Managing a remote team is a new challenge that has arisen in the post-COVID digitization era. As companies embrace hybrid or full remote work policies, leaders are tasked with not only increasing productivity but also maintaining the happiness and work-life balance of remote workers. So, what exactly are remote teams?
What Are Remote Teams?
Remote teams refer to groups of professionals from all over the world, with diverse time zones, skills, and cultural backgrounds, who are hired by a company to work from anywhere. The post-COVID world has opened up opportunities for freelancers and remote workers to work for their desired companies, regardless of location. A survey by TINYpulse revealed that 91% of remote workers feel they are more productive while working from home/anywhere.
While remote work may bring increased productivity, it also presents new challenges for managers. They must now tackle project management, team dynamics, and keeping projects on track in a remote setting. In this article, we'll explore tips and tricks for effectively managing remote teams and navigating the unique challenges that come with it.
Challenges in Managing Remote Teams
Managing remote teams presents its own set of challenges for managers, some of which are obvious and others more nuanced. Despite the shift towards remote work, many managers are still grappling with how to effectively lead and manage their teams from afar. In this article, we'll explore the four main challenges faced by managers of remote teams and offer suggestions on how to overcome them.
1. Blurred Boundaries
Remote work has created a blurry line between work and personal life, causing stress and confusion for both employees and managers. To combat this challenge, clear and concise communication is key. Managers should clearly outline expectations for work hours, response times, and deliverables, while also respecting the personal time of their team members. Setting these boundaries can prevent burnout and ensure a healthy work-life balance for remote workers.
2. Supervision vs. Trust
The lack of face-to-face interaction can be difficult for managers who are used to close supervision. To overcome this challenge, managers should embrace remote work and establish a new style of accountability. This can be achieved by teaching time management, effective communication, and information-sharing. At the same time, managers should also trust their remote team to do their job efficiently and effectively.
3. Home-Based Distractions
Working from home can be distracting, particularly for remote workers with families or pets. While it may be challenging for managers to directly supervise, they can encourage their remote team to be professional and prioritize their work. Trust is key in this situation, as managers can only rely on their remote team to manage their distractions and stay focused during work hours.
4. Feeling Left Out
According to a Harvard Business Review study, 52% of remote workers feel left out. Managers have a responsibility to ensure that all team members feel included and valued, regardless of their location. This can be achieved through regular virtual meetings and opportunities for team-building and collaboration. It's important to address feelings of isolation and loneliness that may arise from remote work, as they can negatively impact employee morale and productivity.
Managers have a crucial role in the success of their remote teams. It is essential to start by managing oneself before managing a remote team. Having a clear understanding of what needs to be achieved is the first step towards effective remote team management. The following tips will help managers to lead their remote teams successfully.
How to Manage Remote Teams
Before managing your remote teams, managers should start by managing themselves first. Know exactly what you need to do and achieve. Once you do, here’s xx tips on how to manage remote teams effectively.
1. Rules and Expectations
Creating clear and concise rules and expectations is crucial for the success of remote teams. Managers should establish specific guidelines regarding deadlines, meeting frequency, ideal communication timing, and the medium of communication. It's important to determine the best times to reach the manager and vice versa.
Effective remote management begins with setting shared expectations among all team members. This includes virtual work hours, project scheduling, and changes in production timelines. It's crucial to inform the team about how they will be managed from a distance to avoid any confusion or surprises.
Establishing these expectations can be done through a mass call followed by individual or small group conversations. This one-on-one time allows for more nuanced expectations to be discussed for different team members, especially for those on cross-functional teams.
Assigning a few team members to document any changes in standard project management procedures can also help ensure success. These documented changes should be distributed and easily accessible to all employees, serving as a living document that evolves over time as the team adjusts to remote work.
Tips for Building Expectation:
Communicating expectations is just as important as setting them. Here are a few tips to help managers effectively set and communicate expectations with their remote teams:
- Consider your own experience: If you're having difficulty adjusting to remote work, it's likely that your employees are too. Use your own experiences to shape your expectations.
- Be practical: Setting unrealistic expectations will only lead to disappointment for both you and your team. It may take additional time to figure out how to complete certain project components, so consider limiting project scopes until your remote setup is fully operational.
- Provide written guidelines: Video calls alone are not enough to effectively communicate expectations. Providing written guidelines will give employees a reference they can use to remind themselves of expectations and changes, especially during these challenging times.
