How to manage an operations team during Covid-19

Zach Bergerson – Head of Operations at Quicargo

I lead the operations team at Quicargo and as such I am responsible for both business and service operations and support. In pre-Corona time, our team of 5 employees worked 100% of the time from our office in Amsterdam, which enabled us to easily communicate throughout the day. The crisis, however, forced the team and me as its manager to transform our way-of-working overnight.
As a manager, many challenges arose as the basic management elements became harder to maintain. It became harder: to identify issues without face-to-face interactions, to evaluate the energy level of the employees and to be able to assess the team’s productivity level.
The right team set-up in these times will allow you as a manager to support your team and will create the right working environment and even bring the team closer together.

After working fully remotely with my Operation’s team for 6 weeks, I came up with this list of essential elements to set your team up to success when working from home:

1. Have frequent touchpoints

A daily meeting routine will set the right framework for daily operations and create a place to collaborate. Morning check-in meetings will allow you to interact with your team and allow each team member to share their daily tasks. Another meeting during the middle or end of the day will create a moment to share updates, problems and workload status to ensure the team members can support each other. These meetings will help the team members to stay connected and to solve issues more quickly.

In my team, it is extremely important that we stay synchronized. On the first day of working from home I established 3 check-ins per day. At first, I thought that it might be too much and I was concerned that it would decrease the productivity of the team, but the opposite happened; we keep the meetings efficient, we provide feedback for each other and the team has an outlet to share important events and interactions that they had with customers.

Tip for efficient meetings: short meetings of up to 15 minutes, pre-set agenda, respect your colleagues’ time, be on time and make use of video calls (not only audio).

2. Use collaboration tools

There are great tools out there to help manage projects and teams. In Quicargo we use Trello board. This tool creates visibility of tasks and their progress between the team members, as well as provides a platform to communicate regarding those tasks.

I organize the board with the following stages:

  • Resources: here we manage ongoing tasks which not require further actions
  • To do: not started
  • WIP: in process
  • Pending: awaiting reply/action
  • Block: needs management support
  • Done: completed tasks 🙂

These simple board stages create visibility with a clear overview of the tasks and motivates the team members to progress in their duties. The tool should be used dynamically with the day-to-day operations, so it is always up-to-date, helping both the team and the management drive improvement through rigorous tracking.

3. Enable team discussions

If there’s one management lesson that this situation reinforces more than all, it’s the importance of communication, communication and again, more communication! When the team members communicate well with each other and with the manager the team performance is at its highest, ensuring both the highest output and the best customer experience.
When you create an open environment where employees trust each other, the team members will be open asking for help, provide feedback and make suggestions to improve the team.

Both in 1/1 meeting and in designated team call, I use the following questions to facilitate better open communication in the team:

  • What do you think is working well within the team?
  • What do you think is NOT working in our team?
  • Would someone need help?
  • Do you feel stressed?

These types of questions encourage discussion. When I used them, the team really opened and started a productive discussion. Team-members gave tips to each other and offered to help those under pressure. Also as a manager, this discussion provides insights on where you should put your focus from the management perspective.

4. Listen to your team

Each one of us is experiencing the COVID19 period differently, we can feel isolated, distracted by our kids or annoyed by our roommates. With all this new pressure we still need to continue to work as usual as possible. As managers, we need to understand that the output cannot be 100% all-the time, there will be more volatility in productivity and some adaptations to working ways.

To be able to better understand my team so I could support them, I add additional 1/1 check-in conversations with my team to make sure I can understand how they feel during this situation and help them deal with their challenges as best I can. I listen to their issues and try to ease working pressure when needed to support them during these times. By doing this, you improve the trust between you and your team members.

To summarize, I hope that my approach could help you improve the engagement and performance of your team while working remotely.

I want to thank my amazing team that has been performing incredibly well during the past weeks!

#COVID19 #Workingfromhome #Workfromhome #Remoteworking #OperationsTeam

Written by Zach Bergerson

Head of Operations at Quicargo

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