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A manager's guide to remote teamwork: Increase resilience in your team

March 27, 2020

See the full Manager's Remote Working Handbook here

Resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. We can probably agree that our resilience is being tested right now, but how we react to times like these varies greatly from person to person. 


One person may be enjoying the ‘silver linings’ of these tough times: saving time on their commute, eating home cooked meals every day and feeling less distracted and more productive than ever. They’re making the best out of a bad situation.


Another person on the same team may be experiencing this time very differently. They may be missing their routine. The ‘noise’ of the news is becoming an unbearable negative distraction. Their work feels meaningless amongst everything else that’s going on. 


Meanwhile, your job as a manager hasn’t changed that much. You’re still responsible for creating an environment where your team does their best work and delivers results. 

1. Seek to understand how employees feel

As a manager, you may have no idea how some of your employees are feeling. You may have both types of people described above on your team, with others somewhere in between. You can't see the subtle hints that suggest your employee could be stressed or sad.


That’s why having regular, effective one-to-ones is more important than ever.


You can also use personality surveys to inform you of how people are likely to respond to times of uncertainty.  Saberr Base measures how much individuals value safety and security, as well as their resilience.


Surveys should be used to inform your conversation, not replace it. E.g. “Your Base survey shows that you really value safety and security. How are you feeling at the moment?” 


2. Strengthen relationships

Getting to know each other better increases team resilience. By encouraging social connections between team members, your team will respond better to uncertainty, conflict and collaboration challenges.


As team lead, you aren’t just responsible for your relationship with your team, you are also responsible for encouraging the network of relationships between your employees.


Peer one-to-ones are a great way to create a team spirit. Identify key relationships within the team where more trust could improve the team’s overall performance and ask them to schedule a one-to-one. 


Another option is to start every meeting with an icebreaker even if you’ve been working together for some time. Slowly you’ll learn more about the team and they’ll learn what they have in common. 


3. Show that you care

Reflect back on how you showed your team that you cared about them in the office. Perhaps it was a pat on the back, a round of drinks at the pub or remembering to ask whether their child is feeling better. 


Some of these may no longer be viable options now that you’re working remotely. How can you remind your team that you genuinely care about their wellbeing? Think of the channels and interactions that you have available to you (direct messages, one-to-ones, team meetings…) and how you can be there for your team in each of these. 


That could mean spending half of your next one-to-one discussing how to maintain work-life balance and healthy working practices at home. Incidentally, we have a quick guide on how to drive that conversation. 

4. Model Resilience 

During hard times, it’s crucial for team leads to model the behaviours that they want to see reflected in their teams.


That means you want to be strong but still human and approachable. Lead with resilience and yet vulnerability. Easier said than done, right?  


A few quick tips:

  • Focus on what is going well at work — now more than ever you need to celebrate successes, however small. 
  • Recall other times of adversity and how you came through as a team.
  • Reframe the new challenges you’re presented with as opportunities.
  • Share the habits that are helping you stay positive — it’s ok for your team to know that being resilient is a muscle that you need to exercise.

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