How to manage a team working remotely during the Tube strike disruption

Are you prepared for the Tube strike?

As most commuters are already aware, this week workers across the country will see their journeys disrupted by rail strikes. However, the severe disruption set to be caused by the Aslef action should be seen not as an inconvenience to employers, but as an opportunity to increase productivity instead.

Remote working can increase motivation, productivity and profitability by allowing people to work from convenient locations that may not necessarily be their office. As an employer, there’s no better time to reap the benefits of a flexible workforce than when disruption is set to wreak havoc on commuters. However, many business leaders remain unsure about how to manage a team working remotely.

Communication is key

Establishing how you will communicate with team members while they are working flexibly is fundamental to a productive and effective flexible working strategy. Many leaders’ reservations stem from concerns about how they will communicate with employees when teams aren’t all in one location. For many, implementing a more formal internal communication plan for the team during remote working periods is an effective solution.

This internal plan should clearly set out how employees are expected to keep in touch with the rest of their team throughout the day, whether that be by phone, or instant messaging platforms. While instant messaging platforms may seem like more informal methods of communication, they often prove beneficial for asking quick questions or giving updates. However, employers also shouldn’t underestimate the power of calling employees when they need to discuss tasks or provide feedback. Often far more can be achieved on a two-minute call than a lengthy email chain.

Check in on progress (without micro-managing)

Another common concern leaders have is how to ensure that their employees remain productive and complete all their tasks. However, it’s important to refrain from micro-managing remote workers. Trust is key when it comes to flexible working. If managers fail to show they trust their staff, flexible working strategies are less likely to be successful. It is important to set out what you expect from employees and give them the opportunity to ask questions or discuss matters just as you would in the office. It may be worth scheduling a brief catch-up call half way through the day, or asking them to send a quick update on specific tasks around the team at the end of the day.

Measures to maintain team rapport

For companies where some team members work flexibly for the majority of their time, it’s important to consider how to build and maintain team rapport. While it may seem like a daunting task, simple measures such as having regular video calls, or arranging weekly meetings for the whole team can help to build relationships between office based and remote workers. Leaders implementing flexible working strategies should agree on a time and location for at least weekly face to face catch ups, and take the time to arrange regular team bonding events or activities.

Utilising new technology

With the technology needed to facilitate flexible working now readily available, employers have no real excuse to refrain from offering employees the opportunity to work in an environment that suits them and allows them to work more productively. Conferencing technology, instant messaging platforms, and collaborative working tools all allow employees to work from locations that suit them best, without reducing overall productivity or hindering effective working relationships.

When it comes to implementing and maintaining a flexible working structure, organisation is key. It’s crucial to trust employees and inspire them to work productivity and efficiently when they are away from their normal working environment. Leaders can create structure by introducing a formalised flexible working plan prior to employees working remotely and making sure the entire team understands what is expected of them. With research from Stanford University finding that remote workers are 13% more productive, take fewer sick days and benefit from a quieter working environment, the business benefits are clear, and employers should take the disruption caused by the tube strikes as an opportunity to improve productivity.

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