Managing a remote team can be difficult. But, thankfully, it’s a skill you can build and improve. Plus, you can work with your team to develop a process that works best for you. Here are some tips for managing remote teams to help you start finding what works best for you and your team:
1. Choose Your Base Set of Tools
Everyone has their preferred way of communicating, which is fine for individual conversations and outreach. But, what about your team as a whole? Having set tools as the foundation for online communication, project management, and document storage can provide a solid base for everyone to connect to.
Having a set block of tools means everyone would be logged into the same thing when they are working and on “office hours”, whatever blocks of time that may be for them. They know where to look for project information, where to store files others will need access to, etc. From there, people can add tools for online work meetings and collaboration as needed.
This, at least, gives everyone a place to start and an idea of who is available, who they can reach out to, and where. Instead of scrambling or using ineffective and time-consuming methods, your team knows how to find each other, the information they need, and you when needed.
2. Make Sure Your Team Has Necessary Resources
You tend to have more control over the resources available in an office setting. When your employees are remote, they may not have everything they need to complete their work successfully. So, make sure you check in with them. If they are missing anything they need to do their work well, make sure they have it.
3. Set and Manage Expectations
It’s important that your team knows what the expectations for them are when working remotely. If they’re already used to working remotely, this may already be handled. But, if they’re used to an office environment, you’ll likely need to lay out realistic expectations in terms of office hours and work.
As the manager, you should be clear about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, tasks that need to be done, why they matter, and how you’ll be measuring results and determining success. At the same time, you’ll need to be upfront and clear about when you’ll be available to your team and how you’ll be checking in with them and reaching out to them.
Synchronous vs Asynchronous Messaging
Part of setting and managing expectations is setting the “ground rules” for communication and messaging. Synchronous messaging is more direct immediate contact like phone calls, video calls, in-person meetings, etc.
Asynchronous messaging allows you to respond in your own time and compose a message before sending it like text, chat, email, messenger apps, etc. Your team should know some general guidelines for when to use each, for what, who needs to involved, expected response times, etc.
4. Put the Focus on Outcomes
You can’t monitor everything your remote employees are doing without seriously harming morale, motivation, and productivity; not to mention the potential invasion of privacy. Instead of prioritizing activity or time spent working, put the focus on outcomes. Break down your projects and work into tasks and deliverables that can be completed throughout the project.
Not only does this help allocate responsibilities and work, but it also helps you keep track of progress. This sort of approach also creates a results-oriented focus instead of one that’s just about the number of hours worked. It’s important to be flexible and to be able to trust your team to get things done.
5. Have Regular Check-Ins
Another one of the tips for managing remote teams is to have regular check-ins. As a manager, you should be checking in with your employees regularly. Depending on your team and needs, this could be on a weekly or daily basis. One-on-one check-ins with video for face-to-face interaction tend to be an effective way to start. Email, chat, or even phone calls can only go so far. Sometimes, your team just needs to see you.
Not only does this give you an opportunity to check in on project progress, but it also gives you a chance to check in on your employees. Making some time for small talk during these check-ins can help you build rapport with your employees. It also gives you a chance to make sure they are healthy, happy, and doing well.
You want your employees to feel comfortable asking questions, bringing up problems, etc. and building rapport during these individual check-ins will help create a relationship and space where they feel like they can do that.
6. Communicate Often
In addition to regular check-ins with your team, you also want to be communicating with them a lot. Lack of communication and misunderstandings are a common problem when it comes to managing remote teams.
Email and chat can only go so far. If you’re not clear and concise, people can easily get confused. And, sometimes, it’s better to just have a call, a screenshare, or a video call. Video can be a huge help when dealing with communication issues that are caused by a lack of non-verbal cues.
You want to make sure you are communicating often and clearly with your team and that you are using whatever technology you need to ensure you’re communicating as effectively as possible.
7. Offer Emotional Support
Regular communication with your remote employees also allows you to offer emotional support to them. Remote workers can often find maintaining a work/life balance difficult. Dealing with distractions, battling loneliness and isolation, and more can also be obstacles.
By communicating often, you can help encourage social engagement with the rest of the team, remind everyone to unplug after work, and simply just be there to talk and offer advice or ideas if your team wants them.
8. Maintain a Consistent Routine
Although remote work can be flexible, you do want to maintain some sort of consistent routine with your remote employees. They should know that they can reach you during certain times that you will be working.
People should be able to set their own hours with remote work. But, if your team needs to collaborate regularly on things that require quick turnarounds, there should be some overlap in their working hours where they will be online and available at the same time. Having set office hours on a team calendar can help everyone maintain some consistency and communicate better.
These are just a few tips for managing remote teams. As you get feedback from your team and continue trying new things, you’ll end up with an evolving process that works for you and your team.