The days of leading and managing a team in the office might not be over but with more and more companies going remote, it has become necessary to develop new leadership strategies for this modern workforce.
Leading and managing a remote team can be difficult. You have to ensure several things like:
- Employees getting the necessary information;
- Communicating with your employees regularly about their work;
- Encourage socialization among remote team members;
- + so much more
These tasks are not unique to remote work practices but can become more complicated, especially for virtual teams.
So how do you ensure good management and leadership so that your remote team is as effective and efficient as ever?
There are several strategies you can employ to make your life as a leader or manager of a remote team easier, and we’re going to talk about that today.
What is a remote team?
Remote teams are members that do not work in the same office. They are organized through technology, webinars, social media, video conferencing and using other communication tools to collaborate with one another. Remote team members might work from outside the state or even the country while still being part of an organization’s workforce.
A remote team can consist of only two people operating together remotely all the way up to thousands of individuals who are distributed across various locations. Remote workers can supplement their income by logging hours remotely for a project while living in a low cost-of-living area or they may be seeking more scheduling flexibility that allows them to spend more time with family or pursue other interests outside of work.
Why is remote working such a popular practice today?
Remote work has skyrocketed since the onset of the pandemic, which forced many companies to close their physical offices and carry out operations virtually.
However, employees have long been asking for and wanting the ability to work remotely. Why’s that?
Employees love remote working because it is in line with their preferences and needs. It allows them to choose from where they want to work and saves their time by removing the commuting need.
Remote working not only saves employees travel time, but also the costs associated with it, which means they can save money by eliminating these expenses.
As for employers, they love the idea of remote working because it solves a lot of problems. It helps them save money on office-related expenses (electricity, rent, heating, etc.), find better talent, avoid office politics, and lower employee turnover rates.
With all of the above in mind, it’s no wonder remote working practice is spreading so quickly in companies around the world.
How to handle the challenges of managing a remote team?
Leading and managing a remote team is often regarded as one of the most difficult tasks in an organization. While they can be an asset to any company, there are many challenges that come with having employees work remotely including trust, communication, accountability and organizational culture.
However, since many companies are already engaged in the practice of remote work, fortunately, there are many proven strategies that ensure the successful management of such teams. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Set clear expectations about company culture
Company culture means the values, beliefs and attitudes that are shared by employees. It is the foundation of your company’s environment and defines how people act within it.
Company culture is important in any organization, but it is even more critical when you are leading a remote team.
As a leader or manager, you cannot expect remote team members to be aware of what this culture is if they never experienced it in person firsthand.
As such, it’s up to you to ensure that your remote employees adhere to company policies and follow certain rules about communication etiquette.
To make this process easier for both parties involved, communicate with them on what kind of behavior is expected from each member within the team and how they are expected to communicate with other members.
Make an employee manual that includes information such as company culture, rules, and expectations to set the remote team up for success.
2. Encourage daily check-ins
Check-ins are important because it enables managers to connect with their staff, understand where they are right now, identify their challenges, and ensure the team is working properly to achieve company goals.
The importance becomes even more crucial for remote teams because they don’t have the luxury of seeing each other in person. It is therefore important to set up check-ins on a daily basis so that everyone can stay aware of what’s going on with their team members, and how work is progressing overall.
Make sure your remote employees know when these meetings are scheduled for by sending out an email or invitations in their calendars.
The format of chek-ins can vary from company to company and it is up to you to decide how this process will work for your team. You can do video calls or simple text updates in chat.
For many remote teams, the check-in happens at a set time each day (for example, between 11 am and 12 pm). Other companies like their employees’ input on what is the best time that works well for them within the timeframe they are all available.
Regardless of what you decide, make sure to set these meetings in advance so that everyone is aware of when it will happen.
3. Take advantage of the tools you have at your fingertips
Fortunately today, there are a host of collaboration and project management tools that help remote teams with communication, meetings and task management.
The advantage of using these tools is that they are available on any device (desktop, laptop or smartphone), at any time, anywhere in the world!
This means that you can connect with your staff and see what project they are working on, whenever necessary, simply by opening these software.
Tools such as Google Drive, Slack, Trello and Jira are especially effective because they have collaboration features that allow everyone to stay up-to-date on the progress of a certain task or project without being distracted from their own work.
As a manager, it is important that you know these tools to keep your staff engaged, connected and up-to-date.
4. Focus on accountability
Holding employees accountable for their work will not only give them a sense of responsibility, but also the confidence that they are in charge of their own projects, in their own phase.
Set performance indicators like KPI’s, OKR’s and SMART goals in order to help your employees with this. Performance indicators will help them understand what they are working towards so that they can manage their time more effectively.
If your remote employees feel like nobody is keeping track of how much work they have done on a daily basis, the chances are high that it will be harder for them to stay motivated and productive.
5. Be transparent
Due to the lack of transparency, people tend to be left out of important information because it is not widely available and is only communicated between closed groups.
Encourage your remote team to be transparent with each other by sharing information, ideas and updates about a project.
This can be done by encouraging the team to prioritize public channels, store documents in public folders, and share their projects and results with the entire team.
Transparency will help your remote staff to trust one another and feel more connected so that they can work together in achieving the company goals. It is important for you as well because it enables managers to better understand what his/her team is up to.
6. Prioritize team spirit
Team spirit creates a feeling of belonging and having a sense of purpose.
Since you are not able to see your team members in person, it becomes even more important that they feel like they’re not alone and are actually an important part of the team.
Organize online team building activities like:
- Webinars or video conferences about company values and vision
- Virtual board game nights
- Employee awards to publicly recognize their value to the company
These activities will help your team to feel more connected and this helps them start working together towards the same goal as a cohesive unit.
7. Hire the right team
It’s important to make sure your hires are right for your business, regardless of whether your business operates remotely or not.
However, when it comes to remote team members, you need to be very cautious to make sure people are ready to be a part of that work environment and have the right skills.
Ensure that your candidates are able to communicate well, show initiative and have good time management skills.
Keep in mind that hiring talented employees who aren’t a good fit could actually create more problems than benefits because they will not be comfortable in that environment.
Hiring the right people will help your remote team get along better and be more productive, so it is worth taking a little more time to find the perfect fit.
If you’re struggling to lead and manage a remote team, take some cues from these strategies.
Focus on accountability by holding employees accountable for their work and performance indicators like KPI’s or OKR’s.
Be transparent by encouraging your staff to share information with one another in public channels or folders.
Prioritize team spirit by organizing activities that bring the group together (virtual board game nights) and hiring people who will fit well into your company culture.
Hire carefully so you can find someone who is right for this type of management environment!
Hopefully, with these tips, you will be able to effectively lead and manage your remote team and bring success to your business.