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    Managing teams as we phase back to office life

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    By Roddy Adair, Director of Hays Personal & Executive Assistants

    Managing a team which is working remotely has been a new challenge for many managers, and one which cropped up practically overnight when the UK went into lockdown earlier in March.

    The changes in our world of work aren’t slowing down anytime soon and business leaders are looking at how they can get their workplaces up and running again in the safest way possible. Managers will most likely need to coordinate teams where individuals are working in different locations (some in the office and some remotely) and on different schedules. 

    As we move into this new, agile way of working, your schedule could be your biggest asset for managing your team effectively. Here are five things you can do to refresh your schedule and make the most of it as a management tool in this new world of work.  

    Lay out a detailed plan of communication
    The importance of communicating with your team shouldn’t come as a surprise to you as a manager. But in a new world of work where your team may be spread between the office and home, possibly working staggered shifts, communication is even more vital.

    In your schedule, you need to form a robust communications plan involving your whole team. Consider the following:

    1. What you need to communicate with your staff on a recurring basis
    2. Who needs to be involved
    3. Where these individuals are based
    4. How often this communication needs to take place
    5. What the method of communication will be

    Laying out a comms plan with these points in mind will keep you communicating smoothly with your team without having to keep referring to where each individual is based. 

    Schedule inclusively
    Once you have a watertight comms plan in place, you need to ensure that anything in your schedule involving your team is as inclusive as it can be. 

    Start with looking at the technology you have in place. If your staff have been working remotely up until now, you’ll no doubt be using a variety of tools to stay in touch. But transitioning back to an office environment or working across a work desktop and personal laptop might make it challenging maintaining use of this tech. Ask yourself:

    • Can everyone still access the technology that I’ve suggested we use?
    • Is the way we use it (i.e. for video calling, instant messaging etc.) still appropriate?
    • Is training available for new and existing staff to use this technology?

    Meetings are another area of your schedule where you should consider inclusivity. As many of your meetings will consist of remote workers calling in to those in the office, make sure dial in details are clear and accessible. You can also minimise absences by taking an informal role call before the meeting starts and involving everyone in the agenda.

    Refresh your priorities each day
    Business priorities are constantly shifting at the moment as organisations adapt to new ‘normals’, so it’s helpful to take stock first thing each day on what your priorities are. Not only does this give you clarity for the day ahead, if you share this with your team it can help inject a sense of unity and purpose into their work too.

    Refreshing your daily priorities should cover the stats of key projects you’re managing, upcoming deadlines or targets, potential issues and support for your team. Plotting a brief window of time in your calendar each morning will encourage you to go through these – if you feel it would be helpful to involve your team, schedule a recurring virtual meeting or circulate a quick email at the start of each day.

    Factor in time for maintaining work/life balance
    Your wellbeing and work-life balance should absolutely be a consideration whenever you’re working on your schedule. Many of us have been victims of overworking and perhaps even experienced burnout, so avoid this by taking measures like not scheduling meetings late in the afternoon and factoring in a lunch break each day.

    As a manager, it’s also your responsibility to keep an eye on your staff’s wellbeing and ensure they are managing their work/life balance. Keep an eye on anyone who sends emails late at night or on the weekend, or seems to be struggling to maintain their workload and stick to deadlines.

    To ensure your staff keep their work-life balance in check, consider scheduling in time for:

    • Out of work social activities like quizzes over video call
    • Virtual coffee mornings or afternoon tea drop-ins
    • 1-2-1s where you can check in on your team and ask how they’re managing 

    Remember the value of feedback
    Giving feedback won’t be new to you as a manager, but when things change and our idea of normality is flipped on its head, often making time to feed back to your staff is forgotten about.

    It’s likely that your team will have had to work hard to adjust to these circumstances, so your feedback will be even more valuable to them at the moment. Therefore, you ought to schedule time in with individuals and your collective team to let them know how they’re doing. Try to slot in virtual team huddles, fortnightly 1-2-1s and end of week wrap-ups – and of course give equal feedback to everyone regardless of where they’re based.

    Hopefully you’re ready to embrace this new challenge on the horizon as your workforce starts phasing back into the office gradually. Even if this period kicks up new obstacles for you as a manager, investing in your schedule now will help you lead your team through this shift and help them – and you – thrive.

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