Are you looking for ways to manage your remote team better?
Working from home is no longer an exception. The pandemic coupled with the advancement in technology has accelerated the shift towards remote working.
And the trend is here to stay.
A recent study revealed that 65% of employees want to be full-time remote workers after the pandemic.
But even though working from home has obvious perks, such as avoiding commuting and working in your pj’s, it can also be daunting as a manager.
That’s because, as a leader, you need to instill your company culture, put together a cohesive team able to create magic together, and promote team synergy.
And that’s no easy feat when you’re working kilometers away from each other!
So, whether you have never led a remote team before or are simply looking to improve your skills as a remote leader, here are ten tips on successfully managing a team remotely and optimizing its efficiency.
Set Clear Rules and Objectives
‘’80% of US employees report feeling stressed due to ineffective company communication.’’
This first step is probably the most important one if you want your team to work cohesively and perform well.
In the same way employees are expected to behave and communicate appropriately in the office, they also have to abide by certain rules when working from home.
As a manager, it is your responsibility to define and clearly communicate expectations and targets. And, you need to set a clear direction if you expect your team to achieve these goals. So, make sure everything is clear, and there is no room for interpretation. Clarity and communication are essential to ensure a smooth remote working experience.
How to set clear objectives and rules?
Some of the critical things you should discuss with every member of your team include:
- What is tolerated and what is prohibited in terms of communication, behavior, and quality of work.
- What meetings or events are critical for them to attend.
- What tasks they need to perform and how to establish priority.
- Meaningful goals and ensure they’re on board with them.
- The desired outcomes and deadlines. Make sure to be specific when setting goals and deadlines. For instance, instead of saying, ‘’this month, I want you to make more sales than last month’’, say ‘’I want you to achieve $25,000 in sales this month. This is more specific and therefore clearer.
- Particular situations in which you absolutely want to be notified.
- How to contact you in case of emergency.
One of the top issues employees have about their employers is not being given clear direction.
So, setting expectations, ground rules, and clear goals from the get-go will help you lay the ground for a harmonious and productive work relationship. This, in turn, will allow you to create a remote work environment conducive to productivity and efficiency.
Promote Independence and Avoid Micromanaging
‘’69% of micromanaged employees have considered leaving their job because of micromanagement’’.
Sure, working remotely means that you can’t watch over your team’s shoulders, ensuring that they’re at their desk working away at all times. But, your role as a manager isn’t to run around telling everyone in your team what they need to do and how to manage their time. After all, micromanagement has a clear negative impact on teams’ morale and productivity.
Instead, you need to ensure that they have all the tools they need to succeed on their own. As a leader managing a remote team, it’s important to empower them to work independently. However, you need to let them know that you’re always there to answer their questions and support them with whatever they might need.
It’s also critical for your team to feel like you trust that they can achieve their goals on their own terms. When employees feel trusted, they’re more engaged, more satisfied with their work, and, therefore, more productive.
One of the best ways to show your employees you trust them and trust that they are fulfilling their responsibilities is to take a servant leadership approach.
Taking a servant leadership approach means putting your team and their needs first. And this method is highly efficient when managing remote workers as it allows employees to feel fully supported even without face-to-face interactions. In fact, research has shown that this type of approach leads to higher engagement and less turnover.
So, the next time you feel like checking up on a team member for the third or fourth time in a day, remember that trust is critical for your team to perform.
Organize Regular One-on-One Meetings
A quick call to each team member every day is an excellent way to ensure that they have everything they need to succeed.
Regular one-on-one catch-ups will help you:
- Better connect with each team member. This way, you’ll be able to learn about any roadblocks, constraints, or challenges they might be facing. Besides, one of the main drawbacks of remote working is the lack of social interactions leading to isolation. So, make sure to also enquire about their mental health and offer support.
- Better identify and understand each member’s strengths and weaknesses. This will help you address areas of development and implement a plan of action you both agree on.
- Connect with your team on a personal level. During your one-on-one time with them, take an active interest in their lives. For instance, make sure to ask them how their weekend was. You can also ask what they like to do during their free time. This shows that you care about them and not just about their performance.
- Improve your team efficiency. Creating connections with remote workers can significantly improve employees’ motivation and engagement.
