With the majority of non-essential employees now working from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, managers across the country are scrambling to keep their teams happy, motivated, and productive. That’s easier said than done, especially when a team isn’t used to working from home. In these uncertain times, team leaders must step up, adjust quickly, and think of new ways to manage a remote team.
The challenges of managing a remote team
Remote teams offer plenty of benefits to businesses, but companies generally like to ease into the remote structure by slowly building teams and establishing protocols before letting employees work from home. The COVID-19 virus didn’t give many businesses a choice or much time before they were forced to send their employees home.
The main challenges in managing a remote team are:
- Confusion over standards and structure
- Challenges in communicating effectively
- Loss of a cohesive company culture
- Challenges maintaining trust between teams
- Difficulty in assessing productivity
Fortunately, all of these challenges can be addressed with the right mindset and tactics. Here are the tips managers need to successfully manage a remote team.
1. Create clear and standardized work systems
Step one in helping your employees successfully transition to remote life is to develop clear work processes. In most cases, your company or department probably already has systems in place. All you’ll need to do is update them to mesh with your new remote reality. This could also be an excellent opportunity to review and tighten up your work protocols. For example, if you are still asking employees to review and edit physical proofs, this is your chance to move your review system online. Take a look at more tips to increase the productivity of remote teams.
2. Adopt project collaboration tools
To help your team work as effectively and efficiently as possible, invest in project collaboration software that will allow team members to post new projects, assign roles, schedule deadlines, review and approve materials, track progress, and more. Some of the top project collaboration tools are:
If you already use a project collaboration software, take this chance to review all of the program’s capabilities. You might discover new features that can help your remote team be even more productive.
3. Keep overlapping hours
If your team was forced to work from home due to shelter-in-place orders, chances are everyone lives in the same area. However, if your office team is now melding with your existing remote team, you may have workers in multiple time zones. Additionally, workers may ask to change their schedules, especially if they need to now care for children who are home from school.
It’s important to establish overlapping hours where all or most of your team is active and available. This is crucial so your employees know when they can reach their teammates and expect a response. It allows you to call meetings or pull everyone in on a project.
4. Host regular meetings
Communication is more important than ever when you’re managing a remote team. One of the best ways to keep those lines of communication open is to host regular meetings. We strongly suggest hosting video meetings. There’s just something about being able to see everyone’s face and expressions that makes these meetings more valuable.
Take a look at a great article we recently published that provides a remote meeting guide for companies of any size. The article reviews how to:
- Choose your meeting software
- Equip your team
- Hold a test meeting
- And more
It’s also a good idea to host one-on-one meetings with your employees. This is your chance to work with them individually and help them overcome their unique challenges.
5. Develop clear goals and deadlines
One of the biggest challenges managers face when it comes to leading a remote team is trying to assess the team’s productivity. How do you know if your employees are dawdling on Facebook or falling down a YouTube rabbit hole while they’re on the clock? Unless you want to force your employees to download time tracking software, the answer is to focus on deliverables.
Give your team clear assignments with a solid deadline, then step back and allow them to execute. This is where trust comes in. By showing trust to your employees they will return it with an extra helping of appreciation that you aren’t trying to micromanage.
6. Keep company culture alive
Just because your employees are working from home doesn’t mean all the great aspects of your company’s culture have to stop. Think about the things that make your company special, along with your normal company traditions. Does your company usually go all out celebrating someone’s birthday? You can still do that by posting birthday memes in your messaging app and even having a tasty dessert delivered to your employee’s home.
Take a look at other ways you can scale your company culture for your remote team.
7. Celebrate the wins
Your employees may be feeling stressed in this unpredictable climate. Help boost morale by celebrating wins for your team, big and small. That might be as simple as singling out an employee for praise at your next meeting. If you want to really reward hard-working employees, how about throwing a remote party or even giving them the rest of the day off?
There are nine more ways you can celebrate remote wins and let your employees know how much you appreciate their effort.
8. Ask for feedback
If you had to scramble to send your workers home with little notice or preparation, there are bound to be issues and challenges. Maybe some workers are struggling with remote technology. Others may not know what to work on after projects have been paused or canceled. You won’t know what’s causing friction unless you actually ask your employees.
It’s time to request feedback. In our article on the importance of employee feedback, we recommend that employers:
- Establish an environment of trust
- Create anonymous polls and surveys to get honest feedback
- Consider taking employees out for “virtual leadership lunches”
- And follow through on the feedback
Poll Everywhere can help you get the feedback you need. Create a poll with a new question each day and watch employees answer in real-time or send through anonymous surveys to get a deeper level of feedback.
Managing through uncertain times
These are some of the most challenging times the business world has ever faced, and we’re learning how to get through every single day. The same skills that make you an effective manager in the office can also help you successfully manage a remote team. Focus on promoting strong communication, showing trust in your team, setting clear goals, supporting your team with the right tools, and showing that you care. You and your team will get through this. And, you never know, you might enjoy remote work so much that you’ll stick with it even after the restrictions are lifted!