Strategies for managing remote teams.

The working landscape has shifted drastically and more employers have made the shift to remote working teams. This has introduced new challenges for team leaders and managers who have to oversee their teams. Making the shift to remote team management is a big but very necessary mental shift and we are here to help!
Let’s dive into some strategies that could help you get the best out of your remote team.

Start with empathy

Understanding the challenges that your team is facing can help you remove obstacles and make it easier for them to achieve their objectives. Some common challenges facing remote teams are:

  • Reduced face-to-face time
    Humans are social beings and working in isolation has a significant impact. The opportunity for team leaders to gauge where team members are at emotionally becomes challenging. Team leaders don’t have social ‘data’ such as body language and social cues which makes it difficult to accurately manage team dynamics, employee motivation and engagement.
  • Communication
    When working remotely, organic interactions, like passing a comment to the coworker next to you or popping down the hallway to ask a quick question, all fall away. Communication becomes more formal and often communication can get lost in emails or texts. 
  • Distractions
    There is no doubt that remote working brings with it all the distractions of home life. For example, if you have kids, keeping them out of your office can be almost impossible or avoiding temptations like walking to the fridge frequently.
  • Monitoring
    Traditional ways of monitoring your team’s productivity such as desk time become null and void and you may find yourself having to spend a lot more time tracking and checking up on employees. This could become demotivating and break down trust. 

Move forward with creative strategy

Once you understand the challenges your team are facing, implement strategies to help them succeed in the new working environment. Let’s unpack some helpful strategies.

1. Switch from task-focused to outcomes-focused

An outcomes-based approach means that you clearly define the “why” of your objectives and tasks. You help your team connect with the mission and create buy-in so that they are on board.

Once they understand the why, clearly define the goals and desired results. Thereafter, build your plan of action. The task list only comes in at this point. You can even include the team in creating the action plan to increase engagement, creativity and ownership.

Working this way is more motivating than a task list without an understanding of how the tasks contribute to a greater purpose.

2. Set clear, measurable standards

Confusion and uncertainty are big demotivators. Keep your team motivated and engaged by setting clear expectations and boundaries. This will differ for every team but could include doing things like:

  • Have fixed time slots for your availability so if a team member needs you, you are easily accessible
  • Have clear structures in place in terms of working hours, team check-ins.
  • Define the rules of engagement. For example, how to approach common tasks like asking a team member a question.
  • Define whether this should be done on an app like Slack or a phone call.
  • Layout what is appropriate and what is not.
  • Make sure everyone knows what success looks like in your team and how to achieve it.

3. Provide the right tools

Set your team up for success with the right tools. Remote working may require its own set of tools to manage and engage your team. Make sure that your team has everything they need to get their job done. This could include laptops, WiFi, webcams, earphones or even a cellphone.

Set up platforms for easy communication. Many people are already using tools like Zoom, Google Meets or Microsoft Teams. Even a tool like Slack can help the flow of communication and to keep a healthy separation between work and personal life.

4. Engage your team

Keep the feeling of connection alive by making sure your team has space for different kinds of engagement.

  • Personally: Give each team member dedicated time slots on a rotational basis where they can voice concerns, ask questions or just let you know how it’s going. This is also a great platform for you to address any concerns you may have with their progress.
  • Team interactions: Create opportunities for the team to connect formally and informally. This could be in the form of daily or weekly check-ins or stand-ups via an online platform. It could also be informal gatherings like lunch hangouts or games over an online calling platform where team members can “hang out” informally and connect and set times in the day or week.

5. Accept feedback and celebrate!

Show flexibility in your leadership. Your team may be needing to make many adjustments and face different kinds of challenges working from home. Ask them for feedback on the way they are being managed, their remote working experiences and any other challenges the team may be facing. Get input from them and show that you are willing to listen to their feedback and make adjustments where necessary. Having agency and a platform to be heard can help them feel connected and motivated to give their best.

Lastly, but importantly, celebrate the wins! Motivation to work well can be one of the biggest obstacles to remote working. Celebrate the small and the big wins so that your team knows when they have done well. They will likely be motivated to do better when they know it will be noticed and appreciated.

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