While managing remote teams isn’t exactly a new concept, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote working in many companies. With the pandemic forcing people to stay at home for months, many companies have been forced to ask their employees to work from home, remotely.
However, managing remote teams can pose a lot of new challenges even for the most experienced managers and team leaders. Managing virtual teams needs its unique approaches, and there are methods that work in traditional management that won’t work in remote management, and vice versa.
With that being said, below we will share some important tips for successfully managing your remote team, and without further ado, let us begin.
1. Communicate Better (Both In Quantity and Quality)
It’s fairly obvious that in managing your remote team, you should maintain regular communication with your team. However, it’s very important to understand that what we’d need to improve here is not only the number of communications (i.e. by conducting frequent virtual meetings), but also quality.
One of the biggest issues in remote working is the sense of isolation and most of the time, loneliness, that are experienced by the remote workers. This is why keeping your team connected in a high-quality way is important. Email and text messages simply won’t cut it anymore. Thankfully now we have various breakthroughs in technology that allows us to improve our communications both in quality and quantity.
Tools like Callbridge, for example, offer online meeting software and also a platform where we can reliably share files and messages in real-time.
2. Set and Manage Expectations
In an office/workplace setting, it’s much easier to establish expectations: employees are expected, for example, to stay in the office between 9 to 5 every day. Yet, what about working from home?
Establish expectations as soon as possible including how to respond to after-hours emails, texts, virtual meetings, and so on. This is very important since for remote workers without the physical separation between their home and the office, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Help your team figure out what they should do, and set attainable, realistic expectations. Communicate clearly how you will measure success, when they can reach you (and when they shouldn’t), and the scope of your deliverables.
The clearer and more specific you can set your expectations, the more effective your management will be.
3. Establish Informal Social Interactions
You should establish and structure how your team members can interact socially (without you in between). In this period and setting, they should be able and encouraged to have informal conversations to build relationships between them.
The simplest way to do this is to allow some time at the beginning of virtual meetings and team calls for non-work, informal items. For example, asking everyone about their weekends, discussing the new episode of a popular TV show, etc. You can also arrange virtual parties, games, and other fun activities.
While these virtual interactions may sound forced or artificial, there actually have been many reports about how these virtual interactions can help reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation, and help your team members build relationships with each other.
4. Make Sure They Have The Required Resources
It’s very important to ensure your team members have the required resources and technology to get their tasks done. If, for example, a team member doesn’t have access to high-speed internet and can’t join a video conference, it’s your job as a team leader to help them find a solution.
Don’t assume that everyone has all of the required resources, and it’s actually your job to make sure they do.
5. Emphasize Versatility
Consider whether you still need to maintain the rigid 9-to-5 work hours for your remote teams. If they can accomplish their tasks while working later at night, why not let them?
Learn to trust your team and give them the freedom and versatility to get the work done, as long as they can meet their deadlines. Talk to them about their preferred schedules, and you can probably give them suggestions on how they can improve their productivity.
Embrace the fact that it is simply impossible to manage every aspect of their work (and you shouldn’t), but instead, focus on outcomes and not how they should achieve it. Set up a system to measure your team’s performance accordingly based on this principle.
Set clear policies on when to touch base, whether sending email after work hours is okay, and so on. Versatility is generally the better approach for remote management in the long run.
6. Give Recognition and Emotional Support
Even if you don’t meet them face-to-face every day, it’s important for managers to recognize their remote workers’ achievements and give them credits when it’s due. On the other hand, acknowledge the stress and listen to employees’ concerns. Set aside some time to provide emotional support and empathize with their issues.
Ask regularly about how they feel about the remote working situation and whether they have suggestions on how you can improve the experience. Be sure to listen carefully to the response, and clearly indicate that you understood correctly.
Remember that as a leader/manager, managing your team’s morale is also a huge aspect of the job.
Managing a remote team is mainly about ensuring all members of the team are on the same page even when they are working separately. When different team members are working on different aspects of a project, they need to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently with each other to ensure a productive and efficient collaboration.
This is where a real-time online conference call can significantly help so team members can brainstorm, plan strategies, and tackle issues together whenever needed. It’s also important to encourage flexibility rather than forcing a rigid schedule for your remote team: focus on outcomes, and not the actual daily activities.