How to Manage a Remote Team: Tips on Successful Management
Even before the global pandemic, remote work was on the rise and showing signs of changing the world of business we have always known it. Businesses everywhere were exploring the challenges and opportunities brought about by massive technological development and starting to think outside the box. Without a doubt, the world of Covid has propelled this change but it was certainly coming anyway, at least in part.
Most recent evidence suggests that even when we have the chance to go back to the previous norm, many businesses will still be exploring the possibilities of keeping remote work as an active alternative at least to some extent. And there seem to be good reasons for this, from a purely economic point of view there are statistics that show remote work is more efficient and productive, employees have greater freedom and therefore flexibility, leading to increased job satisfaction and you can utilize skills of employees from the global market place. Add to this the potential to lessen the financial burden on office space and the subsequent overheads and extra costs, and we can see why some businesses would see this as a very sensible plan for future growth and business development.
Not everything smells of roses in the world of Remote work, there are challenges too. Remote work is a very different environment from office work. some employees may have made the decision to work remotely others will probably have been forced to. As with anything new, it takes a little time to get used to the new nature of things. This is true for the employees and staff but also true for the managers. Your management training and years of experience will probably have been based on and spent in a completely different setup to that of remote work. But don’t worry, your skills may need some tinkering with but management is all about adaptation and this is a chance to really show your manager’s credentials.
Remote Team Management Challenges
As a manager, you need to understand that a different work environment and different situations will offer challenges, but with a little thought and careful planning, many of these challenges can be overcome relatively easily. Making a success of managing your remote team can be not only highly satisfactory but will generate great results for your business and add another string to your bow.
If you understand the challenge that remote workers face then you can start to work on addressing them. Typical challenges in remote work include:
This is potentially a double-edged problem. The manager can feel that a lessening of hands-on face-to-face supervision can lead to staff being less effective. Whilst some employees can also feel lost or out on a limb. Many employees actually welcome supervision and support as it provides them with boundaries and gives them confidence.#
Access to Information
Communicating necessary information from manager to workers and vice versa is obviously more difficult and time-consuming than if you are in the same physical building. There can also be an issue with information between co-coworkers and team members, not only regarding access but also collaboration. A lack of information at the needed time can not only affect the results of a work process in terms of standards, efficiency, and timelines but also driven a wedge between team members.
Working remotely often means working in an isolated environment, certainly as far as colleagues are concerned. What workers miss is the feeling of being part of a bigger team which developed naturally in a shared workspace. Again we have a duel problem of affecting the actual work and the morale of employees. Dissatisfaction due to social isolation will inevitably lead to less productive workers and greater staff turnover.
Whilst workers may feel socially isolated from colleagues, remote working can mean you aren’t isolated from the other distractions at home. Family, friends, fridge….it can be hard for workers to distance themselves from their home routines and get into work mode.
Remote workers by definition rely on the technology they can access remotely. The most basic but not the only issue faced is a decent, stable internet connection.
How do you build a team when the members are spread potentially all over the world? The natural bonding that take place over the coffee machine or in the elevator is missing. Team building is important to create a trusting, mutual cooperative working team.
There can be problems with accessing information but also communicating between teams and within team takes time and effort to get right. There is greater potential for misunderstandings and miscommunication as well as missed communication.
New Remote Team Tips for a New Age
Remote working or elements of remote working are going to become the norm in many businesses especially in the fields of technology. You can run but you can’t hide, so why not take on the challenge and not just make the best of it, but be the best at it. Managers need to look forward and take on board the parts of their management techniques they can keep, parts they need to change and new concepts they need to embrace.
1. Communicate – more than ever and be better than ever.
The biggest difference between traditional management in the office and remote management as far as managing your personal is concerned is the difference in communication. Managers have to communicate online, often to people based in different parts of the globe and this involves a completely different skill set to what has been the norm.
Conversations can be oral or written but the essence remains the same, clarity and frequency. Lack of communication is one of the major issues that remote workers face, and it is also a source io concern for the managers themselves. As a manager of a remote team, you have to be prepared to communicate much more frequently than normal. Of course, the reasons for this are that it is your job to control tasks, set goals and direct the operations of the team but you also need to make absolutely sure that everybody knows exactly what they are supposed to be doing and when. Added to this is the aspect of making your remote team still feel that they are in or part of a team and not floundering alone.
