Last week I led a discussion on managing remote admission and enrollment teams in a breakout session during our Virtual Revisit Day. I’m the Director of Sales at SchoolAdmin and have been managing a team with both remote and local members. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks that have helped maximize both our success and our happiness.
Here are some best practices and ideas to help you manage your team while remote, plus some of the tools I’ve found most helpful.
Best Practices for Your Remote Team
Here are my top seven best practices for remote teams:
1. Communicate communicate communicate.
Err on the side of over-communicating. Shorter communication cycle times are often MORE effective in building and sustaining morale and engagement.
I try to be intentional about how I communicate, via what channel, and when, and use multiple channels be it text, email, zoom, or a phone call. For me, I use email for critical communications and I use Slack for more casual communication or questions. Slack or any other messenger app will absolutely cut down on your email.
That being said, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. As a matter of fact, the New York Times just had an opinion piece come out on how the phone call is back. Surprising, right?! But by talking things out in 2-3 minutes you’ll eliminate confusion over a series of emails or messages.
2. Set clear expectations and goals.
Setting clear expectations and goals will help your team thrive. Make sure every team member knows what is expected of them, knows what their tasks are, and feels comfortable and able to accomplish them remotely. This isn’t much different than what you were doing before working from home, although you may need to reset your expectations. The when and how of things has been disrupted so allow team members to accomplish their responsibilities on their own terms. This means focusing on results and offering more flexibility.
You’ll also want to frequently clarify your goals and roles. Re-prioritization is likely going to happen much more often.
I’d also recommend that you use a centralized location for people to see progress on your goals like a folder in Google Drive, a spreadsheet that shows progress toward metrics, or even Asana.
3. Support your team.
Remember to offer grace to your teammates along with help and support during this time. Check in to see how they’re doing. I like to ask “how are you feeling?” I find that I get a more honest response.
One thing you can do to support each team member is set up regular 1:1 meetings to connect with each of your team members. Ideally, these should be held weekly, but sometimes something comes up and you may have to cancel. If we need to cancel, we make sure those meetings get rescheduled ASAP.
Another thing I do is assign buddies and peer coaches. This accelerates learning and creates a second layer of mutual support and guards against emotional isolation. For example, every Monday morning, a calendar notification reminds my team to sync with someone on the team (hopefully someone different each week) at some point during the week to talk about things they’re hearing. The feedback they get from peers often means more than feedback coming from me, and they put it to use.
4. Own your leadership position + lead by example.
This can be hard to do when you’re not face to face as often. But try to be the first to communicate. Share how you’re doing during updates and conversations, and share what you’re working on. Remember to set goals for yourself and share those with the team.
And be vulnerable. There are going to be good days and not so good days, and that’s fine. Communicate with your team that it’s okay to not have all the answers and that you’re available to talk through things. Make it crystal clear that your chief concern is the well-being of your team.
5. Allow time for unstructured connection.
With no mutual lunch breaks, the ability to shoulder tap someone, or the loss of a joke being made in passing, you need to make time for unstructured connection. When you’re not in the office you lose out on watercooler talk and all the activity that happens when you’re just moving around the office. You’ll likely need to be more intentional about making time to connect.
6. Encourage routine.
Some of my team members have a tough time with this, especially the ones who weren’t working from home before being required to because of COVID-19. I think it’s important to set a routine for your day. Encourage your team to take a lunch break and agree on working hours (stop working at 5 pm!). It can be hard to step away from the work when it’s so close by, but doing so can help teammates relax and maintain a better work-life balance.
I’ve had some push back on this but I also think it’s important to have a designated work area, if possible. Some people are fine working from a bed or the couch, but I have made it a point to keep certain areas of the home separate from work. I want to associate my bed with sleep and my couch for relaxing so I encourage the same for your team.