2. Structuring and Rhythm in Remote Teams
For remote teams to thrive, it's essential to establish structures and a rhythm that work for all members, especially when different time zones are involved. Managers must ensure that there's a clear schedule for meetings, taking into account any time differences and rotating the schedule to avoid inconvenience for specific team members. Additionally, weekly one-on-one meetings can provide a closer look at each team member's life and well-being.
Virtual team meetings should be a regular part of the weekly schedule, providing a platform for both professional and personal interactions. These meetings should be productive, yet also include a touch of levity and empathy, allowing team members to connect on a human level. After all, the occasional barking dog or a child running through the room is a common occurrence in remote work environments.
Tips for Successful Weekly Meetings in Remote Teams:
- Maintaining Connectivity: Consistently hold weekly meetings with your entire team, ensuring everyone knows how to join and communicate effectively.
- Humanizing the Experience: Add a touch of fun to your team meetings, setting a professional yet friendly tone. Don't forget, many team members may be in their pajamas!
- Engagement Strategies: Consider icebreakers and other engagement techniques to give all team members an equal voice during meetings, especially those who may struggle with the virtual environment.
3. Prioritizing Output Over Activity in Remote Work
When it comes to results, the person doing the work knows best how to achieve it. Managers' role is to set clear goals and desired outcomes, leaving the planning and execution to their employees. The manager's responsibility is to ensure that work is completed within a set time frame, through the creation of milestones, clear deadlines, and progress checks.
In a remote work environment, busywork benefits no one. While it may be tempting to monitor team members' working hours, successful remote management involves understanding that results are what matter most. Trust your talent management skills and believe in the talented and responsible team you have assembled.
Remember, everyone has their own unique habits and work styles, some being more productive in the early hours of the morning or late at night. As long as the work is of high quality and the desired outcomes are met, there's no need to dictate how the work should be completed.
Tips for Prioritizing Outcomes in Remote Teams:
- Flexibility: As a manager, be available to your team members when they need support or have questions, but also recognize that they may have their own methods of completing work and delivering optimal results.
- Discover Work Styles: Observe your team members' remote work habits over time and share your findings with early birds and night owls, allowing them to maintain their preferred work schedule.
4. Nurturing Autonomy and Documented Processes
As a manager, you play a crucial role in creating a smooth remote work environment for your team. Apart from equipping them with the necessary tools and resources like training, new laptops, fast internet, quality headsets, and webcams, it's also important to establish well-documented procedures. Collaborate with your team to develop and regularly update these procedures and standard operating procedures (SOPs), making sure everyone knows where to access them.
With remote work, there's a need for clear communication and information exchange between the workplace and the outside world. Encourage your team to take breaks and work from different locations, like a park or their home. By fostering a sense of independence, you help them develop a healthy work-life balance.
Lead by example by setting aside time for yourself and your interests. Organize team activities where everyone can participate and bond. This sense of autonomy is key to a successful remote team.
Tips for Promoting Independence in Remote Teams:
Helping remote workers become independent is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are some tips to consider:
- Sharing experiences: Devote a portion of your weekly meetings to team members sharing their activities and interests outside of work.
- Group projects: Encourage your team to work on a project together. This allows them to practice balancing their workload with personal time, while also building a sense of unity and camaraderie among them.
5. Get Engaged
Managers are tasked with ensuring that remote work doesn't mean less engagement with their team. Regular check-ins, online team-building activities, and one-on-one communication can help foster a sense of connection and keep remote workers feeling seen and heard. Setting up recurring weekly meetings, encouraging multichannel communication, and being available for assistance can all contribute to a strong, engaged remote team.
6. Feedbacks and Recognitions: Encouraging Success and Well-Being in Remote Teams
Continuous feedback and recognition are critical components of managing a remote team effectively. Regularly providing clear and specific feedback, along with acknowledging excellent work, can help remote workers stay on track and feel supported. As a manager, it's important to demonstrate empathy, patience, and compassion, and to be mindful of the unique challenges faced by remote workers. Setting aside pre-meeting time, taking breaks when necessary, and focusing on solving what can be solved can all help managers support their remote teams successfully.
7. Be Flexible with Distractions: Balancing Productivity and Realities of Remote Work
Remote work can bring a host of new distractions, from household chores to noisy neighbors. Managers must be flexible when it comes to where and when remote workers do their jobs. As long as the work gets done and team members are present for online meetings, it shouldn't matter if they are working from a dedicated home office, a coffee shop, or their kitchen. Allowing for some flexibility in work arrangements can help remote workers maintain a healthy work-life balance and minimize distractions.
