Many of the world’s leading companies have already been practicing effective remote team management for years. However, not many have a completely remote workforce.
This is all changing very quickly in light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, where more workers than ever before are having to work from home due to government guidance advising them to self-isolate and stay away from public places to reduce sickness.
More traditional companies, who have been hesitant to allow flexible schedules or remote working opportunities for workers in the past, may feel as if they’ve been thrown in the deep end.
However, managing a remote team is not rocket science, and there are dozens of best practices out there to help ensure your team can work efficiently from home.
Here are 5 tips that may come in handy as you navigate managing a remote team for the first time.
5 Tips for Managing a Remote Team
1. Maintain Structure
The transition from working in an office space to working from home can be bumpy for everyone. Routines are interrupted, children and pets may be around, and your staff’s working environment is totally different.
For many individuals, work and home will gradually start to blend together. Some might even find themselves working extra hours late into the evening or into the night to catch up – which can lead to burnout and frustration.
As managers, it is so important that you do not allow this new ‘working from home’ situation to turn into a ‘working 24/7 from home’ situation. Your employees deserve to have some time for relaxation and entertainment, and they will be much more efficient if they keep this distinction between their work and home lives.
To maintain a good structure, you should:
- Keep standard business hours
- Encourage employees to make a dedicated space in their homes for work only
- Avoid sending emails or texts at night
- Establish clear project deadlines, schedules, and deliverables
2. Equip Your Team with the Right Tools
While some employees may already have an office space in their homes, many others will not. It’s important that you equip them with all the tools and equipment they need to be successful in a work from home environment.
This will likely include:
- Laptops or desktop computers
- Flash drives
- Notebooks and paper
- Pens and highlighters
- Mouse, mousepad, and keyboard
- Extra cables
This may also require some preparation from your IT department. Be sure to let them know as soon as possible that you plan to start having employees work from home. They can help you order and prepare the necessary items for a smooth transition.
3. Utilize Technology, but Keep it Simple
There are already thousands of online resources, productivity tools, and courses out there to facilitate remote business processes. However, now is not the time to bombard your staff with entirely new workflows while they’re trying to get used to working in a new environment.
Especially in the first few weeks, continue to use the platforms and technologies that your staff is already comfortable with – such as email, IM, phone calls, and text.
Once you’ve assessed how everyone works together and you have a better understanding of your team’s pain points, then you can consider implementing a new productivity or remote team management tool.
Slack is one of the most common communications used tools available, but others include:
And many more.
The majority of the tools available are either free or have a free option, so you can easily trial several before rolling them out for your whole team.
4. Plan and Prioritize Check-Ins
As a manager, you probably already know that one on one communication with your team is crucial. And that is still true even when your staff is working from home.
That’s why one of the keys to successful remote team management is making sure you plan and prioritize regular check-ins with everyone on your team.
You may not need to speak to each person individually on a daily basis, but it’s still important that you do plan weekly or biweekly one on one check-ins via phone or video chat. This not only shows the individuals on your team that they are important, but it also gives you the opportunity to better understand any issues or problems that arise while working separately.
Best practices for planning virtual check-ins:
- Plan a specific day and time for a remote meeting with each person. For example, Mondays at 9:00 am for one team member and Mondays at 9:15 am for another.
- Keep these chats brief. 15-30 minutes is plenty of time to give updates and discuss any issues that may have come up.
- Schedule these meetings in your calendar so that you do not forget about them.
- When possible, use video chat so that the check-in feels more personal.
5. Be Mindful of Your Team’s Well-Being
The COVID-19 outbreak is unprecedented and scary. Thousands across the world have already died, and people are losing their loved ones every day.
When communicating and engaging with your remote workers, be mindful of this and stay sensitive to the fact that their emotional well-being may also be at risk.
Yes, business and work topics are important, but the health of your employees and their families is more important.
To make sure you are mindful of your employees’ well-being, you should:
- Regularly ask your team how they are doing
- Make time to chat about non-work topics at the beginning and end of virtual meetings
- Provide access to online resources and blog articles about how to manage mental and physical health while working at home
- Be flexible and understanding of employees who may be taking care of loved ones
- Encourage your team members to take plenty of breaks throughout the day
- If you show your team that you are caring and supportive, they will feel much happier and secure throughout the transition.
Remote Team Management: An Opportunity
Learning how to manage a totally remote team probably wasn’t something you had planned for 2020.
However, think of it as an opportunity rather than a problem.
The pace and style of work have been rapidly changing, and your team only stands to gain by learning how to be flexible, resourceful, and adaptable. They will also be well prepared in the event of any other mass interruptions that may happen in the future.
This is also a great opportunity for you to show upper management and human resources that remote working is something worth implementing in the future. Either as a reward for loyal staff or as a recruitment tool for younger talent, your company’s ability to facilitate a remote working environment is an asset that you can build during these uncertain times.