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Working from home today is normal for many people—a casualty of the pandemic. Managers used to traditional ways of working now have to change the way they mobilize their staff. How can they do it effectively?
Here’s how to manage a team remotely:
- Verify your responsibilities.
- Apprise staff of what you expect of them.
- Create a virtual office to mirror a physical one.
- Build trusting teams.
- Check-in, not micromanage.
- Establish communication rules.
- Stick to set time blocks.
- Be flexible when needed.
- Practice cultural sensitivity.
- Set structures for productivity.
- Stress results instead of daily activity.
- Strive for clarity.
- Prepare for technical glitches.
- Endorse socializing.
- Advocate collaboration.
- Toast achievements.
- Keep up with trends.
This post discusses how to manage a team remotely with research-based techniques, which we hope will help improve the productivity of your staff. You can effectively manage a team remotely with organization, setting work expectations, and utilizing technology to foster communication between all parties involved remotely. The benefits of telecommuting allow for successful remote team management.
Managing a Team During the Pandemic
We assume you already have a team and have transitioned into distance working mode because of the pandemic. Businesses that have always had a remote work setup are the best models to emulate because they’re well-versed in the field. Two of these are The Remote Company and Trello.
We looked at their management practices and sourced suggestions from other firms to give you these strategies for mobilizing and motivating a virtual workforce.
1. Verify Your Responsibilities
Before mandating what you expect from staff; you should internalize what the business owners and employees expect from you.
This depends on your working environment and type of industry. But what’s universal across commercial enterprises is that you’re expected to apply your company’s regulations consistently and fairly. You also must make sure all employees have access to you and the resources they need to get their jobs done.
2. Apprise Staff of What You Expect From Them
It will help if you have a solid understanding of your staff’s requirements so you can convey this to them clearly.
Better if you impart to them the importance of goals and deliverables. Be sure your staff knows the difference between remote work vs. work from home, so they have defined the boundaries of the two. They must get work done regardless of their location. Make it clear that you trust them to deliver results with little supervision.
3. Create a Virtual Office to Mirror a Physical One
Businesses must implement logistical support and remote access to make it easy and convenient for staff to do their jobs. Team members should have adequate work-from-home setups and access shared resources. Even when you work at home for Amazon you need an office setup. Managers must ensure that the technology and equipment they choose are sufficient to keep their employees motivated and connected.
Be clear as to who’ll provide remote staff with the necessary infrastructure, tools, and resources. If employees prefer to use their equipment, find out its features and capabilities, how they’ll purchase it, and how they’ll access technical support. Confirm all this information from the commencement of virtual working to ensure the safety of your networks and avoid security breaches.
Trello’s Leah Ryder suggests these components necessary for any remote office:
These are group chat and notification apps that connect you and remote staff in real-time. Both are social networking services for enterprise communication.
- Slack—a business messaging app that connects people to information and brings them together as a unified working group
- Yammer—known as the “corporate version of Facebook”
Video Conferencing Programs
- Zoom—a cloud-based video communications application for webinars, screen-sharing, virtual audiovisual conferencing, live chats, and other collaboration modalities
- GoToMeeting—a virtual meeting platform for secure, speedy, and dependable video conferencing
- Google Hangouts—This built-in feature of Google Apps is a unified communications service for individual or group texting and video or voice chatting.
- Microsoft Teams—a collaboration app and team organization hub in Microsoft 365
- I Done This—allows for daily check-ins and production of progress reports for efficiency and productivity
- Toggl Track—claims to be “the world’s best time-tracking program”
- Workpuls Clocker—an employee monitoring and time tracking software for digital organizations
Project Management Software
Also known as collaboration software, these programs provide shared spaces where teams work together. Everyone has various access levels to project elements, including files, task lists, assignments, due dates, and progress status.
Even if you are planning to transition to working for yourself, project management software will be vital. Most project management apps allow conversations within projects. So team members don’t have to email each other, reducing the time searching for information and asking already answered questions. These noted below are some of the most popular ones:
- Confluence—a wiki tool for efficient collaboration and knowledge-sharing
- Trello—a collaboration program for project organization using boards
- Asana—software-as-a-service for team collaboration and project management
- Kanbantool—a visual project management solution for efficient team performance, workflow visualization, and business process analysis using an online kanban board
- Hubstaff—a workforce management platform for productivity monitoring, time tracking, payroll management, remote talent finding, and project mobilization
- Basecamp—an all-in-one toolkit for virtual office and meetings, project workflow, task management, spreadsheets, and chats
- ProofHub—an online project management app for team organization, planning, timeframe estimation, multiple project tracking, and task dependency creation in a Gantt chart view
- Monday—an intuitive work operating system that powers projects, workflows, and collaborations.
- ClickUp—cloud-based project management, communication, and collaboration tool with an activity stream that displays real-time task creation and completion
Shared Document Storage
Remote working means virtual collaboration. So files need to be shared for access and modification by multiple individuals and entire teams. You need a secure, cloud-based shared document storage like Google Drive or Dropbox.