8. Efficient Tech Support and Seamless Communication for Remote Teams
Remote work can be a game changer for many businesses, but it also comes with its own set of challenges, particularly in the area of technology. Technical issues can arise, leaving remote employees feeling frustrated and disconnected from the rest of the team. As a manager, it's important to ensure that your remote employees have access to the resources they need to overcome these challenges and maintain a smooth workflow.
One of the most crucial steps you can take is to provide adequate tech support. Ideally, this should be in the form of an on-call tech support team that's available around the clock. However, if that's not possible, you can arrange for tech-related training sessions, or provide a comprehensive troubleshooting guide that employees can refer to when needed.
Effective communication is also critical for a successful remote work experience. The right communication tools can help bridge the gap between employees who are working remotely and those who are working from the office. Video conferencing platforms and easy-to-use messaging tools are the most common options. It's important to clearly communicate which communication channels you expect your team to use, and for which types of communications.
Maximizing Communication Effectiveness in Remote Work:
To make the most of remote work communication channels, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Identifying "Channel Champions": There are usually one or two team members who are more comfortable with a particular communication channel. Designate them as "channel champions" who can assist others who may be struggling to use the tool.
- User-Friendliness: When choosing your communication tools, make sure they are user-friendly and easy to use. Avoid communication channels that are difficult to access or navigate, as this can cause delays and disruptions to your workflow.
Effective Tools for Managing Remote Teams
Managing a remote team can be a challenge, especially when it comes to communication, productivity, and time management. But with the right tools, managing remote teams can be made easier. In this article, we'll highlight some of the best tools available to help you manage your remote team effectively.
Project Management Tools
When it comes to managing remote teams, having the right project management tool is key. These tools allow you to keep track of the project's progress, assign tasks, and have conversations within the project. Here are some of the best project management tools for remote teams:
- ProofHub: This all-in-one remote project management software offers seamless interactions.
- Nuclino: A unified workspace that brings together knowledge, documents, and projects in one place.
- Instagantt: A project management software that allows you to visually plan, control, and schedule your projects.
- Basecamp: A collaboration software that helps you manage projects and communicate with your team.
Team Collaboration Tools
When working with remote teams, effective communication is essential. These team collaboration tools allow you to communicate with your team in real-time, share ideas, and exchange comments. Here are some of the best team collaboration tools:
- Slack: A collaboration tool that offers real-time communication between teams and is available on both iOS and Android.
- Bit.ai: A real-time collaboration tool that offers smart documents with various file attachment options, code blocks, and rich media display.
- Hypercontext: A shared agenda app that provides team meetings, cross-functional meetings, and engagement measures in one place.
- Troop Messenger: A communication tool that lets team members interact via instant messaging, audio or video calling, location, and file sharing.
Keeping your remote team productive can be challenging, but with the right tools, it's easier to maintain their productivity levels. Here are some of the best productivity tools for remote teams:
- Todoist: A task management tool that helps you organize tasks, create projects, add notes, upload files, set reminders, and create productivity charts.
- Krisp: A background noise remover that works with most communication apps such as Zoom, Skype, Slack, etc.
- Blink: A remote work tool that offers features such as calendar management, discussion boards, employee directory, and news feed.
Time Management Tool
Keeping track of the time your remote team spends working is essential for maintaining productivity. Here are some of the best time management tools:
- Teamwork: Allows you to invoice all tracked time and expenses, create custom time reports, and log time on projects.
- Hub Staff: Offers online timesheets, employee scheduling, screen recording, employee monitoring, payroll software, GPS tracking, online invoicing, project budgeting, etc.
- Time Doctor: Offers team time tracking to keep track of each team’s time and makes them accountable for their working hours.
iDoneThis : As the need for remote work continues to rise, it can be a challenge for managers to keep track of what their team is accomplishing each day. But with iDoneThis, they can get a clear, comprehensive view of their team's progress and stay on top of things. This innovative tool serves as a replacement for traditional daily check-ins and is designed to help managers keep an eye on the bigger picture and stay informed about what their remote team is working on.
The transition to remote work can be difficult for both managers and their team, as they navigate the new workflow and rhythm. But with the help of cutting-edge technology, the process can be smoother and less overwhelming. With iDoneThis, managers can be confident that they have the tools they need to successfully manage their remote team and ensure everyone is on track to meet their goals.
So if you're a new manager looking to streamline your team's progress and maximize their efficiency, look no further than iDoneThis. And for even more tips and insights on productivity and success, be sure to check out the wealth of resources available at Talentport.