Over the past few years, remote working has transformed from an attractive employee benefit to a normal way of life for so many of us. However, leading and motivating a team that isn’t right in front of you can have its challenges. So, what can you do to effectively manage a team that isn’t physically in the office? Here are our suggestions:
1. Establish clear expectations
When managing a remote team, it’s important to establish clear expectations from the outset. When do you expect your team to be available and reachable? What outcomes do they need to work towards? What deadlines have you established? Remote teams are built on a foundation of trust. If everyone is clear of what is expected of them, then they can get on with their tasks. Remember, effective remote working starts from the top. You are responsible for gearing and guiding your team towards a cohesive and collaborative culture of work.
2. Video calling and collaboration
Video calls will become your new best friend. Allowing your team to collaborate at anytime, anywhere, they are a necessity if you are to effectively manage a group of people that aren’t physically present. Affording you the opportunity to pick up on physical and verbal cues, it mitigates the risk of information being misconstrued. Video also allows for a human connection, which can enhance the mental wellbeing of your team. No one wants to feel isolated. In this vein, it’s important to allow for team-bonding. Prior to each video conference, it’s a great idea to allocate some time to chatting and catching up. This will help your team feel more connected. As culture is built on people, when your team is not physically present, you still want to make sure they feel valued and part of a collaborative group.
3. Check in, not out
To ensure your team stays on track, it’s a good idea to check in with them regularly – not only to see how they are progressing on their goals and deadlines, but to also provide support and guidance. Further, it’s a great way to promote a sense of accountability. If they know you will be checking in with them multiple times a week, they will want to have something to show for themselves. They will feel accountable when queried on how they are progressing. In saying this, you must ensure they are clear in what they need to do. Guidance and clarity should be paramount.
4. Connect through tech
We live in a digital age. Technology has the power to connect us all. Use this to your advantage. There are a multitude of platforms and programs that can be used to stay connected to your team. From Slack, Teams or Google Docs, to Trello boards to keep track of tasks, be sure to have these tools in your arsenal. They foster collaborative working and are a great way to promote accountability, communicate expectations and set deadlines within your team. The mobility of these technologies mean you can communicate anytime, anywhere. In saying that, you must still…
5. Recognise the distinction between work and home life
While it’s great to be constantly connected to your team through technology, you should still recognise that your teams have a life beyond work. Although they may be reachable, this contact should occur during the working hours you have established together. Respect this boundary. As a great leader, you should be promoting a healthy work-life balance and encouraging your team to not overextend themselves. You don’t want work time to bleed into personal time just because they are in a personal home setting. You need to help your team members make this distinction, not encourage the blurring of lines.
6. Trust in delivery
Above all, it’s important to trust in your team to deliver. If you don’t have trust, you don’t have much. You can’t always see the work your team is completing, but you have to trust in them to perform. If you have successfully established your expectations, then this should be no issue. There is a difference between checking in on your team periodically to see how they are tracking, and micromanaging them. This brings to light the argument of presenteeism vs productivity. You need to shift from the traditional mindset that team members must be glued to their desks to be productive and deliver results. Just because they’re present, it doesn’t mean they’re being productive. They can provide strong results from home if they have the autonomy to do so. A quiet work station at home, free from the typical distractions of an office, can encourage deep work which can deliver greater results than if they were physically present.
Remote teams are increasingly present in the modern world of work. As a leader today, being effectively geared to manage these teams will hold you in good stead as we transition into a progressively more agile perspective of managing the workplace.