With the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping every part of the world, numerous companies have asked their employees to work from home to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Additionally, according to the results of a survey conducted by Gartner, a significant percentage of the workforce that previously worked as in-office employees will now work as permanent work-from-home (WFH) employees even after the end of the pandemic. So, there’s likely to be a steady surge in the members of this WFH league. This, in turn, will trigger the need for efficient team leads and managers capable of managing remote teams smoothly.
While many employees are enjoying the new taste of work-from-home environments that essentially result in ditching the commute and working in the pajamas, the transition for some has become extremely harder. The latter group essentially comprises team leads and managers for whom managing and supportingremote team members is a major part of their responsibilities. However, managing a remote team is much easier said than done because the process comes with its unique challenges. But despite such challenges, as a team lead or manager, you’ll be the one responsible for keeping up with your company’s expectations and priorities. So, the key question is - “what can be done to keep a remote team productive and motivated when it comes to breaking the old ways of managing things?”
To help you out, we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide that outlines eight essential strategies that not only would help you manage your remote team effectively but even let it become more productive. So, let’s delve deeper.
Undeniably, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to making the magic happen in terms of managing a remote team. This is because the actual processes often become slightly different depending on the specific goals of your company and the exact type of team you are managing. But there are basic guidelines that you can follow to effectively tackle the challenges of managing any kind of remote team. Let’s take a look at them.
When your entire team is working remotely, keeping up with them via effective communication is one of the biggest challenges that you’ll face. Since this aspect heavily influences the success of your remote team, it’s absolutely important to get it right. Effective communication is also crucial to keep your remote team members motivated. Many companies have already taken some tough steps to tackle the financial difficulties triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, it’s quite natural for your remote team members to become worried about what’s going on in the minds of the management team. You can help them steer clear of this stress by continuing with clear communication. Here are two industry-leading tools that can help you manage effective communication.
When using these or any other tool to communicate with your remote team members, be sure to maintain the normal pace of conversations. It’s also important not to leave anything to chance when communicating remotely. So, make sure that you always provide adequate details to rule out the possibilities of any misinterpretation.
When it comes to ensuring everybody in your remote team is staying on the same page, regular virtual meetings play a crucial role. Try to decide on a set time, whether weekly or daily, that’s convenient for every team member, and ask everyone to be present during those meetings. You can also ask your team members to come prepared to discuss what they are currently doing, what they’ll be doing next, and if they are experiencing any issues that might be hindering their productivity. And if you are conducting the meeting with cameras turned on, try to pick up social cues such as facial expressions, body language, and vocal tonality that are inevitable parts of face-to-face interactions. It’d not only make things more personal but typically make participants more willing to pay attention. However, it’s important to understand that regular meetings aren’t mandatory for all remote teams. If you happen to manage such a team, scheduling meetings only when thereis an important subject to discuss would be a prudent idea.
In a remote work environment, it is quite easy for you and your team members to get distracted and feel burdened by the increasing length of their to-do lists. With the help of time blocking, you can distribute the working time into controlled units. By assigning specific amounts of time to certain tasks, you’ll be able to deliver your responsibilities without deviations or interruptions. When a particular amount of time is dedicated to a specific task, it essentially locks a person’s focus while
helping him/her stay on track. The success of this time management method lies in creating small yet appropriate time blocks. Initially, you or your team members mayfind it restrictive to plan an entire day according to a strict time calendar. But ultimately, it’d help in effectively managing the effort everybody puts in, thus boosting productivity.
Similar to what you’d do in an office environment, you need to focus on streamlining the workflow when managing a remote team. The use of a project management system would help you to keep everything in a project documented. It’d let you organize the workflow and standardize your team members’ output through transparent systems. Using document collaboration tools such as Dropbox or Google Drive would also be an easy yet highly effective idea to keep track of yourteam members’ work.
There are lots of people who haven’t been able to cope up with the transition to the remote work environment. Therefore, it isn’t uncommon to see one of your team members facing difficulties in adjusting to the new work culture. In that case, having one-to-one sessions and acknowledging the individual limits of your team members would be a prudent decision to help them overcome the constraints. It’s also extremely important to set realistic expectations according to the ability of your team members. You can always directly ask for feedback from someone who might feel uncomfortable in discussing things in a group meeting. It’d help the person to relieve anxieties while letting you develop a constructive relationship. Also, try to have verbal communication instead of written communication which sometimes becomes hard to interpret.
In an office environment, spontaneous interactions occur on a daily basis – be it during a coffee break or when the team goes out for a lunch. You should try to promote casual interactions among your team members to develop a healthy culture. Here, the key objective is doing something together and something that everyone gets involved into. The success of this strategy lies in creating a supportive setting and finding out something that everybody would like to join in. You can also use communication tools to make this happen. For instance, if you are using Slack, you can have dedicated channels for non-work events to help the team members interact and relax. Planning virtual group workouts could also prove to be an effective idea.
With millions of people switching to remote work environments and many of them using insecure IT infrastructure, cyber attacks have essentially become one of the major concerns for a lot of companies. In order to protect sensitive information of both your company and its employees, an appropriate security policy has to be in place. All your remote team members should receive clear instructions on how to conduct safe communication and on the best practices to follow when sharing files with each other. Enabling multi-factor authentication on all corporate systems wouldbe a good idea to increase security. Also, ask your IT team to assign system access based on job roles and responsibilities to eliminate the risks of data leaks. Finally, review your company’s existing security policy and revise it, if need be.
Having your team members working remotely may make you feel that professional growth isn’t important anymore. But you should understand that it’s equally important for both a traditional office environment and a remote work setting. You can have some outstanding performers as your team members but without offering them any scope of professional development, you may not be able to retain them inthe long-term. See if your company can organize online workshops or bear the costsof online courses that might help your team members to grow professionally. And if you’re into software development, you shouldn’t have any problem in finding online courses to help them stay updated on the latest developments in the field.
In these difficult times, being able to manage a remote team effectively has probably become the most important skill that every team lead and manager needsto develop. While this isn’t something that can be mastered overnight, with the helpof the above-mentioned strategies, you’ll surely find it easier to manage your remote team effectively while helping the team members become more collaborative and productive.