Clear and concise
Oral conversations and written, when concerning the work are best if kept short and to the point. It is absolutely worth stepping back and thinking about your communication style. Your style is amplified when dealing with remote teams, there are far greater chances of being misunderstood or misread. For communication to be fully effective it needs not only to convey the right information but also the correct tone.
2. Appropriate and mixed communication technology options:
Tools and Organisation
One of the plus points about the rise of remote work has been the increasing amount of specific tools. Making the process easier, from collaboration to communication. The key to this is choosing the right tool for the right communication and keeping everything organized. Just because you have a fantastic video conferencing package, doesn’t mean you should use it for every conversation, Equally, email doesn’t and shouldn’t be used for every written message, it get rather confusing when you have vast strands of back and forth dialogue or have to include someone else in the conversation. Having workable and appropriate tools for each aspect of communication will make your life a whole lot easier.
Internal direct messenger services such as Slack or Microsoft teams are specially designed for brief messages following a line of thought. Tools like Zoom have become the go-to video conferencing platform but there are others that work equally well. Kitchen will organize your messaging system between you clients and your team allowing to filter and organized hundred of different project conversations and add appropriate team member as and when you like. The tools are out there, way too many to mention. The secret is to use a mixture of tools, selecting one for each element of communication. Become familiar with the tools and allow your staff to get used to them too.
3. Specialist Remote Project Management Software
The communication between by to remote teams is without question an essential factor, as is project management software. The right project management software can not only help your plan and manage the project but also plan and manage the people working on it. Most project management software package will include communication and collaboration features, but they also provide additional features for tracking tasks and work, managing task lists, timelines, share files, share screens, etc.
4. Provide Resources & Support
The resources above are great but only when they are used by all the team and used well. Making sure that your remote team has access to the software packages and knows how to use them is, however, only one part of the battle.
The old saying that a workman is only as good as his tools has never been more true than in the remote work environment. It is part of the manager’s role to make sure that all the workers have all the technology they need to be able to do the best in the best way possible. From laptops to cameras, to extra monitors and headsets -bear in mind that what usable before as a makeshift option when sending an email from home, is now part of any workers essential kit. If you want the workers to produce, equip them for the task.
And when difficulties arise, as no doubt they will -then support. Software training, help with setup, online support systems are all vital components to a smooth-running operation.
5. Clear Expectations & Boundaries from the Start
It is important to set standards, expectations, and boundaries for remote workers, even when they have more flexibility. This establishes a framework for all workers to work towards. It helps signal the break between work and personal life as well as drawing the team together as a more focused unit.
One of the main areas of problems for remote teams is the differences in working hours and availability for synchronous communication. Given that one of the advantages of remote work is the increased freedom and flexibility for the worker, it is easy to dismiss the fact that sometimes you need to have direct and instant contact. Discuss expectations of working hours with the workers but it is important to establish timetabled routines for meetings, response expectations to messages and emails, as well as set hours when each worker will guarantee availability for contact. The time of day they can be reached. And remember this works for the manager too- you need to be reachable.
It’s a good idea to explain the standards expected by the workers at the very beginning. What technology is appropriate for what type of communication and perhaps more to the point what constitutes business and what doesn’t. Your work platforms should be primarily for work, not a time to socialize. There is a time and place for this. Here you should also include modes of address, roles and responsibilities of various staff members, routine, and who to contact in emergencies or with problems. Even if you have a diverse workforce in terms of nationalities and languages, what is the lingua franca for communication in the workplace? Setting out these rules at the start can save problems developing later.
6. Daily check-ins
We started off with the need for good frequent communication and daily check-ins are part of this. Daily check-ins can seem like too much. After all, we are encouraged to let the staff get on with the job, but daily check-ins are not daily check-ups. They take time, but they are worth it.
A scheduled timetable call, video call or even message every day serves many purposes all useful in establishing a bond, and hold over remote teams. Although they allow you to know exactly the status of the work, this is not the main reason for a check-in. Check-ins allow the workers to know where they stand, where the project is, ask any questions and discuss issues. As these meeting a regular and standard there is less pressure and fewer formalities involved, they become a useful conduit for two-way information. They allow you to build u0p a relationship with the remote worker and for them to feel involved. The more contact you have, the more you get to know them and they you. This relationship can only be good in building a stronger more fruitful partnership.
