Leaders 'unprepared' to manage remote teams

Businesses may be agile in responding to COVID-19, but workers are 'ill-equipped' to handle changes

Leaders 'unprepared' to manage remote teams

While businesses are taking quick action to keep their employees safe from COVID-19, a new survey showed that organisations are ill-equipped to handle the sudden changes such as newly created ‘work from home’ policies.

Specifically, more than one in five employees don’t feel their team members have good enough collaboration habits to work effectively from home.

They also said one in five leaders are either very unprepared or unprepared to manage remote teams. Overall, 65% are concerned COVID-19 will influence their company’s operations.

According to a VitalSmarts study of 1,097 professionals in the US, one in three said they’re ‘confident’ about their organisation’s business continuity plan.

READ MORE: Covid-19: Tips for successful remote working

About 43% commented that they’re on a basic plan, even if it’s “hastily assembled”. Most plans centre on remote work and travel restrictions:

  • 28% of organisations have a revised ‘work from home’ policy
  • 43% of organisations have revised their travel policy
  • 33% are having more online meetings
  • 17% have a new plan for video-based meetings and sales calls

And yet, while these actions ensure employeessafety and health, researchers say challenges abound.

“If leaders arent prepared to manage remote teams or if these teams dont have good communication and collaboration habits in place, the effects of this virus could disrupt team connectivity, morale and accountability — not to mention results,” said Justin Hale, a training designer and researcher at VitalSmarts.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How can HR manage remote staff?

A previous study by VitalSmarts found that people who work from home have a significantly harder time addressing challenges. When they had concerns, 84% of remote employees said their concerns dragged on for a few days or more, and 47% admitted to letting them drag on for a few weeks or more.

Remote employees also reported seeing larger, negative impacts on results like productivity, costs, deadlines, morale, stress and retention than their onsite colleagues.

Our research over the past three decades proves the health and success of any team is determined by the quality of communication between colleagues,” Hale said.

Teams that can hold candid and effective dialogue, minus the emotions and politics, experience higher morale and results. Establishing these norms and skills with teams that are facing new rules, new spaces, and heightened emotions in the wake of COVID-19 is vital.”

Managers play a particularly important role, Hale added, especially in times of uncertainty.

When managers model stellar communication, the rest of the team follows suit,” he said.

“You cant overestimate the influence a manager has on his or her teams ability to engage in dialogue and create a collaborative and healthy culture — especially when distance and technology are suddenly part of the equation.”

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