Remote work isn’t a new concept. Progressive organisations have promoted flexible working practices for some time now. For organisations that haven’t, the COVID19 pandemic is creating extreme disruption and ultimately forcing them to rethink the way they do business.

With remote work becoming the new norm, and likely to continue for months to come, here are a few bad habits you might need to break if you want to enable your team to be successful and as productive as ever.

Bad habit #1 - Helicopter Management

People don’t respond well to micromanagement. In fact, it’s essentially impossible to do with remote teams. Sadly, shifting to remote work has seen some organisations rush to buy spyware and try to scare their employees into being ‘productive’. Have you ever heard the saying ‘the strictest parents raise the best liars’? The same is true in a work context.

Micromanagement creates environments where people find savvy ways to ‘appear’ to be productive. In addition, it enables a culture in which people don’t feel comfortable telling the truth.

So how do you get the best out of your team, without watching their every move?

Be clear on the team’s purpose, goals and how each team member can contribute to achieving these goals. Set regular check in points, such as weekly team catch ups or a quick daily check in, so people can share progress and any blockers they’re facing.

Giving people accountability and responsibility, and helping them solve problems is hugely more effective than buying spyware to log people’s computer keystrokes.

A good rule of thumb to follow? If you don’t trust people to work from home, you probably shouldn’t hire them in the first place.

You want to create an environment where people have a purpose, and a culture where people are intrinsically motivated. This is true regardless of whether people are working from home, the office or anywhere else.

Bad habit #2 - The meeting after the meeting is where the real decisions get made

This is a bad habit in the office and at home. It is most likely a symptom of a lack of trust, and doesn’t translate to a remote way of working in a healthy way.

Remote work is a real opportunity to take a good look at your cadence and all the meetings taking place. I’ve seen video calls with upwards of 50 people on the line. Multiply that by everyone’s hourly salary and you might squirm when you realise how much that meeting just cost you.

You want to encourage collaboration and set regular times to check in with the team, but all meetings should be short and to the point. Involve the right people so decisions can be made quickly. Don’t waste people’s time by inviting them just for the sake of it. Set clear goals for the meeting and be clear on the purpose and decisions that need to be made before you kick off.

Bad habit #3 - People don’t feel psychologically safe enough to speak up

This is a problem in a lot of workplaces that is essentially amplified when teams go remote. Whether it be due to office politics, multiple levels of hierarchy, command and control leadership styles or simply clashes of personalities - it’s hugely detrimental to teams and is a key problem that needs to be addressed.

Psychological safety is a fundamental factor for team success. When it’s lacking, here’s what happens:

  1. People become demotivated
  2. It kills creativity, innovation and the generation of new ideas
  3. Other business problems are harder to solve, and inevitably become worse
  4. Teams tune out, collaboration starts to feel pointless, and remote work eventually becomes a series of back to back video calls with no real work done - and in turn, no real team outcomes achieved or real value delivered

Creating a psychologically safe space and positive work culture is crucial, especially when teams are working remote. Encourage people to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas. Don’t punish people while they’re adjusting to a completely different way of working, which can understandably take time. Build trust with your team, make sure everyone’s clear on their purpose, goals and outcomes the team is working towards. And most importantly ask for feedback. Remember, being a leader doesn’t mean being a babysitter. It means inspiring your team to kick ass regardless of the circumstances, and breaking down the barriers blocking them from being the best they can be.