The following is a recap summary from our webinar on “Team Management 101: How To Manage Your Team Remotely And Effectively?” which was hosted on March 12, 2020. You may watch the recording of the event here.
The COVID-19/Coronavirus Outbreak is now a global pandemic that is drastically changing the way we work, not so much out of preference but more of necessity. As employees are adapting to working from home out of necessity and honing the essential WFH skills and best practices, employers and managers are left with the big question: how can I effectively manage my team remotely? In our webinar, two managers with experience managing a remote working team - Ho Yin from Remo and James from Garage Society answers the big question.
Q: What are your companies’ leave and health policies/ WFH arrangements implemented in relation to coronavirus?
A: A client-facing business like Garage has implemented measures such as reduced work hours, supported staff to take 2 days off per week during the process and a number of hygiene procedures to communicate our response to the virus to our members.
Q: Do you have a short-term workforce plan to address any gaps/unplanned needs that are emerging?
A: In the short term, we leverage our training to enable any staff member to help support business-critical operations.
Q: Under the current situation, what are your employees’ feedback on the remote working arrangement?
A: For client-facing businesses, day-to-day operations have been a challenge, but those staff involved in knowledge roles have found that their productivity increased. I personally enjoy working at home, where I have a good home office setup with a big screen monitor that allows me to work almost more effectively than in the office.
Q: How do you see the importance for employers to practice empathy and compassion given they themselves are facing cash flows and revenue issues?
A: Employees need to use their EQ to work with key team members to drive support structures within their business. Openness and transparency form a key part of this approach, and if you have already promoted a healthy work culture, you should see employers coming to your aid to support business-critical functions. The ramifications of both losing the support of your team, coupled with revenue and cash flow issues, could result in further, greater damage in the long run.
Q: What is your view on no-pay leave in this situation?
A: For some industries (aviation or F&B for example) this seems to, unfortunately, be the solution that makes the most sense in the face of an overwhelming lack of demand. Ultimately, it is important to sustain business continuity and adapt to rebuild. There is a broader question, particularly in the service sector and within the shared economy industry around workers rights and how much of a workforce who now rely on flexible contracts have lost important rights that protect their livelihood in these sort of situations.
Q: Despite the ongoing situation, some employees may still intend to travel to areas with coronavirus outbreak. To what extent do employers have control over these employees’ travel decisions?
A: Most have been implementing an extended quarantine to those who have travelled. I (James) went to Japan with my wife in Feb to run the Kyoto Marathon. My boss asked me to wear a mask in the office for 2 weeks, whereas my wife had to work from home for 14 days. As above, I feel these situations need to be accessed on a case by case basis, with a general consensus that booking travel at the moment is not to be advised.
Q: What are the differences between remote working tools and team management tools?
A: There are a lot of overlaps in terms of managing and monitoring projects - but remote working tools focus primarily on video conferencing and collaboration through cloud software. A big challenge for larger corporations has been their lack of integration with products that allow collaboration and promote remote working abilities across devices.
Q: What are the challenges of implementing remote working in your teams?
A: The challenges lie in ensuring effective project management of tasks through these platforms, ensuring that your staff has a suitable working environment at home and maintaining a semblance of company culture and engagement with staff across the weeks.
Q: How to overcome the lack of trust between managers and team members?
A: Transparency around work, regular check-ins and monitoring of work capacity all play a part. This [coronavirus] situation will also highlight frictions or issues that already exist so it is an important time to address things for the future. If you don’t have faith in your staff’s honesty there is a broader question to address.
Q: What are the necessary support mechanisms to enable the full adoption of remote working? How to establish a remote work culture?
A: Effective use of some of the key productivity and project management tools shared will help to cultivate a culture of remote work. By nature, a company like Garage or Remo already works flexibly across different spaces, takes weekly calls across our spaces and works regionally with others. We’ve had all our work in the cloud since inception, so the culture is already there, and staff is encouraged to collaborate in documents, share ideas and build out things digitally.
Q: In what ways can employee experience be impacted by an extended period of remote working? What needs to be done to support employees’ wellbeing during and after the remote working period?
