Interested in learning strategies to manage remote teams? Well, you’re in the right place!
Working remotely was one of the least considered work methods for many organizations until 2020. At present remote working has become the norm for many organizations worldwide, and some companies are willing to continue this work mode in the long term due to its advantages. With that said, some companies face many challenges in managing remote workers. For example, the lack of face-to-face communication, the feeling of isolation, a lack of understanding of one’s responsibilities, burnout, etc. This article discusses 15 strategies to manage remote teams.
1. Set Goals and Expectations
Remote team management or leading remote teams is challenging if your team is unaware of the company’s goals and employee expectations. Expectations span from project work to other work-related tasks like work hours, sign-out times, etc. Ensure that your team is aware of this in advance so as to avoid unnecessary interruptions. For example, if you want your team to switch on their videos during meetings, let them know in advance so they can prepare themselves for that.
In addition, set goals for each team member, then document and communicate them. Moreover, allocate a specific person to help new team members adjust their work plans according to the expectations. Never try to set unrealistic expectations like asking members to keep their video on so that you know they are always working.
2. Have Regular Meetings With the Team
Even though you have communicated your goals and expectations to the team, you need a proper strategy to stay up-to-date with each team member’s progress. A good way to do that is by having regular team meetings. For example, if you are following Agile Scrum, having meetings are one way to help you achieve that. Alternatively, set up regular one-on-one meetings with everyone, get them to talk about their achievements and challenges, and provide your feedback for them.
First, discuss with the team and get to know their preference for the frequency of the meetings. Some employees may find having daily sync-ups with the management team a nuisance. In such cases, set up weekly meetings on a specific date.
3. Maintain a Sense of Inclusion
Some employees may experience a sense of loneliness or neglect when working remotely. You have to overcome these challenges by maintaining a sense of inclusion within the team. For example, make sure everyone has access to opportunities, appreciate them for their special attributes, and provide rewards and recognition for their work. etc.
Organize occasional meetups, and get everyone involved in virtual company events. Such extra activities let provide them a chance to get to know new people with different cultures and engage in fun activities. In addition, in meetings, ask everyones’ ideas so that everyone feels included at the team and organizational level.
4. Minimize Distractions
If you do not balance your work with your team’s distractions, it will affect your team’s performance. Distractions are unavoidable when working online as there is no standard way to keep monitoring what your team members are doing throughout the day. However, the occasional distraction is healthy for employees. Browsing social media, playing games, or playing with pets are some examples.
As long as distractions do not interfere with your team’s performance, they should be acceptable. However, let your remote team members be open about the distractions that affect their daily work and discuss how you help to avoid them. Let your team speak about unavoidable distractions and be flexible and ask them to provide a flexible work plan without placing unnecessary stress on them.
5. Avoid Employee Burnout
Working remotely means that team members blend their home and work lives together. Many employees save time (due to commute or lunch breaks) when they work from home compared to when they are in offices. Some employees will utilize that time for remote work. Therefore, some employees do not maintain clear boundaries and end up working for longer hours. Some people even forget to utilize recreational leave, which leads to burnout and ultimately reduces productivity.
Ensure that employees do not work for longer hours than they need to. Be vigilant of these people and remind them to take leave when necessary.
6. Use Project Management Software for Progress Tracking
When you work at an office, some employees use physical tools like the whiteboard to display the project progress using sticky notes. For remote work environments, having a similar project management tool is a must to trust progress. If you are working for an agile software development company, use software like JIRA to centrally manage the progress of every team you are responsible for. Such project management tools let managers get an idea of the project at a glance and enable communications at the project level.
7. Manage the Time Zone Differences
You must consider their time zone differences when working with teams across different geographic locations. For example, if one of your team members is in Asia and another is in the US, you’ll want to plan a meeting that both feel comfortable attending. Get to know employees’ working hours in different time zones, get their input on meeting times in advance, and plan accordingly. This helps everyone participate in your project’s critical meetings and makes everyone feel included.
