7 tips for managing your remote team

Whether as a planned strategy or through necessity after the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses of all sizes are now adopting remote working as an integral component of their day-to-day operations. While studies have shown increases in productivity, and the majority of employees feel empowered by their new working strategies, there are areas of this switch that don’t attract quite so much interest.

With remote teams being seen as so successful, there is little chance businesses will want to switch back to standard operating practices and abandon the cost savings and other advantages that distributed teams bring, even once the pandemic has been dealt with via vaccine or other means. For leaders who have the responsibility of managing teams, this is a new challenge that few are talking about.

Whether you build your own remote team or take on a current remote team, managing a group across disparate locations and possibly even time zones, requires a very different approach to a team you meet with face to face every day, who all work in the same building.

Taking on leadership of a remote team is a vigorous test of your management ability, a new situation with its own limitations and approach that needs to be learned. Here are seven tips for ensuring your first remote team management goes how you want it to.

 

1. Be there when your team is

Motivating a team is a challenge in itself, it’s doubly so with a team working at distance. Learn their schedules and personal circumstances so that you can be available when they may need you. This is particularly important if you hire a remote team that covers multiple countries and time zones, and it means adapting your own schedule to provide time for everyone.

By doing this, by going out of your way to make that connection and understand the individual challenges being faced, you will see loyalty in return, and a willingness to perform when the going gets tough.

2. Don’t hide from the differences

When you hire remote teams then things are different. The way a team that is spread across a country or even different continents works as a group is fundamentally different to the way they do when in the same room or building. Working across time zones, collaborating through video conferencing, maintaining an agenda and so on all require a different approach.

Don’t pretend otherwise. As a leader, be upfront about this, set out the processes and ideas you have for creating a work environment that each team member can have confidence in, talk to them as a group and as individuals. By taking on the issue from the beginning, you set in place a series of processes that are tailored for your team and their circumstances. In this way, you begin as efficiently as possible, laying the foundation for long term success.

3. Plan the infrastructure your team needs

When it’s time to build your own remote team, or if you are taking lead for an existing team, plan ahead. Ensure you have the virtual workspace they need to communicate effectively both as a group and between individuals as the project requires. This is especially important for those who have previously worked together in a physical office, where the change to remote collaboration and communication can be a challenge in itself.

Ensure that as a group and as individuals, the team have not just the software and virtual environment in place, but that each member has the hardware required to make full use of that environment. In addition, make sure that each member knows you are available when you need them, it can be easy to feel disconnected and apart for anyone getting used to remote working.

4. Regular communication is essential

When working in a team in the same physical space, there are a number of things we take for granted, the main one being communication. Transitioning to remote teams presents several challenges, but not being able to talk over an idea or problem with someone face to face whenever they need is often the most noticeable.

As leader, instigate a regular communication schedule, even if it’s a quick text or email once a day to ensure they know you are there. A regular weekly meeting becomes more important in a remote team, and here you can take time to begin with non-work talk to help build team morale and create a stronger bond and build a sense of community within the group.

5. Talking to team members is more important than ever

Surveys have shown that many workers enjoy the added flexibility of working remotely, however, there is much they miss out on. Chatting about the world with colleagues, eating together, having a coffee break and so on, these are parts of office life that simply vanish when remote working.

Maintain regular checks with each team member to ensure they are taking breaks and looking after themselves while working remotely.

6. Performance matters, not the hours

One of the key changes that both leadership and workers must adapt to when you build a remote team is that it is the results that matter. Establish the way you measure performance, set clear objectives and set in place effective milestones that all understand.

This provides a framework to judge their work when you can’t just go and see them when you want. Importantly, it separates performance from hours at the desk, because it is the output that really matters.

7. Lead by example

There is a good chance that for many of your team, remote working is an entirely new experience. Setting up the right systems and infrastructure are only useful if your team adapt to this new paradigm, so here you must lead by example.

Maintain communication, connect with the group and individuals regularly, be encouraging and human, inject a little fun and display a healthy work-life balance. Some team members may struggle with this new situation to begin with, but if you show the way and they will follow soon enough.

Above all, remember that if you build a remote team, it is a learning process for everyone. Be flexible, always remember that these are people, and ensure they have the support and guidance to deal with anything that comes along. As a leader, you are learning too, don’t be afraid to look for better approaches, to be guided by feedback from your team. Embrace the difference and find a new way to manage from a distance.

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