Becoming proficient at managing remote teams takes a mental leap, especially for managers or team leaders who are used to working in an office.
Back then, leaders or managers monitored productivity based on work time and visible activity. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic forced leaders to get used to the culture of remote work (work from anywhere). Employees, too, may feel out of shorts in the beginning as they adjust shifts in their days. That's understandable.
Some people who have never worked from home are still unfamiliar with this environment, including distractions and what they can and can't do while working remotely.
If you're managing a remote team, you're in the right place. But before we dive any further, let's get caught up with the challenges for remote workers.
Remote working sounds like the business revolution we all need. There are many studies on the benefits of working remotely. They take less time off, stay motivated longer, and prioritise freedom of expression.
But every time there is an advantage, a challenge always follows it. Despite all the perks remote workers enjoy, they find it challenging. According to a study by Hubstaff, the big challenge for these businesses is communication and culture. Meanwhile, according to Buffer, the biggest struggle of remote working is loneliness (19%), distraction (10%), and communication (17%).
The first challenge for remote workers is easy burnout. When people go to the office daily, there is a clear line between work and personal. But when it's remote working, these boundaries seem to disappear. Some people end up working longer hours which results in decreased productivity.
2. Lack of clear expectations and boundaries
As a team leader, you would be wrong if you think everyone already understands what they must do in the office. Expectations should be clear when working remotely.
Therefore, it is essential to ensure that team members understand the boundaries and expectations of the team. Simple things like how to respond to chat, when to discuss, how to communicate, and working hours.
At first, working from anywhere feels good, but they may feel lonely over time. Team leaders must have their tricks to overcome the feeling of loneliness in employees, for example, by doing virtual activities together for fun.
4. Lack of trust
Trust is difficult to build. We all know that trust is hard to form without spending time together. Day-to-day interactions and communication are the keys. You and your team need to find a way to build confidence. Lack of trust will have a negative impact, such as micromanaging.
Communication is not only a challenge for remote workers but also for those who work in offices. Poor communication is the root of every management problem. In both roles, either the team leader or team members will feel hurt.
Here's how to manage your new remote workers
While this job can be challenging, some things make the transition easier. Here's what you can do as a team leader:
1. Set clear remote work productivity standards
It's necessary to set clear expectations when discussing productivity standards. It will be different when working in an office from working virtually. Each measure must be analysed and documented, however informally.
A simple example is a Call Centre position that must complete seven client calls daily while ensuring there is no motor noise in the background.
While the standard productivity documentation process may seem like too much extra effort, it can help to spot trends that need addressing. It also simplifies the process of identifying productivity needs and obstacles.
2. Set expectations
The second best practice is to set expectations with everyone involved. Expectations include working hours, project scheduling, deadlines, meetings and project goals.
For illustration, as a leader, you must share how you manage them. Please pay attention to each member's aspirations so that they feel heard.
Tips for setting expectations:
- Providing feedback through one-on-one conversations is the best hope-setting process. In the conversation, you can discuss expectations with each other.
- Be realistic.
- Provide documents. Video call meetings are sometimes not enough for the team to remember.
3. Schedule daily stand-ups and weekly meetings
Teams will feel heard and recognised, while the team leader will stay up to date on their team's progress. A short 10-15 minute meeting each day is an opportunity to get everyone on the same boat.
Tips for running daily stand-ups:
- Keep daily stand-ups short and on topic.
- Do it on a consistent schedule. Discuss an appropriate and convenient time for the team and stick to it.
- Make sure that everyone is focused when attending daily stand-ups.
In addition to daily check-ins, weekly meetings are also important. Keep this meeting professional and productive, but leave room for humour and empathy to sink in. There's nothing wrong with noisy vehicles or the occasional mom's scream from the kitchen.
Tips for running an effective weekly meeting:
- Involve all team members. Try using icebreakers and tricks to ensure everyone on the team has a voice.
- Have fun with the team. When the teams haven't spoken to each other before, try to show empathy, respect each other's time, and make conversation effective.
4. Build an environment of trust
We all know that one of the challenges in remote work is trust. There is a trust issue because you can't see the team in real-time. In some cases, team members may never even see each other face-to-face. Try these tips to build an environment of trust:
- Be a responsible and reliable leader for your team
- Schedule bonding activities together every month or for a specific time
- Promote transparency and demonstrate the benefits to the team
- Avoid micromanagement and set a good example for team members
5. Prioritise outcomes over activity
Busy work does not benefit anyone, especially remote workers. Sometimes you will be tempted to monitor every team movement. But I believe that managing a hybrid team means understanding that outcomes should speak for themselves.
It would be best if you understood that some teams might have a habit of working at night or before dawn. Remote workers sometimes have different golden times to work. As long as the work is good and achieves targets, there's no reason to stipulate how they work.
Try these tips to start focusing on results:
- First things first, don't be stiff. Let the team work according to their style.
- Learn how they work. Over time, team leaders should start to see trends in how individual teams work remotely. You should discuss and confirm their hours of operation and what types of remote workers they are.
6. Designate communication channels
It is crucial to determine which channel to use to communicate remotely. Be sure to share the primary platform and double-check if the team can use it.
Also, discuss how many video calls are the maximum limit. Project Management Tools are a must-have weapon for remote workers. The tool must meet the team's needs, such as chat to collaborate with the team, project features to track progress, and easy notes during the meeting process.
7. Always track the progress of the workers
Since each team member works according to their style, ask for their work schedule. Besides ensuring the work progress, you can also predict whether the team will achieve the target.
If you see that some progress is stuck, as the leader, you need to confirm with the individual in charge. Please communicate with the individual what difficulties they are having and offer to help.
8. Provide the right tools
Again, an essential aspect in successfully managing remote employees is the ease of access to work. Well, to meet that requirement, the leader and the team must think about what makes the transition easier.
Internet access, project management tools, computers and headsets are mandatory for remote workers. As a beginner's guide, here are the needs that an office needs to provide for hybrid workers:
- Access to digital communication tools and files
- Internet connection
- Project and time management tools
Apart from preparing needs, training employees to use remote work tools and culture is also essential. Do a trial for a few days and see the changes and results.
9. Show flexibility
One of the great things about WFA is flexibility. For example, one team member has to pick up his child from school at 11 a.m, and he will work an extra hour in the afternoon. For this reason, a team leader must have flexibility.
10. Show patience and empathy
Working to manage a remote team can sometimes be tiring. The way of communicating, from weekly meetings to daily stand-ups, will feel different. Even celebrating the achievement of a goal can be more difficult.
But, through all the fatigue that comes, the best thing you can do as a team leader is to show empathy and patience. Keep in mind that some people need social interaction and want to work in an office. You need to understand them.
Managing a remote team can sometimes be challenging, but you don't need to worry. In short, good remote team management depends on how well you manage your remote team.
Many project management tools like VirtualSpace make remote work more effortless. Slowly you will find that communication between teams becomes more accessible with the right tools.
Creating a productive workplace that caters to various individuals' needs is quite a balancing act. The ten tips above will help you manage your team effectively. So, don't forget to practise it!