Today, with so many employees working remotely in the wake of Covid-19, companies across the globe need to adjust to survive and remain relevant. This means managers and team leaders need to figure out how to successfully manage remote teams—not an easy task when so many managers have never done this before. So, here are four essential tips for managing remote teams that every manager should know.
1. Understand the unique challenges of managing remote teams
Before knowing which new practices to implement to manage remote teams, it’s essential to first understand the various problems that remote team managers might face. As a good leader, anticipating such challenges will enable you to make better decisions for your team and ensure that all team members have what they need to contribute and succeed. Here are some of the most common challenges that remote teams may face:
- The lack of functional communication channels (like Slack, Zoom, and Teams)
- Roles and tasks are unclear to team members
- It’s difficult to track employee performance
- The lack of cohesion and collaboration within the team
- Onboarding problems
- Social isolation
- Distractions at home
2. Create an effective communication strategy
Once you understand the challenges, you can begin to tackle them. And first and foremost, you need to be able to have systems in place to effectively communicate with your team. Communication is the backbone of any successful organization.
The first step to undertake here is to decide which communication tools to use. This includes instant messaging, video conferencing, and any other tools that might help your team stay connected. Second, you need to create protocols. What’s the hierarchy in terms of communication? Can junior employees reach out directly to the CEO without an in-between? Are there channels where certain questions can and cannot be posed? Where and how often should team members communicate? The answers to these type of important questions will get you started on a strong communication strategy.
Also, it can be a good idea to set aside a day each week to have one-on-one meetings with your team members (if you’re not a big team). In these meetings, you can try to understand your team members’ thoughts on how things could be better run, what could be done to make them more productive, and if there are any issues affecting their work. And if you do hear about any issues, you might consider enrolling your staff in certain online learning courses so they can better understand what it takes to communicate effectively and improve collaboration.
3. Equip your team members
In conventional office setups, companies typically provide everything from ergonomic office furniture and computers to software and phones. However, working from home doesn’t guarantee that all employees have access to such materials. So, as a good leader, you need to ensure that your team has all the necessary equipment and software to make working from home much easier.
For example, consider remote programmers, whose work and productivity rely on the availability of certain computers and software. If programmers lack good computers at home, see if your company will provide them with new computers. Or, if your team depends on using certain software programs for their work, see about getting subscriptions they can use at home. In most cases, you’ll find that your company will be willing to provide your team members with what they need to succeed—just like when they were working in the office.
4. Be flexible
Times are changing, and so should you. Back in the office, it was a little easier to monitor employees and know what they were doing hour by hour during the workday. However, closely monitoring team members like this now, when they’re working from home, will look like micro-management—which will not build mutual trust between you and your team. So, resist the urge to check up on your team members every hour to know how they’re working. The best way around this is by using the regular check-ins to check how they’re performing.
Also, it’s important to be flexible in terms of timing. Due to distractions at home, some employees might not be able to work the standard 9 to 5. Some might prefer to work at night, or very early in the morning. And not unless you’ve stated clearly that there are required meetings at a certain times, employees should feel free to work at convenient times for them, as long as they’re meeting the deadlines and are productive.
In the age of remote work, it’s important to focus more on work output than on when exactly during the day work is getting done. When you allow for this type of flexibility, this shows that you trust your team. And when your team members trust you, they feel more confident, which leads to a more productive work environment for everyone.
Lidia S. Hovhan is a part of the Content and Marketing team at OmnicoreAgency. She contributes articles about how to integrate digital marketing strategies with traditional marketing to help business owners to meet their goals.