- Build trust and empower your employees to do better. Regular catch-ups provide the team with a forum where they can express their concerns or questions. This helps establish trust. And it also creates a motivating work environment as they know their voice will be heard and their opinion matters.
Schedule Daily Huddle Team Meetings
‘’38% of employees feel exhausted after a full week of virtual meetings’’.
Let’s be honest; nobody likes lengthy team meetings that drag on for hours when issues could have been discussed in twenty minutes.
So, dare we say, lengthy team meetings are a thing of the past?
Sure, team meetings are important as they allow remote team members to stay engaged and feel like they belong to an organization. Plus, they allow everyone to know what others are working on and help create team synergy.
However, long daily or weekly team meetings can be counterproductive and lead to a lack of engagement. That’s where team meetings 2.0 come into play. What are these, you ask? They’re called virtual huddle meetings. And as a forward-thinking leader looking to successfully manage a remote team, you should favor these types of meetings.
Here’s how to organize one effectively:
- Fix a daily agenda for the meeting.
- Set the meeting for a maximum of 15 minutes, including Q&A.
- Encourage people to keep any non-urgent questions for this session.
- Make it sharp, short, and sweet to improve productivity and engagement.
Now, time to huddle on!
Use Efficient Communication and Management Tools
As the leader of a remote team, you need to harness the power of technology and leverage efficient project management tools to ensure smooth communication within your team. For instance, some specific projects might require multiple employees to work together. They’ll need a seamless platform to work as a unit.
As a result, make sure to pick the right platforms to facilitate team collaboration and streamline the internal and external communication process.
What’s more, you’ll also need to ensure the tools you’re using allow you to monitor your team’s progress and track projects and tasks.
Here’s a list of some of the best communication and project management tools to manage your team effortlessly:
Favor Asynchronous Communication
Effective communication is the bedrock of a successful remote team. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the biggest challenges of managing remote workers. Your team members could all be in different time zones or have different working arrangements.
So, if you want your distributed team to perform, you’ll need to adapt to these challenges by finding the right balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication to enhance communication and productivity.
Synchronous Communication vs. Asynchronous Communication
Synchronous communication happens in real-time and in the moment. Think instant messaging or phone calls. It refers to any form of communication where an immediate response is expected.
On the other hand, asynchronous communication doesn’t require an immediate response. It refers to emails or messages sent with an expectation that the receiver will take a few hours or days to get back to you.
Ideally, in a remote scenario, you need to promote asynchronous communication for different reasons, including:
Have you ever experienced constant pinging on the internal chat while receiving endless notifications from the team’s WhatsApp or Slack group? This can be very distracting, preventing work efficiency and reducing productivity. By promoting asynchronous communication, you’ll help employees keep their focus on the task at hand, and enhance their performance.
Avoiding odd hours and burnout
Being constantly distracted and available online can be emotionally overwhelming. Also, it can significantly decrease productivity leading employees to work longer hours to make up for the time spent on non-urgent emails, internal chats, and phone conversations. What’s more, if your team is in different time zones, scheduling frequent team meetings or expecting them to respond at all times will inevitably lead to poor work-life balance and decreased productivity, engagement, and motivation.
Yet synchronous communication is still critical to your team’s success. But you should only encourage it in specific scenarios such as:
A bit of banter or chitchat every now and then can really brighten up an employee’s day, especially when working remotely. Internal chats and virtual hangouts provide team members with tools and platforms to connect with others in their team. By sharing jokes and stories, they’ll feel less isolated, which can, in turn, help them keep a healthy mindset and improve their emotional wellbeing. In this case, synchronous communication is vital as it allows team members to form a bond and feel like they belong to the company.
If your team works on complex creative or analytical projects, they could benefit from real-time communication tools. This will help brainstorm and solve problems more efficiently and increase productivity while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Team meetings and individual catch-ups should still be conducted by video chat. This will help you and your team build rapport with each other. However, keep time zones in mind when scheduling them and keep the meetings as short as possible.
Encourage Work-Life Balance
‘’40% of remote employees find switching off after working hours challenging.’’
One of the major hurdles remote workers face is finding a balance between their working day and personal life.
That’s right; there’s a fine line between working from home and living at work. That’s why, as a manager, implementing specific practices to ensure your team switches off at the end of the day is critical.
