5 Tips For Managing Remote Teams

5 Tips For Managing Remote Teams

Like it or not, remote work is here to stay. While the thought of it was initially scary, employers and employees seemed to adapt well to the idea of remote working. More than three-quarters of employees feel they’re more productive now than ever before–and many employers agree! As we push on through this era of digital transformation, an increasing number of companies will become fully remote or remote-first on a permanent basis. 

Flexibility and a better balance between the demands of life and work are the top reasons that many people have embraced the idea of remote work. But it doesn’t come without challenges. The physical separation can make it hard to connect with your teams in the same way that you could in the office. It’s possible to build good relationships and strong teams remotely, but it takes a different approach. Here are some tips for leading your remote teams effectively.

Be Intentional about Making Connections

Companies are taking a stronger approach to the mental health and well-being of their workforce. The intentional gesture of reaching out demonstrates kindness and compassion, creating an opportunity to form a bond. For some remote workers, your call might be the only intentional connection they receive all day, so it’s important.

You can create a culture of sharing if you:

  • Don’t make it about work.

  • Acknowledge and validate feelings.

  • Encourage reflection.

  • Keep it casual.

  • Use your voice

Establish a Channel for Casual Communication

While we would love to think that we’re all productive every minute of the day, the reality is that we’re not. Out of the typical eight-hour workday, we tend to average about three hours of quality time in and the rest is much more difficult to quantify. Cleaning up your inbox is certainly a good to-do item for organization and it will help you make the most of your three-hour window, but it’s not direct productivity. And water cooler chats with your coworkers foster inclusion and teamwork, which also benefit the company. But socializing certainly isn’t productive either. 

One thing that remote workers have realized is that being out of the office has changed social dynamics. Leaders should still find ways to encourage casual interactions between remote team members because it builds collaboration and improves teamwork. 

Try these ideas out for keeping teams connected:

  • Start a Slack channel for casual chatter.

  • Host a ‘virtual water cooler’ chat via Zoom.

  • Get an instant messenger just for the team.

  • Provide a platform for sharing team playlists, pet photos, recipes, or whatever else might interest your group.

  • As things begin to open up more try to put together different “Off Site” events. Depending on the expanse of your team you could try these events as Annual, Semi Annual or Quarterly.

Use the Right Tech

Remote collaboration takes a different set of tech tools. Luckily, there are plenty to choose from. Give your team the right tools and you’ll eliminate the communication problems and headaches that come from being disconnected. There are several great project management tools that provide entire teams with a shared overview of tasks alongside individual scheduling. Technology is the glue that will hold your remote team together–lean into it.

Here are a few tech tools that we love:

  • Slack with Friday Integration for communication and recurring events, meeting check-ins, etc.

  • Asana for project management.

  • Spotify for sharing team playlists and keeping remote workers motivated.

  • Loom for screen sharing and quick video tutorials.

Rethink Communication

When everyone is working from a different location, sharing ‘common knowledge’ type updates that spread easily around the office needs to be strategic. Keep the whole team on the same page by redefining your communication strategy. Avoid email overload while keeping the communication frequent by leveraging the right technology.

  • Provide a digital platform to access the company handbook, standard operating procedures, and job aids.

  • Use variety; while virtual meetings have a place, Zoom fatigue is a real struggle.

  • Create an announcement thread in your communication tool and use it daily.

  • Use a standardized format for posting project updates.

  • Make it a requirement to post notes from any conversations that happen outside the main thread.

  • As a Manager it is important to keep your open door policy when you can. Most tools can start video or audio calls with a button click.

Take a Hard Look at Yourself as a Leader

Set aside some time for meaningful self-reflection. How do you feel about leading a remote team? Is this something that you want to do or something that you have to do? The transition has been challenging for everyone, but especially for managers who lack confidence in themselves or their teams. Avoid being the bottleneck for your team’s productivity by focusing on necessary communication and not morale-busting micromanagement.

To build and maintain trust, work on these boundaries:

  • Keep your check-ins about support, not productivity.

  • Limit project updates to appropriate channels. We recommend project meetings no more than once per week and continuous updates on project tasks in a synchronous application or dedicated Slack Channel thread

  • Be flexible with your employees when regular life interrupts their productivity. I think this sets apart great Managers and great Companies. If they are able to work with Employees going through personal trouble it shows that they care for their people. I have seen some high performers hit some major struggles the last couple years. Most of the time their company knew they needed to help not pressure them.

Key Takeaways for Managing Remote Teams Effectively

Remote teamwork is different, but it’s not worse. We’re all adjusting to a new way of working and there are bound to be some bumps in the road. Embrace the awkwardness and keep moving forward. With the right tools and a redesigned approach tailored to meet the unique needs of remote workers, your remote team can be innovative, productive, and engaged. It’s all about having the right boundaries, communicating expectations clearly, and making casual interactions an intentional part of your workflow.

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