thoughts while others like a trickle. Speak openly to each other and figure out what is best for you in this new arrangement. An understanding of what is urgent will further mitigate inefficiency, allowing ultimate productivity. Encourage people to stay in working mode and off email back-and-forth as much as is reasonable. Email trails with extensive "reply all" can be stifling on productivity.

8. Tips for Your Remote Work Day

Plan to work your regular hours each day from home if your situation allows for it. Take your lunch and breaks as if you were in the office. Establish a schedule for your day and try to stay with it. Do not rely on email for all communication but rather call your manager or peers to continue a regular dialogue similar to the office. Try to create a work space free of household distractions if possible.

9. Use the Opportunity to Promote Training and Development

Online training and development tools can and should be utilized. Consider individual training needs of your staff and help them to prioritize this while working remotely.

10. Provide and Collect Feedback Regularly

Work together to keep your team culture strong. These are challenging times for all of us so support each other as often as possible. Remote work can feel isolating and challenging, but teams who have a shared vision and show appreciation for each other will have great success. Culture is about human beings, and people want to feel part of something positive and bigger than themselves. Share feedback bi-directionally on what is working and what could be improved.