This single, synced calendar accessible to all team members shows items like deadlines, employee availability, meetings, time off, holidays, launches, and milestones. Microsoft, Apple, and Google have calendars integrated into their software suites.
4. Build Trusting Teams
If you were thorough with your personnel selection, you shouldn’t worry about what your remote staff is doing behind virtual walls. That said, some employees may need hand-holding at some point. Others may stray from company directives.
Solve this by clearly stating in the guidelines the required output, timeframes for producing results, and deadlines from the beginning.
In the matter of trust, motivational speaker Simon Sinek (best known for making the ‘Concept of Why’ popular) shared an anecdote about trusting teams in one of his TED talks. Some executives asked him: “How do we get the most out of our people?”
Sinek replied, “They’re not a towel! We don’t wring them out to see how much we can get out of them. The correct question is: ‘How do we create an environment in which people can work at their natural best?’”
Management should create a virtual work setting that produces a ‘trusting team.’ Members of such a crew feel safe and comfortable being vulnerable among their peers. They would admit it if they made a mistake because they are not afraid of retribution or humiliation.
5.Check-In, Not Micromanage
Micromanagement is connected to trust issues. In a co-location setting, you wouldn’t be peering over employees’ shoulders. So why do it in a virtual environment?
A daily or weekly structured, one-on-one check-in should be enough. 15Five is a recommended review tool useful for check-ins. Aside from the individual follow-ups, have a monthly evaluation session where staff can ask questions, report on accomplishments, and request help in areas that need improvement.
Feedback should be a two-way street. As long as staff members are interacting with you and their colleagues clearly, delivering results, and meeting their deadlines, it means they’re productive.
Some productivity experts recommend mentoring and coaching instead of managing.
6. Establish Communication Rules
Set protocols for the method, frequency, and interaction timing for your teams. The same goes for employee consultation with you. It’s okay for priority items to be addressed outside this timeframe, of course.
Use the team calendar to block off specific times of the day when staff can meet with you. Have it automated so that remote workers can see which portions are not available.
Adopt a communication strategy, which includes using meeting templates, determining the number, length, and frequency of team meetings, tackling noise issues, and good video conference backgrounds.
Running Remote’s Liam Martin recommends using communication methods according to their level of importance, which are as follows:
- Video calls—For emergencies, priority matters, and conferencing
- Audio calls—When you can’t/woulden’t do video but need immediate feedback
- Instant messaging—Also for instant responses but handy for when you’re too busy (or unwilling) to see or call people
- Email—For lengthier communication, detailed reports, attachments, and non-urgent matters
7. Stick To Set Time Blocks
There should be a set time for answering emails and chatting. Beware of email and chat message overload. Recommend staff turn related apps off after their workday, so they’re not putting out unnecessary fires at 4 am.
Remote work expert Jane Sparrow, the founder, and director of UK-based The Culture Builders, recommends “short virtual huddles” instead of long-winded meetings for action planning, scheduling, and resourcing.
8. Be Flexible When Needed
Structure the duration and frequency of meetings according to staff’s geolocation and time zones. Alternate meeting times to avoid inconveniencing the same team member from participating in very early or late appointments.
What works for co-located environments may not work in a remote setting. Be sympathetic and flexible with staff overseas who have different needs and work cultures.
9. Practice Cultural Sensitivity
Managing a multinational team means creating an environment where all voices are acknowledged and respected. Embrace cultural differences and refrain from forcing people to think and work like the majority.
At The Remote Company, team members give brief presentations about themselves called “PechaKuchas.” That way, everyone in the firm gets to know each others’ cultures, personalities, interests, similarities, and differences. (PechaKucha is a storytelling format that gives you 400 seconds to tell your story. You get to present 20 slides, each with a 20-second commentary.)
10. Set Structures for Productivity
Since workplace productivity relies on structure and predictability, invite staff to participate in creating rules. People are more likely to follow regulations on which they have a say.
Create well-documented standard operating procedures for staff member roles. Have these accessible to everyone and update when necessary.
To ensure efficiency and conciseness, create structure in meetings and projects. A useful model, claims People Managing People’s Ben Aston, is the EPIC structure: energy, purpose, insights, and connection. This system aims to keep team members purpose-driven, focused, and productive.
At the same time, you shouldn’t have regulations so rigid that staff feel like robots. Individuals should be trusted to manage their time and projects using their own methodologies.
11. Stress Results Instead of Daily Activity
Empower staff and encourage engagement by succinctly defining objectives and preferred results. Let them know that definite outcomes are valued more than the hustle and bustle but getting nowhere. To manage a team remotely successfully, you should provide them the training and resources to encourage engagement.
12. Strive for Clarity
Rules, objectives, output levels, and quality expectations need to be precise. Set specific times for the beginning and end of a deadline because terms like “overnight” and “end of the day” mean a different period depending on the time zone and work culture.
For example, some regions, especially Muslim countries and Latin American nations, have a long lunch break (some, four hours), so they end their workday much later, like 7 or 8 pm.
