Ready to Shift to Remote Work? 4 Practical Tips for Leading a Remote Team.

Mar 06, 2020

In a manner of days, organizations across the globe are finding their operations, employees and potentially, their futures, affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. This real-world scenario is the big nudge some organizations may need to get on top of contingency planning and quickly responding in a way that provides certainty in uncertain times (certainty for your employees, customers and board). Click here to read our article about the five things you need to be doing right now to help create certainty in your organization.

This article focuses on how to dial up your team’s productivity and engagement if you decide to shift your employees to working remotely to mitigate the risk of infection. We’ll cover:

If you haven’t seen our canvas on how to protect the health of your business, check it out here!

Practical Tips to Keep Your Team Productive During Uncertain Times

#1 – Make Sure You Have the Technology You Need In Place

Ensure every employee, including those who are remaining in the office, have the technology they need to work with their colleagues from anywhere effectively. Each team has different needs, but here are a few pieces of business technology that could keep your team operating remotely if need be.

  • Communication Tools: Slack or teams for communication, Zoom or WebEx for conferencing, and of course your standard email communication tools.
  • Hardware: Make sure you have portable and durable hardware (e.g., up to date laptops with great cameras) your team can leverage working remotely.
  • Tools & Software for Productivity: CMS or DMS, or Tools that allow networked access to all our important (and the not-so-important) files, documents, forms are standard operating procedure in business today.
  • Access to Servers or Data: Make sure your VPN or other security systems are in place so your workforce can access anything from anywhere with clearly documentation and distribution. That way no one working remotely can say, "I can’t access that from here."

#2 – Build Check Ins for Accountability

With a remote team, it’s important to build-in more communication and an accountability infrastructure. Here are a couple ideas that work well for remote teams:

  • Daily 5-minute check-ins: Have quick team check-ins or 1:1s with those who report to you. You can even do this every few days if it works better for your team culture.
  • Have Online Meetings with Mandatory “Cameras On”: Hold online meetings, turn on your cameras, and require that everyone comes prepared with what they are focusing on getting done that day and what they’ll need from one another to get it done.

#3 – Make Yourselves Seen

Did we mention turning on your camera during those virtual meetings? Expect this of every person in every meeting, even one-to-ones. But, more meaningfully, make an effort to communicate and be seen. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be Prompt and Proactive: Proactively ping your colleagues on Slack [or Teams] with the same question you’d ask if they were at the desk next to you in the office; respond to emails promptly; set your status on Slack so people know if you’re heads down or available to chat.
  • Be Flexible, But Persistent: If a Slack or email chain goes beyond 3 messages, suggest hopping on a call or online meeting to get through the discussion more effectively and dynamically.
  • Sometimes, More Meetings are OK: Yes, we’re suggesting more meetings (we don’t love meetings either, but change requires us to act differently for a while), but what we’re recommending is that you have more calls or online meetings to replace those really great hallway chats that happen organically when you’re all in the office.

#4 – Eliminate the Distractions

We know this, but our homes or coffee shops are rarely optimal remote offices, but do what you can to make things work for you. A few ideas include:

  • Follow a Routine: Keeping a standard schedule helps keep you focused. For example, work on mind-bending projects 8a-noon, take a lunch break physically out of the house for an hour, and schedule meetings in the afternoons.
  • Be “At Work”: Sit at your desk/laptop and avoid doing household stuff during work hours (laundry and emptying the dishwasher can wait). If it helps, shut your door in whatever workspace you’re in and stay focused on what is in front of you.
  • Cameras On Helps: Again, cameras on is the greatest disciplinarian to keeping you focused and in-tune during meetings.

Keep Your Remote Team Engaged

Getting back to a highly productive workforce will happen once your team gets used to the remote workstyle–what we call the “whirlwind” if your team follows the few tips above.

But what about keeping the team engaged in the collective effort to see your organization thrive? Just because the team is working remotely doesn’t mean you and they should push pause on thinking about the future success and opportunities for the organization. In fact, take advantage of folks’ change in environments to think outside of the whirlwind (managing the current) and to think about your organization’s strategy (creating the future).

"New ideas arise from an interconnection of old ideas. So that means, at the very least, you have to be exposed to a novel stimulus. It gets you thinking thoughts and combinations that you’ve never experienced before."
-Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist, American Institute for Behavioral Research.
Check out this link to an interesting podcast from Fast Company about how switching up your environment can stimulate creative thinking.

Make Lemonade out of Lemons – Let’s Work Together Remotely

One of OnStrategy’s sweet spots is working remotely with our clients and their teams to build strategic plans or tackle strategic initiatives.

Maybe right now is the time for us to connect with your team. A little bit of shameless self-promotion, but we can work with you and your remote team to do some strategic thinking–let’s ‘get together’ wherever they are and strategize!


Build Your Plan

OnStrategy has designed and implemented a proven process to build your strategic plan remotely in as little as 60 days. For hundreds of clients, we’ve facilitated remote plan building processes that will:

  • Engage your team in creating the future of your organization.
  • Get your team thinking strategically–shift them out of the ‘whirlwind’ for some of their time.
  • Align everyone behind a clear direction and the path and their role to achieve it.

Set 2020 OKRs/Goals

This recent change of venue for your team might be the perfect time to set annual OKRs or goals–it’s still Q1 for most, so it’s not too late–or get a head start on FY21 annual OKR/goal setting. OnStrategy can absolutely support this near-term, strategic focus-setting remotely.

Define or Refine Your Growth Strategy – How Might COVID-19 Impact Your Growth?

When was the last time you reviewed your growth strategy? Is it a little dusty? Maybe you don’t have one, but you know you should, you just haven’t gotten to it.

Certainly, if COVID-19 is going to require you to adapt your growth strategy (Where you’ll play and how you’re going to win), let’s ramp up the remote team’s productivity and engagement by establishing or refreshing your growth strategy. Your team has the quiet space and think time to evaluate the current state of customers, markets and competitors to this with clear guidance and structure from OnStrategy.


Create the Future

Maybe the change of venue is your team’s opportunity to think creatively about initiatives or projects that will create the future for your organization. Is there a new channel or product that if we just carved out the headspace, we could develop the plan to rapidly validate and capitalize on it?

OnStrategy has been using the principles of Sprint by Jake Knapp from Google Ventures to rapidly vet, test, and refine product features of our app in one week or less. Your team might only be working from home for a short while–let’s collaborate to make it creative and innovative!

As your Chief Strategy Officer for-hire, we’ll coordinate with you to lead your team through the strategic thinking you need. We will schedule and run regular remote work sessions for strategic discussions and decision-making, provide structure (and deadlines!) for completing the work offline or better, in small teams.

So, why not tackle the big strategic questions or plans while your team is working remotely and might even have extra time since their commutes are steps, not miles? We promise you two valuable outcomes:

  1. Your team will absolutely be engaged with you, with each other and thinking about the future of the organization while they are more dispersed than usual;
  2. And you will return to normal operating procedure with a plan, goals and focus each person is bought into and has clear understanding of what his or her role is in achieving the organization’s vision.

Remote planning is a terrific way to foster really thought-provoking and strategic conversations among your team during a time when communication with one another has to be intentional and a collective effort because hallway conversations or chance encounters in the breakroom can’t happen for the time being. It gives genuine, strategic purpose to your conversations and the work being done remotely–creating a level of engagement that has a meaningful result and huge impact.




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