How to Effectively Manage a Remote Team in Wartime • TechCrunch

How to Effectively Manage a Remote Team in Wartime • TechCrunch

Business owners always say that every company has to experience a real crisis before it becomes a real business. All the big companies we know have experienced some major crises in their lifetime and are still in the game. There are many crisis management studies on the internet, but none of them tell us how to manage a company in times of war.

Our company had never seen a real crisis before February 2022. However, even before us, I always told my team: “Every company has its time in the sun and a time of crisis.”

When the Russo-Ukrainian War began on February 24, all Ukrainian businesses faced a crisis. I’ll use our example to explain how we dealt with it.

Here are six tips for effectively managing a team during a war.

Establish an emergency communication channel

In such turbulent times, people will need a lot of up-to-date information about what is going on. When people don’t know what’s going on, it creates a vacuum that can be filled with rumors or fake news.

To avoid this, you need to create a special communication channel that is active around the clock. Slack alerts, for example, can be automatically turned off outside of business hours, so make sure you’re using a channel your team uses most often so they’re less likely to miss important alerts.

This may seem like an easy and fairly obvious step, but it’s the most effective way to help your team when they feel lost or disoriented, which is natural when war is raging around them.

Communicate with your team twice as often

Training in the management of stress, anxiety and personal finances will help your employees build the necessary knowledge and respond to difficult situations.

Great leaders communicate with their people and we should all remember that “over communication is good communication”.

For us, that saying has never been truer. Communicate as often as there are updates on the topic, but no less than twice a day. Additionally, follow your usual rules for group communication: Be honest, compassionate, and humane.

Finally, when there is a severe crisis, most people’s critical thinking skills can be hindered. In such cases, you may need to over-explain things to your team more than usual. Do not shirk this responsibility. If your team needs their hand, be there to hold it. It will pay off in the long run and help you stay in control from the early days of the crisis until things calm down.

Stop investing in R&D and put people back to work as soon as possible

As a leader, you need to save your business as it is something people rely on in times of uncertainty. The first thing to do here is to save as much cash as you can to stay in business as long as you can. This often means cutting non-essential expenses. This can be a difficult decision, but it is a sacrifice you may have to make.

Once our team was in safe locations, the best way to proceed was to get them back to work and help them calm down. It sounds strange, but this is the best way to channel the anxieties and nervous energy of war. At work, where everything is known, prescribed and clear, people find peace and a constant sense of purpose.

In my experience, the first wave of crisis is the most difficult because of the high levels of uncertainty. However, once you get past this phase, there will be fewer variables, that is, when you return to investment activities if they are still possible.

Use the standard remote work policy

When the war broke out, it was very difficult to manage the team and restore our business processes. So we expected to do it after our team was evacuated and safely transported.

Proven remote control policies have been a lifesaver when our employees are not in their usual environment. No one underestimates the value of team spirit, so invest in it more, as people will need each other’s support much more in times of great strife. Among online team building activities, AR activities have proven to be amazing mood enhancers.

Conduct specific training to support your team

Crises, fortunately, are rare, but this also means that people often do not have enough knowledge to handle the many unusual information they are bombarded with in such situations.

In such cases, you should:

  • Educate people by conducting special training with the help of experts. Training in the management of stress, anxiety and personal finances will help your employees build the necessary knowledge and respond to difficult situations. The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications has produced a guide titled “Psychological support during wartime”, which explains how to identify and help with mental health problems.
  • Invite successful and respected people to share positive thoughts about the situation, and perhaps explain how they have dealt with particularly difficult times. Principle bias is real and acts as a morale booster when a team needs direction and a sense that things will go well.
  • Share relevant positive news to lift your team’s spirits and create a vision for a brighter future.

Connect business goals with social initiatives

When the war broke out, people wanted to help. This was good, but we realized that it can affect the focus on work and could ultimately lead the business into an even deeper crisis. In such cases, put the over-explanation tool from Step 1 to work and educate people about how your company’s success benefits society.

As a result of what your team achieves at work, your company can invest more resources in philanthropic initiatives when growth or profitability is maintained or improved. Consequently, your team can do more and have more resources to do something important for society.

This should have no effect on your existing OKR system because your company’s goals will remain the same. However, the perks of the group have changed — instead of a nice barbecue, you’ll now invest your savings in something beneficial for the wider society. Statistics show that when a company leads with purpose, 76% of respondents are more likely to trust that company.

Volunteering has become a key component of our team’s operations. For example, we arranged contributions, looked for equipment, supplied soldiers and helped secure supplies for people in disaster zones.

Every company will face a crisis caused by a unique combination of factors. However, the advice I’ve provided here applies to almost any problematic situation. Remember to maintain a strong leadership position and remain empathetic with your team.

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