7. Results, not activity
Remote workers need to be results-driven. What they do, when they do it, and to a certain extent how they do it is much less important than what is achieved.
Outside the established remote work environment, your scheduled meeting and guaranteed availability times, you have limited control over the employee. This may seem difficult at first, but it is something that managers have to get used to and quickly. The nature of the relationship will not flourish if you try to control every aspect of the working life. As long as the goals are completed the question is does it really matter if it took 2 hours from 1am -3am to do it, or 6 hours during the day.
For this reason, tasks and goals should be achievable, measurable and with clear objectives. This is the type of work that allows remote workers to thrive, to be engaged and to feel trusted. These types of tasks work for you as a manager because you are seeing and getting clear results. They also help the remote worker’s sense of accomplishment -a vital aspect of job satisfaction.
Without hands-on contact, managers have to learn to trust their staff. Let them get on with it, if they are producing the goods- that is your prime objective.
8. Be Flexible, allow flexibility
With a remote work team, you are going to have to allow a degree of flexibility, regarding work hours, working processes and communication but see this as something to embrace rather than be fearful of.
People work differently but a diverse team brings values as well as difficulties. Workers who choose to work remotely do it because of the benefits. The chief benefit cited is the degree of flexibility it allows them to fit their working life around their home life. Problems and difficulties may arise in certain different circumstances and situations but empathy will get you much further than anger.
Workers forced to work remotely can also see this as a plus. They often grow to relish this newfound freedom. Each worker is part of a team but also an individual, whether that is in the office or remotely. As a manager, you need to work hard to accept this and make adjustments if necessary. Incorporate these differences into your team ethic. Showing an understanding of the situation will gain you respect and allegiance. Qualities that enhance your reputation as a leader and bring about greater effort and productivity in your team.
It may mean a less whole team approach but the value it creates more than makes up for the organizational issues it can throw up.
9. Emotional support
Your daily check-ins are a way for you to analyze the work and tasks. But they are also a unique opportunity for you to assess the emotional well-being of your team members without the pressure of a direct meeting.
There are downsides to remote working and issues to deal with. Social isolation, lack of contact with colleagues for support and empathy, home life difficulties that you can’t escape from, even general concern for job security, are all common enough. You to be aware of potential issues and look out for the signs, not everyone is going to open up to you.
As a manager, one of your key strategies is the ability to ask, but more importantly, listen. A good listener can spot signs of anxiety or stress early, can probe as appropriate and can not only provide an ear but also do something about it. Then is the time to step up to the mark and show the human side of management. Make suggestions, offer advice, put something into place to help -take action.
10. Be Proactive
Once you’ve got a handle on what’s happening with your remote team, you’ve assessed the possible issues and problems that can come about with emote working -then don’t let it drift, do something about it.
You are still a leader, even if your team is spread over several continents and timezones -so show the leadership. Remote teams need leadership, despite their third for responsibilities, freedom and flexibility, they still need a direction of travel, pulling together and gluing together.
If there are problems beginning to bubble, address them early. When you need a full-scale video meet, call one. If you need to email out a review of the rules, standards and expectations then do it.
When you feel a team is not bonding or is drifting apart, it is part of your job to instigate sessions to put this right. Be innovative, give workers the chance to socialize. Work out ways in which they can get to know each other and feel like a team. Virtual quizzes, parties, weekly or monthly meets are all popular practices because they work.
Appreciate and reward
Show your appreciation for their effort. Consistent feedback, praise where necessary, a more personal message, treats sent through the post. Make the effort to make them feel appreciated, it will come back in spades.
You aren’t wrong if you think there’s not very difficult about the tips here. A magic spell that you’ve been searching for to solve all your problems? Not really. Mainly we are talking a bit more thought of the circumstances and situation, a trusting and empathetic style of leadership and good organization, structure, and lots and lots of communication. Remote leadership is something of a challenge, but it is a challenge to face full-on and a rewarding one at that.