A: It comes down to culture and social engagement - after an extended period of WFH, it can be common to detach a little from your company culture, vision and mission. It also presents challenges in building effective relationships with staff old and new. In other ways, it may also highlight workplace issues and the fact that you can actually be more productive working from home. A short staff survey on the impact WFH had on them could address some of these issues, combined with some reinforcement of company culture practices and improvements in the office, or even a more flexible work schedule to support WFH.
Q: How do you see the future of transforming offices into technology-based remote workplaces? How can employers and HR managers embrace this paradigm shift?
A: This has been one of the biggest WFH experiments in recent history, and a boon for many of the tools mentioned in terms of customer acquisition. I believe companies in the knowledge sector can definitely utilize WFH to reduce office space overheads and adopt more flexible working environments to support their staff.
Q: Any learnings that will be useful for your company’s future work practices?
A: Building out better documentation around risk management, streamlining some of our work processes and exploring how we can offer WFH in the future as an option are some of our key learnings.
Q: Coronavirus is not something permanent. When the economy rebounds, what is your mid-to-long-term plan to stay ahead of the competition?
A: Adapting and strengthening our online/offline offering of services, leveraging the flatness of the market to introduce new ideas and bring about new excitement.
Q: How to make sure your team is not slacking off on work?
Put in a structure on how to track work.
Use Slack or virtual offices – team members have to log in and check-in.
Manage team by performance and output.
Hire right - “Remote workers have to have certain characters in order for remote work to work.”
Check-in weekly from video calls (e.g. one staff works in Taiwan - set up project tracker).
Q: How to keep staff motivated in remote working?
Make sure the place that you are working in is not distracting.
Celebrating work through shared rituals (e.g. Happy Hour) and doing things together other than work to form stronger team bonds (e.g. online games).
Q: What insight did you learn over this stretch?
Many companies and businesses need to update work policies, especially those related to working remotely.
Disaster recovery: clone your work procedures to another location.
Planning and developing new procedures on how to work remotely.
Risk management and update processes for companies.
Maybe only a portion of your team needs to have an office and not all.
Opens up possibilities of working remotely and hiring offshore staff.
Q: How to manage a team of different backgrounds?
Make a ppt of one slide collage to share cultural differences (of things that mattered to them).
Discovery and curiosity - learning about the other person.
Develop group rituals: online gaming like PUBG can have teams experience emotions together with the effect of team-building.
Sharing insights into your culture.
Balance team engagement and asking quiet staff members to share to stir interaction and feedback.
Q: What are some useful tools that are conducive to working remotely?
Tracker: desktime, activtrack, Toggl, Timedoctor
Project management software: Trello, Asana, Monday.com, Wrike, Slack
Video conferencing tool: Zoom
James Bernardo is the Regional Programme Director at Garage Society. He manages activations in different markets and oversees staff across HK, India & SG through Cloud tools. In many ways, Garage has already been working remotely and promoting the future of work ethos through our flexible spaces.
Ho Yin Cheung is the Founder and CEO of Remo. He manages team members in the US, HK and India. Similar to the current situation the world is facing now, for Ho Yin, remote working is out of necessity as he sources talent from different parts of the world.
Strengthen mental health in the workplace and introduce a culture of wellness and mental wellbeing to increase productivity, creativity, and employee happiness.
Every year March 8th rolls around, and the world wakes up to recognise and celebrate the countless women who make the backbone of our social structure. The last couple of years have been quite significant in taking celebrations from just being about the cookies and cupcakes to being about the cognisance of social and workplace gender biases. At Garage Society, we care about the community, and being inclusive is our long term commitment. This one extra day just gives us an excuse to share our thoughts on the subject with you.
Written by Aaron Chen (Garage Society)
Song to set the mood: Technologic by Daft Punk
Editor’s note: In December 2019, Garage Academy hosted a panel discussion for fellow techies to keep up on the latest tech trends featuring tech venture capitalist Furuzonfar Zehni and tech entrepreneur Chris Schrader. In this article, we have curated a summary (with added elaboration and research) of the excerpt we captured from the evening of our panel discussion, which you can view here.