The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by organisations across industries and continents. Imposed restrictions have forced many companies to adopt remote working arrangements. Although some organisations are gradually transitioning staff back to the office, it is expected that many teams will continue to work remotely, in some capacity, for the foreseeable future. The following 5 tips will help managers adapt their approach and maintain engaged and productive teams in a remote environment.
Tip 1 – Communication
Communication has always been an essential leadership skill but is now more important than ever. With so much uncertainty, it is essential that staff feel supported and informed. An office environment allows managers to informally share information and maintain relationships with staff. Managers should adopt the following communication practices to support team morale and operational effectiveness while remote working:
· Check in with staff regularly
· Share organisational and job/team information
· Arrange regular team meetings (at least weekly)
· Clearly communicate deadlines and work expectations
· Implement an ‘open door’ approach and keep diaries up to date so that staff are aware of the managers availability.
Tip 2 – Access to Resources
Working from an office provides staff with convenient access to the resources and information required to do their jobs. To support business continuity, it is important that staff have access to the same resources while working remotely. Managers should ensure that staff have access to:
· Key contacts in business areas
· Current audit tools, templates, and procedures
· Secure computers
· Video and teleconferencing technology
· Stable internet access
· Corporate IT systems
· Appropriate furniture or the ability to modify domestic furniture to maintain a safe and health work environment.
Tip 3 – Learning and development
Learning and development opportunities allow staff to develop the skills required to conduct their work effectively. Office environments promote learning through face-to-face mentoring and training delivery. While this may be challenging in a remote environment, it is important that learning and development opportunities continue.
Staff should have access to online professional development that addresses team needs and individual skill gaps. This requires managers to facilitate access to a variety of resources such as IIA webinars and skills-based development tools (e.g. online software training). To promote engagement in remote learning, managers should encourage note taking and the sharing of learning amongst the team. Managers should also consider arranging team debriefs to discuss how learning can be applied to work.
Managers should establish regular virtual mentoring and coaching sessions to support the tacit knowledge that would ordinarily occur informally in the office and that continue to occur through virtual team meetings. Mentoring and coaching sessions should have a clear agenda and could focus on general areas such as performance and goal setting or specific audit areas such as retention of evidence and maintenance of confidentiality during remote fieldwork.
Tip 4 – Promote Wellbeing
The disruption and changes introduced by COVID-19 may have impacted team members’ health and wellbeing. Managers should have this front of mind and actively encourage activities and/or services that support wellbeing, including:
· Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services
· Work/life balance
· Taking breaks throughout the day
· Remote ergonomic assessments.
Tip 5 – Flexibility
Remote working may require staff to balance their work duties with unavoidable distractions such as technical issues or children needing attention. It is important for managers to be flexible and patient while team members navigate these issues. If required, managers should consider offering staff adjusted start and finish times, compressed work weeks or part-time arrangements. Managers should also determine the root cause of performance issues and demonstrate understanding if related to the impact of COVID-19.