With more of the workforce going remote than ever, professionals have had to adjust how they work – and many have had to figure out new ways to manage.
If you’re a manager with a newly remote team, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the new challenges that managing a team remotely presents.
Here are some common challenges to managing a team remotely and ways to overcome them.
What Does Working Remotely Mean?
Working remotely is the shift the workforce has taken towards letting professionals conduct work from their own homes. Working from home has been on an upward trend since the start of the decade but has become a necessity for many in light of the recent pandemic.
To work effectively from home, there are steps you can (and should!) take, like designating a specific workspace, minimizing distractions to the best of your abilities, and setting boundaries between work life and home life, especially if you have small children at home.
According to Investopedia, these are some key things to know about working from home:
“For employers, working from home can boost productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organizational costs, while employees enjoy perks like flexibility and the lack of a commute.
To work effectively from home, you'll need to make sure you have the technology you require, a separate workspace, Internet service that meets your need, a workable schedule you can stick to, and ways to connect with others.”
Effective Remote Team Working
Working from home can become more complicated if you’re a member of a team, especially one that needs to communicate or collaborate often.
Medium recently published an article outlining the 5 stages of remote work that gives helpful insight into how most companies function as virtual teams, and how the ideal virtual team functions. They posit that to maximize productivity, you can’t simply attempt to recreate the office environment remotely; instead, you have to create a new environment that supports a remote team.
This means embracing things like asynchronous schedules (not everyone will work a 9-5, for example; some may start and end later, or chop their day up into sections) and modern, streamlined methods of communication, like Slack and Zoom. That being said, the article stresses the importance of communicating when necessary and only having video meetings “if it is absolutely necessary and the same outcomes can’t be reached via a quick ad-hoc conversation, phone call, email, text, or instant message.”
Managing Virtual Employees
All of these complications become more pronounced if you’re the manager of a team, since leading from afar can often feel like groping for a light switch in the dark. However, the basic tenants of managing a remote team are the same as managing an in-office team: communication is key, clarifying expectations is a must, and connection is important. It’s how you achieve these things that may look a little different.
So, what does effective managing a team remotely look like?
Here are our suggestions, and what we’ve found works for us.
Provide the right tools. This seems like a no-brainer and we briefly touched on it above but set your team up for success by investing in the right software to keep everyone connected. These days there are a whole host of remote work platforms and tools out there, so you can create the ideal set up to suit your needs. For reference, here are a few we use to ensure everyone is clued in and able to be as productive as possible.
- Slack is the instant messaging service we use to stay in touch. It allows for group chats and specific team channels so you can keep conversations organized without clogging up your text and email inboxes.
- Asana is the project management software we use to keep our workflows in line and see who is doing what when.
- Zoom video calls have exploded in popularity lately, and with good reason. We use Zoom to hold virtual meetings and stay connected.
- Dropbox keeps all of our work in one place and is the perfect solutions for a remote team, since all of the organization’s data and work can be accessed from any connected device.
Establish structure. Routine is just as important with remote workers as it is with in-office teams. People like to know what to expect; having an established structure for days and weeks is also a way to ensure everyone is always aware of what’s coming down the pipeline, which gives them ample time to prepare effectively and produce results.
That being said, structure doesn’t necessarily mean create a rigid schedule. When you have a remote team, it’s inevitable that your team members will all have different schedules, and it’s far more productive to embrace this instead of fight against it.
When it comes to structuring a remote team, set up regular, recurring meetings for check-ins and updates, and give ample heads-up for any additional meetings. Don’t assume that because your team is at home, they’re always available; this sets an unhealthy precedent and can lead to anxiety, blurred boundaries, and reduced morale.
Check in regularly. As the leader of your team, it’s up to you to ensure that everyone is connected and up to date on the goings-on of your organization. It’s easy to feel disconnected when you’re part of a remote team, but an effective way to combat this is by setting up regular check-ins with your colleagues. This fosters a team mindset as well as giving opportunities for everyone to ensure they’re on the same page.
Remember, though, that not every check-in has to be a video call or a half-hour Google meeting invite. A quick Slack message or brief email just checking in works just as well and will likely create less stress in your team members. Something along the lines of the messages below are all you need to foster a feeling of connection.
Communicate clearly – and quickly! Clear, effective communication is a cornerstone of any healthy, productive relationship, be it personal or professional, and managing remote teams is no different. Keeping the channels of communication open is imperative to effective remote team working, and as the leader, you’ll have to be the one to set the example.
It’s good practice to check in with each member of your team at least once every working day, and a great idea to set up a standing meeting regularly, as frequently as you think is beneficial without being overwhelming. Remember, it’s bad form to hold meetings for the sake of holding meetings, but a weekly check-in with your team on video call is a great way to cultivate a sense of community and connection while keeping everyone abreast of events and work.
Another tip for effective communication when managing remote teams is to provide timelines for responses. For example, if you send an email to a team member with a question in it, it’s always best to put a time frame with it for clarifying purposes. A simple addition like ‘let me know by 3 o’clock, thanks!’ is helpful, since now your team member knows how to prioritize his or her workflow.
And, perhaps most importantly, trust your team. Instead of focusing on granular things like hours clocked, emails answered, or how many video calls you set up, look to the results and output of those working with you. Are projects getting finished on time? Are clients happy? Are results being produced? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it sounds like your team is practicing effective remote team working. Keep faith and keep leading – you’ve got this.
Got more questions about working from home? More questions about running things? We’ve got answers. Check out our blog or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Or, if you have a questions or concern, leave a comment below or send us an email – Larry loves hearing from you.
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