Working remotely has become an increasingly popular and accepted practice in recent years. With the impact of the current health crisis, many businesses who had previously shied away from decentralized team structures have now adopted remote working with impressive speed and success.
We are fortunate enough to have robust and affordable technologies in place to smooth the remote working process and most of us have strong enough WiFi to keep us connected. But perhaps the hardest part of this newly-imposed system is ensuring that communication is well-managed and that productivity is kept on track.
From finding ways to encourage teams to collaborate to choosing the right tech, read on for tips for managing remote teams effectively.
Invest in the right tools
If you don’t have remote working tools in place, now’s the time to invest. Tools like Slack are great for quick communication and casual conversation, and virtual meeting tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts are good choices for group meetings. Most of these tools have a variety of settings that allow you to share the screen, incorporate slides and other media, and record meetings.
Project tracking tools such as Trello are great for fostering collaboration and making sure deadlines and milestones are met. They are also super handy for incorporating client feedback, or input from other stakeholders.
An important note on this - these tools should benefit all your team. They should streamline tasks and processes and keep everyone on the same page. To make sure this remains the case, encourage your teams to only include the people they really need on project ‘cards’ and in conversations. It’s very frustrating and time-consuming to get a constant stream of updates on a project workflow that you completed your part of days or even weeks ago.
Formulate a schedule and stick to it
Be clear about your expectations. While there may need to be some flexibility with deadlines due to colleague’s family responsibilities, you still need to agree on important timelines and milestones. You also need to offer clear guidance on what the team should do if they have concerns about meeting their obligations then put contingencies in place, where possible. Set expectations around working hours (including break times), response times for queries and requests and the minimum time required for booking time off. Keep your diary up to date at all times and encourage the team to do the same.
Take colleague’s circumstances into account
Keep in mind that colleagues, particularly those who aren’t used to remote working, may struggle with workflows and task management. It’s often easier to request or chase up information or to ask for assistance in person, for example, rather than by email or phone. Timelines can be significantly impacted, too.
Ask your team to be honest with you about any challenges, both with their own tasks and the communication they have with others. Make sure they know you will do your best to help and not judge if tasks aren’t completed. If you understand the reasons and the obstacles involved, you can offer solutions, after all.
Whether your team is used to working remotely or not, you should be mindful that they might be missing interaction at the office or in their personal life, which can negatively impact their work and wellbeing. They may have a full house of kids or other dependents that are making them stressed or anxious. Offer encouragement and support to all staff and, where possible, channels for them to use if they need support from you. Use the 1-1s and team meetings to maintain a sense of belonging and use open questions in the individual catch-ups to get a realistic gauge on how things are going for them.
Have regular meetings
This includes 1-1 catch-ups with individual team members and, where relevant, with groups within your team, or the team as a whole. Understandably, the meetings may not be as streamlined as those you have in person, or as engaging, but there are a few things you can do to make them as positive an experience as possible.
This is a period of unprecedented uncertainty, both personally and professionally. We are all doing our best to manage and we won’t get it right all of the time. As a manager, it’s vital to both you and your team that you maintain trust and make sure they know they can turn to you if they need support and guidance. This means making yourself available to them when you said you would and taking the time to listen to them without distraction. Naturally, you have responsibilities to honor and your team will understand that. Try to be flexible with your hours and the time and resources you are able to devote to them. Be honest and you can expect the same in return.
There’s a common misconception around remote working, that staff become lazier and cut corners. Wherever your staff are working, you should always be confident that they are getting the job done and that you don’t need to keep a constant eye on their progress and performance. If you do have concerns, raise them in a sensitive and open-minded manner with the individual(s) privately and speak to your personnel or HR representative if necessary. By adhering to a schedule and a clear timeline for updates and milestones, you should be able to see if any of the team are under-performing or if there are any concerns with productivity.
We hope these tips on managing a remote team effectively have helped you find some solutions to these very common, and very current challenges. To reiterate our earlier point, we are all doing the best we can in what can be a very trying and frustrating time. By being there for your staff, trusting them and supporting them, you’ll be in the best position to maintain the hard-working productive and loyal team you’ve worked so hard to build.
Good luck and don’t forget to share your tips on tools and working practices on our social media.
Would you like us to hold onto your details so that we can keep you up to date with relevant opportunities?
Copyright (c) 2019 Bramwith Consulting. All rights Reserved.
Site designed and built by Venn Digital