7. Empathize when distractions occur.
For many of us, there’s just no way to remove ourselves from the everyday happenings of life. That’s going to mean kids will interrupt and dogs may be barking during your scheduled meetings. That’s okay. Almost every virtual meeting I’ve been on since we’ve been working from home has had some sort of distraction. We’re all in this together so understand and make light of those unexpected interruptions. If you’re looking for ways to entertain your kids you can download and print this coloring book we made to help keep them busy (or maybe you just need to unwind and de-stress and want to color a few yourself!).
Ideas Your Remote Team Can Implement
Here are a few ideas you can implement to help your team stay on track, make progress, and feel more connected.
1. Daily standup
This is my favorite and at SchoolAdmin we call it Daily standup. The idea is to start every day on the same page. Sync up with your team every morning and have everyone share one goal for the day, or one task they want to complete. You can do this via Slack by just having everyone send in their goal at a particular time, like 9 AM, or you can hop on a quick video call in Zoom.
My team does this via an automated form in Slack. I always ask three simple questions:
- What was my biggest priority yesterday and did I accomplish it?
- What is my highest priority today?
- What are you blocked on (if any)?
These three questions make it painfully obvious what teams should be working on each day on top of other regular tasks. It can also help you remove obstacles and move forward and make more progress towards goals.
2. Remote walk and talks
We’re cooped up in the house and might be getting stir crazy. Get some sunshine and fresh air. Take a bi-weekly virtual walk and talk with your team. Have everyone dial into a Zoom meeting on their phones (audio-only) and go for a walk “together”–ideally outside but inside if necessary.
3. Virtual Happy Hour
Have everyone join a video call to unwind and talk after a long week. Make time for fun, relaxed conversation. Especially right now with social distancing and a lack of connection, it might make your team feel more refreshed.
4. Make time for fun
Create a slack channel where you can share fun findings, funny pictures, a funny GIF, or good news. Have fun in messaging channels. One thing we do is share our “silver linings”, or the best moment of the day or something positive about working from home. Use technology to bridge the gap.
5. Do a challenge or set a group goal
Do something as a team to build community. You could all agree to complete 3 workout classes via an app, get outside for 15 minutes a day, or try something new together. This is great for team building and connecting outside of work.
Tools to Use
These are some of the best tools you can use to help manage your team remotely:
Asana is a great project tool to help your team organize, track, and manage work. You can create and assign tasks with due dates, organize your tasks by project, and see what everyone else is working on. Additionally, you can see if you’re behind or ahead of schedule. It can help you track big projects and make sure you’re on task.
Slack is an instant messaging system/platform that can help your team communicate throughout the day. You can set up automated messages, join different channels for announcements, feature ideas, admissions, alumni channel, or other things. You can also private message people. Protip: download the app so you don’t have to keep another tab open but still get notifications throughout the day.
Using a video conferencing platform is the best way to get face-time with your team. Zoom has both a paid and free option and Skype and Google Hangouts offer free versions as well although we’ve found Zoom to be the best for our team.
I’m a huge fan of noise-canceling headphones. There are tons of options and price ranges out there but this is a truly helpful tool to limit distractions if you’re working remotely with others in the house.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share information about SchoolAdmin’s Enrollment Management tools. It’s an ideal solution for running your enrollment process online and remotely, engaging with families, and collaborating with your team. You can set up automated communications, reminders, and log notes and progress on student accounts. To learn more, you can watch a Virtual Revisit Day breakout session Cody Weaver hosted, “Using SchoolAdmin in a Virtual World.” You can learn about the tools to use within our platform that are particularly helpful as you transition to a virtual environment.
Wrapping It Up
Following some best practices and trying out new ideas can help your team flourish while remote. Being intentional about communication methods, having fun, and using key tools can make this experience a positive one. While it may be difficult to adjust to this new work environment, it’s also a great opportunity to shake things up and try new things. You may even find you grow closer as a team and are even more productive and happy long-term as a result.
Watch our on-demand webinar “Surviving and Thriving in a Virtual Workspace” to learn tried and true tips for managers, teammates, and teams of 1 that can make a work from home day feel like just another day at the office.