Managing a team remotely isn’t easy. It requires ego strength, confidence, focus, and dedication to both the job and the team’s success. Having a remote team has its benefits but also its challenges, especially during the time of COVID-19. It allows the team to be more efficient and autonomous and focus on the work they are doing, increasing overall quality by avoiding the normal in-office distractions. An interruption-free environment provides room for higher productivity.
A report from Owl Labs states that 74% of employees would rather work from home and are less likely to leave their employer when they have that privilege. The demand is higher now than ever before. As remote work continues to grow, it is important to make it a strong element of your team's operations.
I am currently working on growing a new team, defining their individual work, building it to scale, and elaborating on their objectives and goals to grow in numbers and success. This article will cover opportunities to manage remote teams more effectively and even make changes in yourself for the betterment of your team.
Accommodate the best workflow for your team
Focus on the work itself. Find the best way for your team to function so they can get that work done. What tooling is needed for better efficiency? What processes and procedures can be followed to avoid catastrophic failures in flows and service level agreements? Ask yourself these kinds of questions to make sure you remain focused on your end goals and objectives. This will help you get organized and follow through on reaching or exceeding your milestones.
Assign issues or tasks to members of the team. Giving them responsibility will give your team accountability and demonstrate your trust in them.
Your team is something you have to own. The responsibility falls on you to structure your remote team to stay focused on their end-goals, and having the proper systems in place will position your team for success. Find systems and team collaboration tools to foster the work experience and manage expectations. This helps to build overall efficiency as well as accuracy in your team's output.
Accepting flexible schedules
Flexible schedules are an in-demand perk and are even more so during a pandemic when everyone's lives have been thrown into disarray. A single mom with three kids, a married couple with a newborn, or a single person with health concerns might need this flexible schedule option. Be mindful of the various life needs of different people while respecting the needs of the business.
Fostering culture and team engagement
Encouraging team activities allows the team to work together, change their scenery, and bond with their teammates. It provides an environment for learning and co-existing together as a team. The mix of cultures and perspectives in a diverse team provides an opportunity for teammates to connect and build empathy and trust. Meeting face to face from time to time is also helpful for strengthening those bonds.
Acknowledging their hard work is also part of keeping a remote team engaged. I have personally bought snack boxes from SnackNation to show appreciation to my team with a tangible item. We have bonding exercises like team meetings, movie days, and playing online games. There are ways of building people up, even if you are not seeing them in person regularly.
Make communication simple
Communication is vital, no matter what kind of team you are running. I normally communicate with my team via email—clear cut and informal messages come across the best. Using virtual tools like messaging apps and virtual boards makes it easier for the team to communicate. My team utilizes Trello, Slack, and Gmail, among others.
Whatever tools you use, your communications should be easy to comprehend. Don’t make the messages too complex, and be sure to clarify the team's goals and individuals' responsibilities and goals.
Accountability and trust
When going through your to-do list, delegate some responsibilities. This displays your trust in your team and promotes accountability. Provide special projects for them to do that helps you and the team but allows them to change up the monotony of their regular everyday duties. This demonstrates what they bring to the table and how they can work through a different routine and still achieve a sense of accomplishment. You can also show trust and empathy by assigning responsibilities that focus on individual team members' personal strengths and motivations.
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Performance and feedback
Tracking performance should be a key point in your regular one on one meetings with your team. This helps you maintain a view of what they're working on individually and as a whole and send an important message about keeping up with their own progress. You can even use third-party applications to help your team keep up with their workload and achievements throughout the week and stay on task. Whether good, bad, or in between, they should always know if they are performing at the desired level.
Not only is it good to give feedback, but it’s also good to receive it too. This should be done every week. Getting feedback from your team on how you are doing, what you can do to improve workflows, processes, and communication, can make you a better manager and impact your team's outlook and performance. Positive, negative, or neutral, your team's feedback must be taken seriously, and you need to make adjustments as your team needs it. This shows you're a good leader who is willing and open to change, as well as to listen to feedback.
Listen with an open mind
Finally, one of the most important things to be as a leader is open. Find a way to connect with the people on your team. Each connection will be special and different. As you listen to their ideas and goals, start to incorporate those into their daily workflows. This shows that you not only listen, but you really hear their work process pains and make efforts in earnest to improve them.
My personal experience with handling remote teams has been varied. In this day and age, nothing is for sure. We can prepare as much as we want to, but we have no certainty of anything during a pandemic. My team was already remote prior to COVID-19, and I have personally learned a lot about what is required in order to make them feel appreciated, heard, understood, and valued. Learn to better your experiences with people, even if it’s just through a Zoom call.
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Wrap up and takeaways
The more you give as a leader, the more you'll receive back from your team. Accepting them as they are and acknowledging their similarities and their differences will lead to better outcomes. Giving the team positive affirmations will help them evolve their own process that provides structure while leaving room for personal and professional growth. Positive feedback confirms the quality of their work and the impact of that work on the team and the overall organization, and also helps balance any negativity that they have to deal with in the course of their work. Not only that, it can be so rewarding to you as a manager to have a happy and thriving remote team thanks to your efforts.