A Guide To Managing Your (Newly) Remote Team
Team management is one thing. Remote team management is something else. As remote managers and team leaders, how do we handle multiple projects, incoming queries and arising issues? How do we virtually keep track of colleagues? Assist the whole team to stay motivated and on task? And as remote employees, how do we handle the workload without feeling disconnected from the team or the job? To help you find ways to tackle this challenge, have a look at this guide to managing your newly remote team.
However, if you don’t feel like reading the rest of this article, remember that remote team management consists of these key elements: to prioritize on a clear and consistent work structure and communication; to implement a virtual onboarding process; for the purpose of setting clear boundaries; to not neglect the social dimension of team culture; and to actions indicative of respect and trust.
Get the Help You Need
If your team operated like a well-oiled machine before the pandemic, can you identify what major and specific things about the inner workings of your group dynamic that made it so efficient? Is there any way that these elements could be applied on a remote team to reach the same level of productivity and healthy work environment? And, if not possible, in what way could the underlying principles of these elements be reproduced this time virtually? What tools available could help achieve that? These questions will help narrow down some solutions to managing your newly remote team.
For example, if you believe in the usefulness of weekly team meetings on Monday mornings, then holding a video conferencing at the same time during the week can be easily replicated to suit virtual teams. Why is that meeting useful? For multiple reasons, namely:
1- it keeps a channel of communication that is
2- open and
4- where every team member can see each other at least once a week;
5- while it serves as a common point of reference;
6- it creates opportunities to check up on team members, follow up, ask questions, address issues, clarify directives, etc.;
7- by setting priorities and assigning responsibilities, it presents a shared understanding on the workflow;
8- it sets clear expectations individually and as a group for the rest of the week.
Dealing with a New Team: Tools of the Trade
If you are dealing with a completely new team that is working remotely, the point of this interminable paragraph is to prioritize on a clear and consistent work structure and communication that can be carried out realistically in a remote team environment. Speaking of a new remote team, consider virtual onboarding when managing your newly remote team for an impactful introduction and lasting impression. Why? It increases the chances of retention, work satisfaction, it boosts productivity and strengthen team culture and loyalty. We have discussed onboarding remote teams here. Take Donut as an example, which creates social and learning opportunities for remote teams. Take time to explore what works best for your remote team. It’s worth the effort. Ask them about their communication and learning styles and preferences.
Consider Everyone’s Differences, Including Your Own!
Furthermore, make note of which leadership approach or communication style or means of communication yield better results, either in one-on-one situations or as a group. In turn, be prepared for a learning curve and show flexibility to adapt. Who gets things done more efficiently from a phone call? Is anyone asking for help for time management? Could it be beneficial to pair a junior employee with a more senior coworker? Do team members prefer chatting among themselves or compete against one another? And what about your own leadership preferences? Are you more comfortable being in the loop at every stage of a project? What are you forgetful about the team you manage?
Do you have a colour-coded list of team members by time zone handy? How comfortable are you with remote tools? Do you need to delegate? What areas of remote work do you find worrisome or challenging? What or who could remedy that? Do you fear losing control? It’s all worth figuring out. Setting clear work structure and communication also comes with setting clear boundaries. Work life and ‘life’ life gets dangerously confounded when working from home. Blending both can be a recipe for disaster. No one wants a burnout, or feel overwhelmed, or get overstressed, or develop insomnia, or have the impression to be constantly running out of time while not doing enough at work or failing to spend quality time with closed ones or simply to rest. Life is meant to be enjoyed!
Working in Turbulent Times
Respect your time off work and clearly let coworkers know when you are not available to manage expectations about work-related issues. Set alert notifications to reflect your schedule. (Meaning, turn everything off on weekends!). Do not neglect the social component to boost morale. A team culture makes all the difference. How about having group lunch over Zoom? Or share a playlist on Tuesday afternoons? Any gesture to make a remote employee part of the team counts.
All things considered, managing your newly remote team comes down to a matter of mutual respect and trust. It’s easy to overlook the obvious. Let’s all treat ourselves like capable adults. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Honest mistakes happen. Let’s trust that we have the capabilities and aptitudes to do what we were hired for. Let’s believe that 99% of us really just want to do a good job. Chad keeps forgetting to mute himself and suddenly his barking dog becomes intolerable? No biggie! Let the meeting host remind to self: from now on, ask everybody before the meeting starts to check if they are all muted. Or gently message on chat with an emoji. Chad will eventually learn. This is the “please turn off your phone” announcement of our covid-19 era.
Granted, we are collectively facing turbulent times, unprecedented uncertainties and unpredictable challenges, and we might have to go through many frustrating trials and errors and get messy before we find out what works and what doesn’t. Let’s try anyway.
Shirley is a Vacation Tracker occasional contributor. She’s held a few positions in communications, marketing and copywriting. When she’s not at her laptop, you can find her daydreaming about her laptop and chasing the sun while people watching.