In the post-covid era, most employees have largely benefitted from the introduction of remote work. However, things may have gotten more difficult for managers.
The reason is simple – it is so much harder to lead teams that are not present in the same physical space. You may have to manage teams spread over the country or worldwide. What were problems before will be even more significant problems now, due to distance.
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To remedy this, you have to master remote team management strategies that keep your team happy and get work done.
This article will show you how to kick your remote team management game up a notch – with 15 practical tips that you can start applying today.
What Is Remote Management?
Remote work allows employees to complete their duties from any location with an internet connection, so they do not have to commute to a physical workplace.
As implied by the phrase, the remote management model requests managers to lead teams working from a different physical space. But managers should accomplish the same tasks as in the traditional management model:
- Assigning tasks
- Tracking progress
- Building team trust
While the traditional model allows better control because all members are in the office, the remote model has shown happier employees and more productivity in the long run. Companies need to craft a clear remote team management strategy to ensure that work is done and that employees are held accountable.
To ease into remote management, lots of companies start with a hybrid work model before going fully remote.
Challenges of Managing a Remote Team
Managing a remote team can be as challenging as it can be rewarding. To tackle the challenges, we have to start with acknowledging them first.
Lack of cohesion
The bond between team members is at the most risk in remote working because, without physical interaction, it can be challenging to build cohesion and trust among teammates.
A survey by the Advanced Workplace Institute (AWI) warned that employee happiness and performance would suffer a lot without effective management.
When everyone is in the office, having a face-to-face discussion could be as simple as popping into someone’s office. However, you must schedule calls for both parties if you need a quick conversation remotely, which is time-consuming and stunts workflow.
Managing hybrid schedules
Employees in different time zones may not be available at the same times for remote meetings or other communications, making it difficult to coordinate work and resolve problems promptly.
Time zone differences can also impact deadlines, as teammates in varied time zones may need to complete tasks at different times of the day or night.
Even in a hybrid schedule, getting everyone to be in the office simultaneously for important meetings can be difficult. Also, there are often conflicting schedules between employees who are supposed to come into the office on different days.
Disconnect in company culture
As the prevalence of remote work has increased, so has the risk of disconnect within the company culture, including company values, mission, and philosophy.
A Gartner study in 2022 revealed that only 24% of remote and hybrid employees feel connected to company culture.
Without regular face-to-face interaction, remote workers can miss out on meaningful networking opportunities and may feel left out, which dents the sense of belonging.
Difficult tracking employee performance
The lack of face-to-face supervision makes it challenging for managers to track employee performance and give feedback. This is only amplified by decreased communication between manager and employee when they are not in the same physical space.
Besides, employees may be working on various tasks at any given time, making it difficult to gauge their level of engagement with the work.
However, refrain from checking in more often than you need to. This tells your team that you don’t trust them with responsibility, reducing job satisfaction and productivity.
Remote Team Management: 15 Effective Tips
When it comes to managing a remote team, there are some successful companies to learn from. Here are 15 remote team management tips for your business.
#1 Make room for varying cultures
Remote companies are hiring globally, meaning that you will have people from different cultures on your team. Therefore it’s crucial to create an inclusive environment and respect each other.
If you are not familiar with other cultures, avoid making passing remarks that have the potential to offend.
The accent must also be factored in for global teams. Employees may struggle to understand global accents during team meetings, slowing them down in the middle of the discussion. An easy way to get in front of this problem is to use a meeting transcription tool that will show live transcripts on your screen.
#2 Use project management software
Project management software isn’t nice to have for a remote setup, but a non-negotiable. Here are a few examples of a few project management apps before we get into why they are so important:
When you’re working remotely, much of your communication will be asynchronous. A project management app divides your projects into several blocks and those blocks into tasks. You can then assign these tasks to your employees and track progress easily in one central place.
What’smore, this kind of system does not require long discussions every day, which can be difficult in remote setups anyway.
#3 Build a learner’s community
Let’s be honest: even though company resources and project management software exist to make things easier, they can be very overwhelming. So many tasks, sections, and documents to go through; where do your employees even start?
If you do not empower remote teams by training them to use all the online collaboration tools properly, they can quickly become overwhelmed and frustrated. Connecting your team on Slack to build a learner’s community that can help each other when the need arises.
Team members can record quick Loom videos for complicated functions or simply answer questions.
If you have meetings that brief employees on new updates or processes, you could record them with the help of an app. This way, you could simply add it to the existing training videos for your company or send them to employees who could not attend.
#4 Set clear goals to be met
By setting clear goals, managers can help their team members stay focused and easily measure progress towards objectives. Clear goals help prevent misunderstandings and reduce confusion about expectations.
