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How to manage a team remotely

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A lot of managers, who normally share an office with their colleagues face the challenges of managing a team remotely. This can be terrifying to many, especially if they have never led remote teams.

Besides new tools companies need also new management practices. In this article you can find best practices, we have learned about, on how to manage a team remotely.

Schedule daily check-ins

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Many successful remote managers establish a daily call with their remote employees. This could take the form of a series of one-on-one calls, if your employees work more independently or a team call, if their work is highly collaborative. The important feature is that the calls are regular and predictable. Employees should know that they have a place to consult with you and that their concerns and questions will be heard.

A daily call might seem like too much of a stretch, but for managers and teams new to remote working this is essential.

Provide several different communication options

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Email, phone, and texts may have been sufficient once, but modern successful managers are trending towards more frequent use of video conferencing. This helps establish the face-to-face interaction that is nowadays lacking. Video conferencing gives participants many of the visual signs that they would have if they were actually meeting the person.

Video conferencing has many advantages regardless of the size of the groups. One rule is not to mix physical and virtual teams though. Online participants in mixed meetings often feel excluded. It is better for all employees to enter the meetings virtually, even if they are in the office.

Other best practice related to communication options is to set office presence days. As an example, couple of days a month with scheduled presence for part of the team to spend some time at the office. This can strengthen the bonds between colleagues.

Establish “rules of engagement”

Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, purpose, and ideal timing of communication. For example: videoconferencing is used for daily meetings and IM when something is urgent. Also, who is the go-to-person in case of emergencies and what is the preferred contact channel (phone, chat etc.). Knowing all these details makes employees feel confident and the communication flow is more natural, avoiding confusion and doubts.

Provide opportunities for remote social interaction

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One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially. That is to have informal conversations about non-work-related topics while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been unexpectedly transitioned out of the office.

The easiest way to establish some basic social interaction is to leave some time at the beginning of team calls just for non-work topics like the weekend activities, sports and fun.

Show flexibility

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Here is the big challenge. Every member of a team has a different home environment. Some will have spouses and children. Some won’t. Others will have private home offices while some will be taking meetings from the closet, bedroom, or even the bathroom. Some may be experiencing challenges in their relationships. The point is that a manager needs to understand the unique circumstances of each employee and find the best approach.

Keeping track of your remote employees does not have to be hard. If you analyse the best practices and choose the right employee monitoring tool, you can easily keep track of what they are doing and how they are doing it. Be the person you want your employees’ to be. Talk about the challenges you are facing while working from home to encourage them to talk about their own concerns too. Showcase the best practices around communication and availability that you want them to follow. The opposite is true as well – give yourself the benefit of the doubt just like you would with your team because this might be new to you too.

Mentor more than manage

Leaders give employees the opportunity to learn and search the solutions in collaboration. Managers would normally find three solutions for the issue and choose the best one, according to him/her. Better attitude is to find these solutions together with the employee. Use common experience and test them together to find the best one for the specific situation.

Support from the top

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Once the managers are equipped with the tools they need to manage the teams remotely, they need assistance from the top management as well. The employer can provide support in three specific ways:

  1. Listen. Ask managers what they need and listen to their answers. Each manager will have their own perspective on the situation – good, bad or otherwise. Depending on their approach, they may need different things. It is best not to assume how the situation is affecting them. Let them share their experience and needs so that the approach could be tailored to support them accordingly.
  2. Communicate frequently. Strong leadership inspires everyone. Ask managers to find out what people need to hear from their local managers and what they want to hear from the top. Position the support around areas like accountability and quality and encourage efforts to keep remote teams engaged and connected.
  3. Expand technology support. Even your most tech-savvy manager will be dealing with a variety of technical difficulties if they are not used to working remotely. Ensure your technology team is ready to assist managers and their teams. Open all available resources to keep work occurring from anywhere and everywhere.

Being a leader is not about location. It simply means caring about the people you work with and helping them grow. You do not need to work in an office to make this happen. As long as you stay proactive and communicate openly, you can do this kind of important work from anywhere.

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