Semantics matter. When you place the terms “quickly” and “properly” in the same work order, for instance, staff may struggle with the priority because it isn’t always possible to deliver both simultaneously. When you want something pronto, you may have to sacrifice quality.
13. Prepare for Technical Glitches
Most firms have exclusive in-house technical support for solving technology-related problems. But there may be challenges with accessibility by remote team members. In which case, they’ll need a special arrangement if they encounter obstacles.
Managers have to make sure that technical glitches don’t inconvenience or delay staff members, causing them to miss deadlines or fail to complete their tasks.
Expert-recommended solutions include sourcing tech service providers near remote team members’ locations and paying for backup software, cloud file storage, or shared workspaces where staff can temporarily work. At the same time, the setbacks or malfunctions are being solved.
14. Endorse Socializing
Managers should ensure that no staffer is socially isolated. This is where one can use technology creatively to encourage employee engagement. Martin suggests a water-cooler chat room where team members can ask questions, seek solutions to problems, engage in small talk, intermingle to produce fresh ideas, dig deeper into insights, and share news and information.
Some companies hold events like virtual pizza and barbecue get-togethers, happy hours, and employee appreciation assemblies. Others stage raffle draws and prize-giving ceremonies for top performers as incentivizing measures. You may opt to hold these separately from regular meetings or incorporate them into scheduled ones.
Before you think the above activities are shallow time-wasters, seasoned managers’ experiences and research have proven that these initiatives boost employee morale. Remote work experts and even social scientists have documented these “proofs” in reports.
An example is Kossek et al.’s study, Telecommuting, control, and boundary management—Correlates of policy use and practice, job control, and work-family effectiveness, published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior.
Another is an article in Forbes titled: What Companies Can Learn From COVID-19 Remote Learning ‘Experiments.’
15. Advocate Collaboration
Some employees prefer working by themselves, but many more appreciate group work and team activities to accomplish projects with assistance and feedback from peers. Savvy managers recognize this fact and search for opportunities for their staff to collaborate. A significant benefit of collaboration is it offers a fun way to banish social isolation.
This is where the various project management and collaboration applications mentioned above can be of tremendous benefit. Through them, managers can refine their expectations of team members by providing a shared workspace that also monitors and reports on work activities.
As with standard work practices, supervisors and team members should agree on protocols, such as acceptable behavior in that virtual workspace. These include determining the speed by which staffers respond to requests, limitations on office gossip, and suchlike.
On the informal side, team-building activities that used to be done in person can carry over to a virtual venue. For information and a demonstration on this topic, watch Michelle Cummings’s video on Virtual Team-Building Games:
16. Toast Achievements
Milestones and team wins that used to be celebrated face-to-face can still be done in a virtual environment. Staff members just have to settle for virtual fist bumps or hugs.
Take the example of Actualize Consulting. Chief Operating Officer Kerry Wekelo says that their management recognizes employee contributions with videos on the company website during the pandemic. This is the virtual equivalent of the recognition ceremonies that used to be part of the company’s annual retreat.
The employee appreciation video is much more personal than email, Wekelo says, and proves that creativity sustains connection with people.
17. Keep Up With Trends
If you want to be up-to-date with advances in the virtual working arena, attend events like Running Remote 2022, the world’s largest conference designed to address the mechanisms and challenges of remote and hybrid operations.
The convention will be held on May 17 and 18, 2022, in Montreal, Canada. It will be delivered using a new hybrid format that works across multiple venues: live, in-person, on-demand, desktop, and mobile.
It will provide remote and hybrid team leaders with:
- Networking opportunities
- Information on trends
- An expanded knowledge base
- Solutions for building and managing more productive and excellence-driven teams
What do remote teams manage instead of regular meetings?
Remote teams manage changing things like email, video conferencing, and message boards. Additionally, they manage the distance between members.
Why does virtual work help companies manage crises?
Virtual working helps manage crises because it facilitates collaboration across time zones. It also reduces the distance between team members, which means better communication. Lastly, virtual teams possess the ability to manage multiple tasks simultaneously to work on resolving a problem while keeping normal operations running.
What are the benefits of collaboration from team members?
Collaboration from team members helps to achieve projects more efficiently with assistance and feedback from peers. This is why it’s a good practice in optimizing success.
How does a collaborative space extend to a virtual conference in 2022?
Using a conference in 2022 enables people across the globe to be able to participate in an event without being present physically at the venue. Experts will guide attendees on how to manage remote and hybrid operations that matter for their organizations’ future growth.
Elbert Hubbard correctly said, “Responsibility is the price of freedom”—accurate in a virtual work environment. If all digital nomads applied this in their work, operations would run smoother. Trust issues would disappear.
However, not everyone has the same values. So the manager is still a necessity in the wheel of corporate machinery, now that much of the business world has transitioned into virtual mode.
Managing remote employees requires strategic thinking, planning, and consistency. Once you set up a robust foundation, clarify roles and expectations, and communicate concisely, you will have a productive, efficient, and cooperative team.