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Managing Employees in Remote Work Environments

by Lawyers Mutual |

Suddenly most of us find ourselves working remotely instead of sitting in our offices conversing with colleagues conquering the day. For managing partners and supervising attorneys, now is the time to tap into those leadership skills to keep everyone motivated and connected.

So, how do you effectively handle teams during the current work climate?

Communication serves as the key to the success especially when employees are suddenly working remotely, adding distance and technology to the equation. Transparent and timely communication play a particularly important role be it relating to shifting priorities, operational changes, client management or internal communication. The supervisor now influences even more of the team’s ability to work together and have a healthy, collaborative remote work environment.

Tips on Effective Management for Remote Employees

  1. Frequent check-ins. Check-in regularly with your staff. Set regular meeting intervals and be consistent. Vary the tone of the meetings. For example, schedule team meetings to keep everyone updated on work projects, but schedule daily one-on-one check-ins to see how the staff member is coping.
  2. Face-to-face or voice-to-voice. Since your team cannot meet in person, schedule team video or conference calls. Again, Microsoft Teams or Skype are great programs for this. Zoom is another good option. Many of these programs also have a feature where you can change your background image, so you have the look of presenting from outer space or the great pyramids.
  3. Exemplify solid communication skills. Err on the side of overcommunicating. Stellar communication skills take on great importance with remote teams: be a good listener, show trust and respect, and inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging. Sometimes you may also want to follow up a video or phone call with an email to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  4. Explicit expectations. Be very clear with your expectations from your team. This is especially important now, since most of you have staff working remotely for the first time. Some of these individuals may be struggling with balancing remote work with home schooling or childcare. Having clear, reasonable expectations provides a sense of stability in an uncertain time.
  5. Be available. Employees are facing fundamental changes at work and home, and they are probably feeling stressed to adequately manage both. Be available through multiple means of technology (phone, text, email, Skype, etc.) to accommodate the staff members best line of communication for a particular day or situation.
  6. Mix up technology tools. Use multiple means of communicating with your team. Learn how to use video conferencing tools remotely if you haven’t done so before. Pick up the phone occasionally. Use group chat to work on projects together or just to converse.
  7. Prioritize relationships. Go out of your way to form personal bonds with your remote employees. Ask about their personal lives, families, etc. Offer resources on well-being and wellness. Make time for “water cooler” conversation to build teamwide connections and relationships. If you use a chat program like Microsoft Teams or Skype to communicate with your team, make use of emojis and Gifs to add humor during informal discussions. Demonstrate the human factor of this new state of being we all finds ourselves navigating these days.  Never hurts to sprinkle a little humor along the way.
  8. Share Time Management Advice. Given the demands on time and attention at home, it may be tricky for some team members to remain productive like a regular day in the office. Share with your team the importance of dedicated workspace and maintaining a daily schedule with breaks. Let your team know that you understand they have sliding priorities at home and you are there to help assist them as needed.

With your management skill in play, don’t forget about you!  Whether working from home or in the office, take time to sharper your professional development skills by taking a webinar or reading an article.  Online communication companies such as LinkedIn offer webinars on management topics ranging from How to Be Productive Manager of Virtual Teams to Executive Presence on Virtual Calls.  Legal organizations such as the ABA are responding to the pandemic with similar programming for their members.  We are all life-long learners. 

Do yourself a favor and take action - - set your team up for success in the remote work world!

About the Author

Lawyers Mutual

Lawyers Mutual, founded in 1977, is the first lawyers mutual insurance company in the country and has provided continuous professional liability coverage to North Carolina lawyers for 40 years. Its reputation for leadership, professionalism and commitment to its attorneys sets the standard for other legal malpractice insurance providers. For more information, call 800.662.8843, follow us on Twitter @LawyersMutualNC, connect on our LinkedIn page, like us on Facebook

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