How to Manage Your Remote Teams
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For many years there has been a slow and gradual trend towards remote working. However, in the past six months, the trend has gone into overdrive. Millions of people are now working from home, in a workplace revolution that seems unlikely to be reversed. Even once lockdown ends and economies open up, many employees are reporting they want to continue to work from home.
However, what is often less appreciated is the strain this has placed upon managers and team leaders. Where once they could see their employees in the office every day, judging the mood, and seeing their team hard at work. Now, they’re primary tools of management have been rendered obsolete.
So, in this new world, how do you manage a remote team?
With your employees thrust into a chaotic way of working, it is vital now more than ever for managers to create a sense of structure. Even as things return to normal, establishing the rules and boundaries of remote work is essential. However, a balance must be struck. No matter how hard we pretend, the new way of working cannot be the same as the old.
Therefore, communicate expectations and listen to feedback. No system can be one-size-fits-all. As such, some flexibility is vital. When new employees start, ensure their training reflects and teaches the practices put in place, with clears systems of communication and workflow being used readily.
Use helpful software
We are not new to Skype, Zoom, and Slack, but the “Universe” of tools for team collaboration is boundless. So don’t limit your team with just chats, calendars, or time trackers. Keep an eye out for other helpful software, e.g. try to use a digital whiteboard.
This is a shareable multi-purpose online workspace intended for joint performance. Many online whiteboards, like Weje, are free of charge and include helpful instruments: built-in templates, mind map makers, checklists, online sticky notes, and so on. Once you’ve uploaded information on a canvas or copied & pasted it from the Internet, you can group it into data cards and after – download, and share with colleagues. Remote teams can also use whiteboards to review works, manage project workflows, and organize remote brainstorming sessions.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
No longer are employees able to pop into your office to ask a quick question. Many don’t want to interrupt their manager, believing they are always busy. That might be true; however, if employees do not ask questions, their productivity will slow down. They will not find answers as quickly.
Therefore, it is vital to create a culture of communication. Employees must be prepared to share information, as well as feeling free to speak to their manager, if necessary. One method is to set a daily or weekly check-in time with each employee. In these short meetings, employees can express their frustrations, ask questions, and receive guidance. It allows them to feel heard, preventing feelings of loneliness and alienation.
Share Your Tips
As mentioned, the flow of information in a company is the lifeblood of success. Without the sharing of ideas, productivity slows, work stumbles. Therefore, share your tips and hints. One approach is to create a central repository where all the guidance can be placed for the rest of the team to access.
This guidance doesn’t just have to be about specific work tasks but also using the new tools of remote work. For example, using virtual backgrounds during video calls to disguise your home; instead, replacing them with professional backgrounds, like a stylish office or home. In this example, a team could use the same virtual background when talking to a client, to give a meeting a sense of continuity and professionalism.
Trust is critical when managing a remote team. Put plainly; some managers don’t trust their teams. As such, micromanagement is rife, with each task an individual completes being analysed. However, this causes employees to feel untrusted and undervalued. Instead, focus on outcomes, not processes. It is vital to give employees a sense of independence, allowing each person to find their method of working. By judging people by their outcomes, you let them decide how to complete a task, which can lead to innovation.
Support Your Team Members
While some will take to remote work with no issues, others can find it lonely and isolating. Therefore, demonstrating empathy and compassion is more important than ever. Your team needs to feel heard and supported. During your daily or weekly meetings, make it a point to ask the question directly. ‘How are you finding working from home?’ Doing so may prompt answers you did not expect. Or you could send out an anonymous survey.
Managing a remote team is a new challenge. But if you employ the right techniques of community, confidence and collaboration, there is every chance of making it a success.
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