8. Build Trust Among Employees
When you work remotely, you have fewer opportunities to see what your team is doing and if they are committed to their work. Maintaining trust between employees and the management team is critical when managing a remote team. Ensure that you listen to your employees’ issues and concerns and address them promptly. Have face-to-face rather than audio communications if team members want to discuss confidential matters.
It is also important that team members build trust with management. Encourage them to deliver the project on time and gradually build trust that they are committing to their assigned work on time without any delays.
9. Provide Quick Support to Resolve Infrastructure Issues
Infrastructure issues are some of the most common problems when working online. Suppose one has an issue with their laptop and is not able to log in for the whole day. Another person may be having issues with their monitor or remote environment setup. These kinds of infrastructure issues hinder the progress of their work if you do not have a support system to assist them in resolving these problems faster.
It is important to have a dedicated team to work with team members when they face such difficulties. Also, consider providing financial support to set up a good office space for your team. For example, consider providing them a loan to buy ergonomic chairs and desks, set up backup power systems in case of any power interruptions, etc.
10. Provide the Required Training
Remote teams need to have adequate training to use the required tools. When onboarding a new member, it is important to provide them with knowledge on how to use these tools as well as the dos and don’ts. You must also provide training on data privacy and communication tools and rules. Such training helps your company to maintain its internal security mechanisms and work ethics.
Allocate specific team members to help new employees to catch up. During remote work meetings, record these sessions and maintain a repository of training recordings and knowledge transfer sessions. It helps members to refer to them in the future in case they face issues.
11. Practice Patience
Managing remote teams can be challenging, so it is important to have patience. This comes in handy when you or team members encounter difficulties during meetings due to network or software issues, when there is background noise, etc. It’s important to show empathy towards others by tolerating such issues.
Patience is also important when engaging in conflict resolution. To manage situations, avoid choosing one side. Rather clear the doubts and misunderstandings first by syncing with the required people before providing your opinion.
12. Maintain a Sense of Independence
Not every employee likes when management peeks into their work as it is considered unnecessary and an infringement on their freedom. The best thing is to maintain a clear gap between employees and their work and only to get involved when necessary. When working with remote teams, keeping an eye on every employee and pinpointing the good and bad is difficult. Rather, allow independent work while engaging with them at the right moment.
On the other hand, some employees are too dependent on others and cannot move further in their careers without assistance. It then becomes difficult for them to adjust to being independent when working remotely.
13. Encourage Collaboration
Due to a lack of face-to-face communication, collaboration becomes challenging while remote working. Apart from video conferencing, there are many other ways to manage collaboration among teams. Some examples are using collaborative software tools such as Google Documents and wireframing tools to promote employee collaboration.
Set up occasional face-time meetings where your team has a weekly group call and discuss things outside your usual work and get to know your team better through such meetings. If possible, allocate a specific date to physically meet the team members to have a coffee chat or lunch. In addition, organize virtual events like game days and quizzes, so your team members get to know members from other teams and collaborate with them to achieve specific goals.
14. Provide Constructive Feedback and Praise Excellence
Whether you are working remotely or not, managing your team’s overall performance is important. Provide constructive feedback about employee performance on time. Never hesitate to communicate if you have identified a particular performance issue. It helps to keep the team’s momentum without hindering any work.
If you see a particular positive point, praise them openly so that it becomes an example to others. Mention the good work done by the employees in group chats and encourage their good work so that they feel motivated to continue their work.
15. Offer Emotional Support
Managing remote employees is a challenge. Apart from loneliness, people who work in remote teams can also struggle with work stress, time management, and financial issues. These problems impact their performance and overall mental health. Therefore, support, specifically emotional support, should be offered.
When managing a remote team, it is important to know that your team does face challenges, and a dedicated specialist needs to provide that support whenever they require it.