Leading and managing remote teams: including the specifics of disaster response teams – October 2021 – Global

  • Increase efficiency and reduce fatigue by designating which communication channels are for which purposes and assigning urgency levels to each channel.

  • Adopt an asynchronous work style based on transparency, flexibility, resource accessibility and a culture of documentation.

  • Prepare (especially for disaster response teams) how to respond in situations where internet or communication channels may be hampered for hours or even days. Wherever possible, define common tasks and decision-making procedures in advance.

  • Use meetings as a last resort to make decisions or solve problems. Having a meeting may seem convenient, but it breaks the rules of asynchronous and flexible working, which hurts work efficiency. Take active steps in advance to make meetings more difficult to organize: demand agendas, demand the flow and purpose of the meeting, and demand an explanation of why each guest is expected to attend.

  • Create a safe and supportive environment with clear expectations. Remote teams can struggle to “shut down,” and evidence points to a decrease in work-life balance in these teams. Help people prioritize their well-being by clarifying expectations and discouraging unwanted behavior.

  • Don’t expect virtual activities/happy hours to release stress or strengthen team bonds if other fundamentals related to work productivity and work-life balance aren’t in place.

  • Gathering remote teams for in-person team building events or retreats is essential. If possible, take innovative steps to encourage self-initiated meetings or offline events.

introduction

COVID-19 has forced, if not accelerated, the plans of businesses and organizations to adjust their current ways of operating and adapt to a new normal: remote working. Many people have experienced the positive aspects of working remotely, such as saving time and money on commutes, spending more quality time with family, or taking care of household chores. However, many others were sadly unprepared for the principles and policies needed to manage a digitally distributed workforce. As a result, challenges arose in the new remote workspace: fatigue, extended working hours, and deteriorating team bonds. Managers accustomed to working in a traditional office environment have struggled with remote teams; without seeing team members at their desks or in meetings, some managers found it hard to believe that staff were working productively. It became a trust issue, especially when staff and teams were not traditionally managed based on performance rather than physical presence.

However, it seems obvious that there is no going back to the same level of work in the office.
Over the next decade, more employees will demand remote jobs with great flexibility.1 Most workers in the United States show a preference for permanent work from home.2 More people than ever are quitting their jobs and are looking for remote options, leading to an increase in job applications for remote positions.3 Organizations need to be proactive in their response to the drastic shift in labor market preferences. If they don’t adapt, high-value talent will be lost, workplace diversity will be reduced, and operational costs will overtake others. Attracting and retaining talent has changed.

With this document, we aim to guide managers of digitally distributed teams to success.
We’ve summarized recent news, scoured journal articles, and gathered insights from leading organizations in the world of remote work management. We hope the result will guide managers who want to foster a more productive, healthy, and collaborative work environment for their digitally distributed team(s).

In humanitarian operations, remote assistance is not a new concept for many organizations, as crisis mapping and information management are common remote roles in disaster response.
Nevertheless, there is still much to be done to improve remote responses, including the creation of dedicated remote support teams. Using insights and feedback from interviewees who have served in crisis operations, we have compiled special considerations for humanitarian organizations and disaster response.

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