Encouraging them to establish clear boundaries will help your employees to avoid burnout. They’ll be reenergized and feel refreshed after a lovely evening or weekend and a good night’s sleep. And it will also show your team that you care about their wellbeing.
Additionally, companies that promote work-life balance experience two times more productivity than companies that don’t.
Some of the best things you can do to promote work-life balance include:
- Encouraging your team to turn off the internal company chat and emails when they’ve finished their workday.
- Encouraging individuals to take small breaks during the day.
- Regularly reviewing and discussing each team members’ workload.
- Leading by example by not emailing your employees after hours.
- Supporting parents that have young children by allowing part-time when possible or more flexible hours.
- Offering perks to help them stay healthy and improve their wellbeing, such as gym memberships.
Focus on Productivity Rather than Hours
Time doesn’t equal productivity, and the ‘’less is more’’ approach can work wonders for companies.
Well, an individual might be working twice as much as another and produce twice as little results.
So, as a remote team manager, you should always prioritize quality over quantity and use results as your key metric. Focus on the outcome and the long-term goals rather than the number of hours your employees are logged in.
In fact, many successful companies like Netflix or Apple are embracing the ‘’less is more’’ approach to boost their employees’ productivity.
Showing flexibility in terms of working hours will allow you to increase work satisfaction among your team. They’ll feel trusted and empowered to perform on their own terms. As a result, they’ll be more productive during the time they’re spending on projects.
For instance, studies have shown that the four-day workweek increases productivity and employees’ wellbeing. And for that reason, many organizations, such as Microsoft Japan, have even started implementing it, which is showing promising results.
Benefits of the ‘’less is more’’ approach
- Setting a shorter deadline motivates employees to sharpen their focus over a shorter period.
- Team members feel a sense of urgency regarding specific tasks.
- They don’t have as much time to procrastinate and have to structure the fewer hours they get to reach their goals.
- Employees know that once they’ve achieved their goals or completed their tasks, they can switch off. This, in turn, incentivizes them to perform better when performing tasks so that they can get more done in less time.
Encourage Social Interactions to Promote Collaboration
‘’20% of remote workers feel isolated.’’
While you should promote asynchronous communication most of the time, socialization is essential to the cohesion and wellbeing of a remote team.
As a leader, your role is to instill the company’s culture within the team and ensure everyone feels part of the company. It’s also critical for employees to be and stay on the same page.
Connecting meaningfully with one another will help them stay motivated and promote collaboration. However, this can prove challenging in a remote working setup when there isn’t a watercooler or coffee machine to help employees mingle.
A few things you can do to promote meaningful connections and enhance collaboration include:
Hosting regular 15 min virtual social huddles
These should be dedicated to sharing personal stories, doing grounding exercises, or leveraging any other methods to help everyone relax and connect.
Organizing fun team events
Rather than having a long Friday end-of-week wrap, minimize the length of the wrap and organize themed events. For instance, you could organize a themed trivia afternoon for half an hour every week. Send a few snacks to each team member every week, and watch your team members connect as they try to get the right answers!
Recognize Employee Achievements
Employee recognition is one of the strongest motivators for employees to perform and go above and beyond. Acknowledging their everyday contribution and rewarding them for their incredible efforts allows employees to feel valued, driving their sense of achievement, motivation, and productivity.
This is also a fantastic way to ensure you retain your top talent.
Indeed, money is not the only factor influencing an individual’s decision to work for a company. Their experience in the company is equally as important. In fact, a recent study revealed that 37% of employees value employee recognition above anything else.
However, 65% of employees report not receiving recognition for their hard work. This can lead to a lack of motivation, higher turnover, and benefit your competition.
Here are some best practices to improve employee recognition:
- Make the recognition personal and public.
- Give employees the opportunity to excel.
- Implement special perks for overachievers.
- Recognize outside achievements as well.
- Gamify the process to encourage friendly competition.
Managing a remote team is challenging, but it can also be rewarding. Working together as a unit, your team members can create magic and achieve incredible milestones. And as Henry Ford once said, ‘’coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success’’.
So, implement these key steps and strategies, and you’ll be on your way to improving your team’s productivity while creating a positive environment conducive to collaboration and wellbeing. Don’t forget that behind these screens are human beings looking to connect and achieve their professional goals. Your role is to facilitate their growth and make sure that they thrive personally and professionally.
After all, as a leader, your team’s success depends on you.