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The COVID-19 crisis has forced thousands of Australian businesses to close their offices and ask their employees to carry on from home. For some, it’s been a steep learning curve. Others like Sydney fintech business Checkbox have managed to ensure it’s business as usual, even when the team is scattered far and wide. Checkbox co-founder Evan Wong shares his tips for managing remote teams – for employees, customers and the business.

1. Managing remote teams: Set clear expectations 

It’s easy to keep track of what your employees are up to when they’re under your eye, but rather more challenging when they’re working remotely. Setting clear tasks or objectives for your team to accomplish within a specified time frame can help them stay on the job while they’re out of the office.

 

Tasks are assigned during Checkbox’s Monday morning meetings and reviewed on Friday afternoons.

 

“This creates a sense of accountability; people are aware there is a minimum amount of work they need to do for the business,” Wong says.

2. Managing remote teams: Find ways to stay connected

For employees who are used to the bustle and banter of office life, working from home can be an isolating experience. Encouraging them to stay in touch with their colleagues is good for morale – and productivity.

 

At Checkbox, virtual lunch with a theme – crazy hats, secret obsession confessions, virtual yoga etc. – is staged via Zoom each day and serves as a substitute for watercooler chats and quick coffees.

 

“Finding regular opportunities to connect keeps the team cohesive and engaged,” Wong says. 

3. Managing remote teams: Communicate with customers their way

From teleconferencing platform Zoom to the old-school landline, there’s no shortage of tools to help you stay in touch with customers when you can’t meet them face to face. Using their preferred platforms can make for smoother interactions.

 

“Some companies have security restrictions which can derail a virtual meeting – for example, if a link doesn’t work at their end,” Wong says. “We try to be proactive about asking customers what works best for them.”

4. Managing remote teams: Stay in touch

If you’re used to seeing your customers in person, it’s tricky to know how much virtual contact is an acceptable substitute. If they’re working from home, it can mean they have more time for meetings or quick catch-ups. For business owners, that’s a good opportunity to strengthen the relationship.

 

“This is a time when it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate,” Wong says. “I try to have more customer check-ins, even if they’re only for 10 or 15 minutes.”

5. Managing remote teams: Be empathetic

Most work-from-homers strive to present a professional image, but in COVID-19 times that can be challenging – particularly for those who have children home from school. Whether it’s a customer or an employee who’s dealing with ‘noises off’ while they’re in a virtual meeting, it can help to have a little empathy.

 

“These aren’t usual times and people are doing the best they can,” Wong says. “And if that’s your situation, it doesn’t hurt to give people a heads-up that there may be interruptions.”

 



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