Managing a remote team is different to being in the office, you’re probably going to need to use a different set of leadership skills to get the best out of your employees. Communication becomes even more important than it would normally, you can’t rely on word-of-mouth or face-to-face catch ups to make sure messages are received and understood. Instead you need to maintain regular, effective communication and nurture a shared sense of purpose with remote team members.
Video calls are essential to manage a remote team and ensure communication issues are kept to a minimum. Having face-to-face contact (albeit via phone or webcam) is key to get input from facial expressions and other non-verbal cues, and it also fosters a sense of connection and camaraderie that’s so important for any team.
Organise a daily check-in
Particularly at the beginning, when the team is settling into their remote working environment, you should aim to have daily video chats with each team member to discuss their agenda and any issues they’re facing. If anyone is having difficulties with working from home or communicating with the team you want to get these ironed out as quickly as possible. Depending on the structure of your team you might want to have a morning video call with everyone at once to brief the team about upcoming projects and objectives.
Maintain scheduled 1-2-1s and team meetings
Just because you aren’t in the office doesn’t mean your usual 1-2-1s and team meetings shouldn’t continue as normal. If anything, it becomes more important to keep to your agreed schedule to allow team members to plan their day accordingly. Employees still want to develop and progress their skills, even if they’re working remotely, and maintaining 1-2-1s will enable you to ensure the individuals within your team stay motivated.
To ensure your remote team maintains their effectiveness you might need to actively encourage collaboration. Some employees will be used to spinning their chair and simply chatting to their colleagues about ideas and problems, consequently working from home might be a bit of a culture shock and collaboration might suffer initially. As a team leader you need to know what individuals are working on and organise opportunities for brainstorming solutions and collaborating, while also ensuring your team have the technology to collaborate and share information.
Put emphasis on outcomes
When your team are working remotely you can’t, and shouldn’t, control everything they’re doing each day. To effectively manage a remote team, you should focus your efforts on achievable outcomes and communicating these goals to the team. You can easily measure your team’s success against these outcomes and deliverables rather than spending all your time actively monitoring an individual’s activity.
Recent research from Gallup suggests those workers who spend about three to four days of the week working offsite are substantially more engaged in their jobs than traditional counterparts who are stuck behind desks all day. However, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to boost morale and continue to ensure your team is motivated. You might want to think of new and innovative ways to praise your team and individuals without relying on face-to-face interactions, maybe consider using GIFs to help communicate your emotions or say congratulations.
Facilitate team bonding
When everyone is working in proximity it’s easy to communicate, get to know one another and bond. For remote teams it isn’t as easy to chat or maintain that same team rapport people might be used to. As a team leader you can facilitate team bonding by getting creative; maybe you set up a Slack channel dedicated to team bonding, jokes and chat about TV or the football, or maybe you organise virtual drinks after work where everyone video calls in with their favourite beverage. You can remind people to talk to each other like they would normally; saying hi and asking people how they are, not just responding to messages like a robot.
As a team leader it takes extra dedication to manage a remote team and for everyone to stay connected when you’re not in physical proximity. It’s a mistake to assume that a remote employee is the same as one working in the same office as you. Different challenges present themselves when your team is working from home and you must understand and recognise these to effectively manage your remote team.