How can teams be successfully managed when working from home due to the pandemic?


Ruth Simsa, Institute for Sociology and Social Research

First off: Over the past year, managing teams remotely has worked out much better than supervisors expected. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many managers were concerned about losing control of teleworking teams. But the pandemic showed us what was possible and encouraged many people to try out and also develop new distance management methods. Employees show higher motivation when working (voluntarily) from home, and research results show that their productivity levels also tend to be higher.

I’ve listed a few selected aspects below, but this list is not exhaustive:
  • Contact: Teleworking requires brief, more frequent contact, responses, and reactions.

  • Start the day off together: Kick off the day together with a brief telemeeting, just to get in touch and set goals for the day.

  • It’s especially important to make sure that reserved, introverted team members don’t get left behind.

  • Virtual meetings: Meetings should be held considerably more often but kept much shorter than if the team were working together in the office. A virtual meeting should never run longer than 90 minutes, a maximum of one hour is ideal.

  • As a supervisor, you should also be involved in informal aspects to a certain extent, making sure no-one gets left behind, checking to see if you’re being included where necessary, and supporting your team as needed.

  • Supervisors can also act as role models for self-management: Show your team how you manage your everyday work well and stay healthy and organized when working from home.

  • Discuss with your team what kinds of supervision are needed, and how much. Will technical tools will be used for supervision, and if so, under which conditions? And how can results be correctly assigned and evaluated?

  • When teams are working from home, rules have to be agreed on in a clearer and more explicit manner (e.g. with regard to who is responsible for what, sharing information, managing time, etc.).

  • Take time to reflect with your team on your mutual expectations in terms of support, personal respect, goals, and workload.

  • Psychological safety: Create an environment where team members are not punished for feeling uncertain, making mistakes, or having doubts, so that the team can communicate openly. This involves seeing work as a learning situation rather than simply a way to get things done.

To find out more, see the recently published book : Simsa, R. & Patak, M.: Leadership & Homeoffice. So gelingt Führung auf Distanz, Vienna, 2021

Ruth Simsa, Institute for Sociology and Social Research

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