There are a few key things to keep in mind when setting goals for a remote team.
- First, goals should be specific and measurable. This will help team members to understand what is expected of them and make it easy to track progress.
Second, goals should be realistic and achievable. Setting unrealistic goals can only lead to frustration and discouragement.
#5 Set guidelines for communication
Getting after-work texts and emails is frustrating for most employees and anxiety-inducing for others, especially when they are in different time zones. Therefore, setting the basic guidelines for communication is important.
- Allow everyone to have their say in meetings. Some members may take more initiative than others, so it is your job to ensure everyone weighs in on the topic.
- Have designated mediums for every kind of communication. Emails are helpful to keep track of projects, as you can continue on the same thread for clarity. Slack or another messaging platform is better for quick discussions.
#6 Provide feedback and support
It’s important to remember that employees working remotely may not have the same opportunity to receive non-verbal cues about their performance. Take the time to provide regular feedback – both positive and constructive. This will help employees understand how they are doing and what they can improve upon.
Ask employees what type of feedback would be most helpful to them. Everyone has different needs, and by tailoring feedback and support to individual needs, you’re more likely to be successful in providing it.
#7 Make mental health a priority
It’s essential to create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing any challenges they’re facing, whether work-related or personal.
You can do this by offering subscriptions to mental health services as a work benefit or simply by creating an open and supportive culture.
#8 Anticipate distractions
For working parents, distraction can come in the form of childcare emergencies or sick children. For everyone else, life can simply get in the way, with pets, roommates, and unexpected visitors all potentially disrupting focus.
As a manager, it’s important to anticipate these potential distractions and plan accordingly. Allow employees to reschedule or catch up later if they have an emergency, and give them plenty of notice before meetings so they can plan accordingly.
#9 Be sensitive to overworking
With no set office hours or commute, it can be easy for employees to start working longer hours and feel like they are always on the clock. Here’s how you can help:
- Make sure employees are taking their PTO and not working on weekends.
- Be sensitive to any anxiety about productivity levels to prevent burnout.
- Educate yourself on the signs of isolation and check in with employees regularly.
#10 Optimize your onboarding processes
When it comes to onboarding new hires, managers need to be clear and concise in their expectations.
New hires are often overwhelmed and confused, so it’s important to have documentation and introductory videos in place that will orient them to the company’s culture and policies. A confused or disoriented new hire is not going to be a productive member of the team.
In addition, assign a buddy to each new hire so they have someone to go to with questions or concerns. Check in with them regularly for the first few weeks to make sure they’re adjusting well.
#11 Have a weekly team meeting
Having a weekly team meeting is a great way to keep every team member aligned.
The weekly meeting aims for teams to report progress on projects and discuss what was completed last week, the upcoming tasks, and any problems they may have encountered. This gives each individual the attention they need and makes them excellent independent workers who need less managing by the day. Emancipating employees is key to effective remote team management.
To make your meeting more productive, it is suggested to use the Huddles meeting assistant to transcribe and record the meetings. This tool also allows your team to collaborate on notes and assign action items, making it easy for team members to keep up.
#12 Ask for input
Asking for input and feedback from employees is the most significant part of knowing how to manage remote teams. It shows that you are interested in improving your processes and value your employees’ opinions.
This can also lead to improved productivity, as employees feel more invested in their work and are more likely to offer creative solutions. Employees feel appreciated and respected and are likelier to be engaged in their work.
#13 Encourage remote workers to bond
To encourage remote workers to bond, you must set the scene for social interaction. Virtual team-building activities are a great way to build relationships and improve communication among remote employees, including digital card games, online scavenger hunts, and emoji battles.
Another strategy is to schedule fortnightly virtual meet-ups, especially for employees who are based in different time zones. These meet-ups can be used as an opportunity to catch up on work-related issues but also to socialize and get to know one another better.
#14 Mimic water cooler talk
To be great at remote team management, managers should start conversations cleverly. Talk about trending news. Ask about life in other cities.
Diversity should be celebrated on your team, not merely as a time-zone inconvenience.
By fostering a more personal connection, team members will be more likely to trust and confide in one another– and you.
#15 Try meeting in person
If you and your team members are in the same city, meet for coffee or lunch once a week. Or, if you have employees living in the same cities, organize a monthly meetup at a local park or pub.
If your company has an office, make sure to schedule regular visits so that you can catch up with your team members in person.
By connecting with your team members on a personal level, you can build trust and improve communication, both of which are essential for maintaining a successful remote team.
Lead remote teams the right way
While not all of these tips will work for every remote team, hopefully, you can find a few that will help your next project run smoothly.
Managing a remote team is difficult, but with the right tools and knowledge at your disposal, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.