Recent world events have led to a surge in remote working, and the need for managing remote teams. But even so, that upward trend was in place long before the global pandemic made it compulsory!
Indeed, the 12 years leading up to 2017 saw a 159% increase in the number of remote workers in America. Clearly, people everywhere are ditching the office in search of workplace flexibility.
You can’t blame them either! Employees bid farewell to the daily commute and employers reduce their overheads. But, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
As a monumental shift in traditional working dynamics, managing remote teams can become a serious challenge–especially when you’ve never had to do it before.
Have you recently transitioned to a remote working setup? Looking for advice on managing remote teams just as effectively as in-person? Read on for 7 key tips that should help you do it.
1. Prioritize Communication
Managing anything at a distance can be tough.
After all, you can’t be there in person to interact and handle any situations or issues that arise. It doesn’t take much to start feeling powerless, disillusioned, disconnected, and more than a little frustrated.
As the manager of a remote team, the best way to avoid that eventuality is to put in extra effort to communicate with employees. Whether it’s via voice or text, frequently communicating with the team will solve a whole host of problems.
You relieve that sense of disconnection, encourage collaboration, offer your input, stay up to speed on progress, let people know you care, and identify work-related issues before they can develop.
2. Leverage Communication Tools
The good news is that modern technology makes effective communication far easier.
You’ve now got an abundance of communicatory tools at your disposal. Everything from video conferencing and business communication software to text messages and emails can be put to use.
Ironically, the trickiest part can be selecting the right one(s) for the job.
Struggling to decide which tools to use? Why not get the consensus of your team instead of making an executive decision? Asking their preferred methods of staying in touch will a) show you value their opinion, and b) ensure you communicate in a way that works for everyone.
3. Set Your Expectations and Be Clear About Them
Everybody in the team has to be on the same page for remote work to run smoothly. It’s about knowing the rules of engagement: what’s expected of them and when.
Only with that information in hand will the operation run as you intend it.
For example, imagine trying to run regular team meetings without telling everyone beforehand when you’re going to call. It would only lead to missed calls and major frustration.
It’s well worth laying everything on the line. The more transparent you are with your expectations, the more reasonable it is to assume that they’ll be met. Whether your expectations need to be clear around communication, responsibilities, or deadlines, make sure that everybody’s on the same page.
4. Ensure that You’re Contactable
It’s no good stressing the importance of communication if nobody can ever get ahold of you!
Make sure that you’re available as much as possible and remember to tell your team if/whenever you aren’t. You could even let people know your schedule and the best way to get in contact throughout the day.
For example, you might only be free to answer calls during certain hours, preferring emails/instant messages outside of them. Giving your team that information will ensure they can get in touch appropriately when they need to.
5. Be Flexible with Working Hours
Many people opt for remote work because of the flexibility it offers.
It puts employees in charge of their time! As opposed to doing set hours in an office every day, they can choose when and where they work. In other words, they have the option to fit work around life, as opposed to the other way round.
Has your team recently transitioned to a remote working set up? Be willing to embrace this newfound flexibility and trust that team members are doing the work that’s required of them. As long as it gets done on time and to a sufficient standard, then everybody wins.
6. Remember the Importance of Social Interaction
Think about the social dynamic of traditional workplaces.
They're shared spaces, where employees are always in close proximity to one another. They can catch up around the water-cooler, share stories in the staff room, and get lunch together in the afternoon.
Throw post-work drinks and networking events into the mix and it’s no wonder people often feel so isolated when they switch to remote work.
As the manager, why not organize virtual social events to bring remote workers together online? You could run quizzes, celebrate milestones, have dinner dates, or share a wine (or two), all via video call! People are sure to feel more connected and energized in the process.
7. Be Compassionate, Supportive, and Understanding
Managing remote workers isn’t easy–but neither is remote work!
It requires staying motivated without the usual support of your boss and colleagues. It involves long hours at home on the computer with lots of distractions to ignore. And, fundamentally, it requires a change from the normal routine.
Try to keep all that in mind as you embark on your managerial duties. Going the extra mile to make everybody feel cared for and supported will make a significant difference to their experience of remote work. Really listen to your team, and try to be understanding of the remote work challenges they are facing.
Remember These Tips for Managing Remote Teams
Remote working is already commonplace around the globe.
But, sooner or later, it’s going to be the new norm. Employers will have swapped the office for the internet, employees will enjoy the freedom to work where and when they please, and nobody will bat an eyelid!
Until then, though, switching from a traditional working environment can take some getting used to–especially when you’re the manager. Indeed, as we’ve seen, managing remote teams comes with a set of brand new challenges for any team leader to wrap their head around.
I hope the tips in this post will help you get the hang of it! Want some extra help or need any additional support with your small business? Click here to schedule a free chat! You might also check out this helpful guide discussing solutions for managing remote teams and global HR practices.