Distance Management

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in new conditions and requirements for managers as well as for the practices in the organisation. On this website, managers can find inspiration for new practices and learn more about what to be aware of when distance management is required.


Articles and advice

Managing work from home – individually and in teams

Distance management and distance working provide new challenges and new opportunities. An article by Emeritus Professor Dr. Merc. Henrik Holt Larsen, CBS, sheds light on some of these challenges and opportunities, and offers advice on how to make the most of distance working. This includes ongoing alignment of expectations, support for the social community of the unit, the double-edged sword of emails and a section on how some employees can feel lonely.

 

”Nærværende corona-ledelse på distancen” (Noca.dk)

Distance management and distance collaboration are not new phenomena, and many organisations have experience of managing and collaborating across cultural and geographical boundaries. What makes some global teams more successful than others? The structure of the unit in the form of meetings and frameworks for task performance and cooperation, accessibility of the manager, and specific feedback are all essential factors. These three articles provide suggestions for what to be aware of and what works for teams that are physically/geographically dispersed:

  1. ”Global Teams That Work” (Harvard Business Review)
  2. “How to Keep Your Team Motivated, Remotely” (Harvard Business Review)
  3. "Virtuelt arbejde kræver kreativ ledelse" (Virtual work requires creative management) (BSS, AU)

Keeping employees motivated

Employees perceive the current situation differently, for example with regard to how much the form and content of their work changes. Consequently, it is essential to pay special attention to the implications of the current work situation for each individual staff member and what this requires of you as a manager.

It is natural for employee motivation to be affected in times of crisis. Managers can support employee motivation by being attentive to any changes in employees’ behaviour and needs and adjusting their leadership style accordingly. The article illustrates how managers can adjust their own leadership style to support the motivation of individual employees:

 

”Study finds managers need to adjust their leadership style during a crisis” (phys.org)

 

Employees' have different needs for leadership - leadership styles.

The need of a given employee for a particular type of leadership may be different today than it was before working from home was implemented. Daniel Goleman proposes six leadership styles for the manager to choose from in the current situation: coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting and coaching. In the article, he also offers his perspective on when the different leadership styles work best:

”Leadership that gets results” (Wordpress, Havard Business Review)

Digital communication and good online meetings

 

Conducting and chairing meetings online is a skill in itself. Some managers at AU already have good experience with online meetings, while others are venturing into this setting for the first time. Below is some general advice on how to conduct and chair good online meetings. Note that: 

 

Distance management calls for more frequent, but shorter meetings than usual
This is essential in order to keep employees motivated – setting a direction, generating meaning and ensuring coordination. Online meetings should be shorter than the usual physical meetings, because screen meetings are energy-intensive. 

 

There will be a need for task-related meetings as well as meetings of a more social nature
When you no longer meet in the hallway or at the coffee machine, there is a need to ‘meet informally’ in other ways, in addition to the formal, professional meetings that focus on specific tasks. Informal meetings could be online coffee meetings, and they should not necessarily be initiated by you as a manager. You might encourage this by asking an employee to organise an informal coffee meeting. You could also encourage your employees to call each other, set up Skype meetings with each other etc. Try out different options and discuss the effect with your employees. 

 

Online meetings call for a clear structure and code of conduct
It is important that an agenda has been sent out in advance so that everyone knows the purpose of the meeting and is able to contribute valuable input. If there are several items on the agenda, each item should include purpose, preparation and form. It may also be useful to agree on an online code of conduct: What is good behaviour at online meetings? What are the rules if you want to say something? Does the camera have to be switched on, or is it OK if only the sound is on? Do you mute your microphone when you are not talking, etc. 

Make sure the technology works
Make sure the technology works - not only your own, but also others’ - before the meeting starts. If you need help with this, please contact AU IT Support.

Ask everyone to install the necessary software, log on and check their internet connection before the meeting starts. It may be a good idea that everyone logs on 2-5 minutes before the meeting starts, and that the participants are generally punctual.

 

If online meetings are a new setting for you, it is important that you make it clear to everyone that you are in a learning phase, and that it is OK if there are problems along the way.

Put more emphasis on non-verbal communication
Non-verbal communication at online meetings should be clearer and more compelling. Decoding people’s facial expressions, tone of voice or body language as we do at physical meetings is not possible in the same way. Therefore, good meeting participation/co-management means that the meeting participants clearly indicate whether they “follow”, “agree” or would like to take the floor.

 

Create good dynamic meetings by involving participants
At online meetings, contributions should be brief and to the point. People tend to lose interest more quickly online than at physical meetings. Be aware of this and make sure your contributions are brief and convey clear messages. It is a good idea to involve participants, for example by inviting comments, having group discussions, e.g. in breakout sessions, or by letting employees chair the meeting or facilitate the discussion of a specific item. For example, involve employees in co-developing initiatives to create dynamic meetings.

 

Evaluate
It is always a good idea to evaluate meetings, whether online or physical. Not least if online meetings are a new setting for you. Experiment with different methods and ideas. Do the meetings result in the outcome you were hoping for or do you need to make adjustments?

 

Further inspiration for online activities is available at AU Educate

 

Online job interviews, onboarding and handling resignations remotely

’Advice for online job interviews’ provides a few simple tips for online job interviews. Everything that you would usually prepare and consider before a job interview still applies. However, there are some things you should have particular focus on when holding a job interview online.

'Advice on how to onboard new employees when working from home' focuses on some of the aspects to be aware of as a manager when onboarding new employees during the lockdown period.

‘Advice on offboarding during the lockdown’ is a checklist of the most important things to be aware of when an employee resigns during the lockdown period.


Video introductions

The videos contain suggestions, tips/tricks and things to consider in order to establish successful collaboration when working from home - for managers and for anyone facilitating a meeting. Some of the videos include a Power Point presentation. The presentation can be downloaded and below you can find each video. When you watch the Teams and Zoom videos, try to pause the video and try out the suggestions to learn and find out what works for you. Enjoy!

Engaging meetings in Teams

Management and collaboration

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Engaging meetings in Zoom

Take care of yourself when working from home

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General introduction to virtual meetings