Top Ten Tips for... Managing Remote Teams at Christmas

Top Ten Tips for... Managing Remote Teams at Christmas

For many, Christmas is the happiest time of the year – however, for some it can also cause a lot of stress and anxiety. Between family commitments, last minute shopping and festive preparations, there are plenty of things to distract us in the run up to Christmas. Furthermore, if you manage employees who work from home, how can you make sure that they stay motivated and productive during the busy, festive period?

Here are our Top Ten Tips to help you manage remote and virtual teams at Christmas...

1. Communication is key

When managing remote or virtual teams, it’s vital to have regular check-ins with your employees and this is even more essential in the run up to Christmas. Whether you choose to have weekly meetings with the whole team, or schedule one on one time with each team member, this regular communication will make sure everyone knows what is expected of them and gives them chance to come forward if they are struggling or feeling overwhelmed.

2. Give clear deadlines

The end of the year is probably not the best time to launch any major new initiatives or campaigns, especially if you feel that staff engagement is a little on the low side. But it can be important that you get all loose ends tied up ready for a fresh start in the New Year. In remote teams, without in-person reminders or face-to-face meetings, keeping on top of deadlines can be trickier, so it’s wise to make it clear what you expect from your team from the outset. It will be helpful for your teams to know exactly what needs finishing off before they start winding down for the Christmas break.

3. Encourage your team to take breaks

Remember that all of your employees are different and while some may be gearing up for the Christmas break, others may be burning themselves out in an effort to end on a high and tie up all their loose ends. For teams that work remotely, this can be exacerbated if their home-working environments aren’t as calm as they are throughout the rest of the year. If your employees are burning the candle at both ends it can lead to mental fatigue and even illness, especially in these colder months. Encourage them to take a break where you can - this is a reminder to your team that balance is important and that you care about their wellbeing.

4. Factor in work-life balance

December is an exciting time, yet it can also be stressful for many as the pressure is on to get everything sorted and finished on time – both at work and at home. Similar to the point above, if your employees are stressed during their working day, it can have a negative impact on productivity and motivation. It’s great if your virtual teams are able to work flexibly, but try to make sure that they are not working unsociable hours in an attempt to fit everything in.

Related: How to Encourage Self-Discipline in 'Work from Home' Teams

5. Prioritise health and wellbeing

It’s important to remember that there might be several reasons why December can be a difficult time for your employees. As the year comes to an end, many people feel extra stress and pressure and this, coupled with a difficult financial climate, is an important reason why mental health should be a top priority going into the festive season. Furthermore, colder weather and extra stress can also lead to illness within your workforce. Just because your team works remotely doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take time off if they’re poorly. Take time out to check in with your employees, make sure they are managing okay and have everything they need to stay healthy and well up to the Christmas break.

6. Get festive!

The Christmas season is a fantastic time to thank your teams for all their hard work throughout the year. If you are managing remote teams, you can still embrace the festivities, even if you don’t do it in person. Why not plan a Christmas jumper day for your weekly zoom meeting or a virtual Secret Santa?

7. Bonuses don’t have to hurt the bottom line

As the UK faces a cost of living crisis and uncertain financial climate, this might mean that a Christmas bonus for all your staff is just not an option. However, there are so many other ways you can show your appreciation to your employees. Why not hold an award ceremony as part of your end of year celebrations? Your remote employees can win awards such as ‘Employee of the Year’ as well as more light-hearted awards like ‘Noisiest Pet’ and ‘Most Likely to Snack During a Meeting’.

8. Plan a virtual Christmas party

After the Covid-19 pandemic, most businesses will be getting good at hosting virtual celebrations and it’s great that your employees don’t have to miss out on the Christmas cheer just because they don’t head into the office every day. Why not organise a virtual Christmas dinner for your team? The goal of team outings is to strengthen the team’s bond and what better way to do that than over food? You could also host a Christmas quiz or a costume contest and a virtual celebration will definitely make the morning after easier to manage as well...

9. Provide training and support

As the year draws to a close, it’s an ideal time to look back over the last 12 months and discuss what has gone well and what can be improved in the New Year. Reach out to your remote employees and ask for feedback and suggestions on how they feel the business can perform better in the coming year, you can then use this to implement new training and up-skilling opportunities for your team. This could also help to boost employee engagement in the New Year.

10. Look to the future!

As well as looking back over the past year, the Christmas period is also a great time to look to the future. What are you hoping to achieve in 2023? Are there any new plans you can put in place to make those goals happen?  Do what you can now so that when you and your team get back to work in January, you are all motivated and ready to hit the ground running.

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