Three Tips For Managing a Remote Team

(The world’s biggest work from home experience)

As many of you have already heard large companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon are either recommending or requiring their employees to work from home to help contain the spread of Covid-19.  Most employees are eagerly heeding the work from home recommendation.  However some managers are left scratching their heads on how to switch from managing a team they see on a daily basis to managing a virtual team. This is especially challenging for the uninitiated.  Here are a few tips to help provide guidance and a smooth transition. 

Set Clear Expectations & Stay on a Regular Schedule

Setting clear expectations upfront allows for everyone involved to know what is expected from the get-go.  This includes core work hours, timeliness in responding to emails, availability for meetings, accountability, priorities (and what to do when they have ones that are competing). 

Employees that work from home also tend to work-more.  To help avoid employee burn-out help them with adhering to the established boundaries for work hours and personal life.  And as a manager, respect those boundaries.  Encourage your remote team to take regular breaks that include some sort of exercise, like a brisk walk.

Communication is Key

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate.  Texting and emailing are OK for quick Q&A but nothing beats making a phone call to really get to the core of a subject.  Bonus points for having a video call. 

Do you meet with the team on a regular basis already?  If you do, great!  If you don’t, you will starting now.  Team meetings should be a two-way communication between manager and the team.  Teams that maintain communication on a regular schedule (daily/weekly) increase cohesiveness and goal adherence by encouraging discussion & interaction.  Schedule regular one-on-one meetings using video (like Zoom).  It’s the closest thing to being in the same room thus helping to further build rapport & trust.  Use a virtual white board for working on projects.  This can help to explain timelines, surface new ideas or diagram processes.  All are ways to help maintain an open-line of communication and foster a sense of comradery.  Teams that do not meet regularly are subject to having employees speculate, create rumors and develop feelings of being excluded, which all can lead to lower employee engagement and retention issues. 

Communication Breakdown

Remember to compensate for the fact that team members will not have that casual interaction they used to have by coincidently striking a conversation at the coffee machine or in the hallway.  When working remotely, one tends to live in their own world (think ‘In the zone’) and team collaboration can suffer.  Encourage social connection by using a channel just for non-business related communication.  Tools like SLACK & Microsoft Teams allow for the creation of multi-channels.  Creating a social channel can help provide that water-cooler effect of fun interaction and on-going employee input without distraction to business communication.  And encourage the team to just pick-up the phone even if it’s just to say “Hello” for a quick 5-min call.  Loneliness when working remotely is has been one of the top issues that has surfaced from those that work remotely on a regular basis. 

Give recognition, show appreciation and celebrate victories

Being courteous like saying “Hello”, “Please” and “Thank you” should be standard but many times are not communicated verbally nor electronically. One of the biggest complaints from staff is the lack of appreciation received from their immediate supervisor.   When the team attains a goal, be sure to provide kudos to everyone involved or recognize that star player on the next call with the team.  A little recognition goes a long way!

Trust in Team, But Implement Systems

If your company is new to letting employees work from home this is the perfect time to shine!  First make sure Policy & Procedures are documented, current and accessible.  The last thing you want is 10 people doing the same job 10 different ways. (Trust me, I have seen it.) 

Secondly, ensure systems are in place to track KPI’s.  This is not about micro-managing, this is about helping your team be successful.  Being able to check KPI’s on a regular basis is key to attaining team/company goals.  Additionally it provides a timely & quantitative measure so both manager and team members can answer whether they had a good day/week.  As a manager, you don’t want to wait until you see the month-end financials to know you have a problem. 

Keep at it and find what works best

The only way to find out what works best for you and your team is to put your plan into action, monitor and adjust as needed.  Some people may need more communication than others based on their personality and learning style. 

We hope that you found this article informative and if so, feel free to forward to a colleague that could benefit.  If your company is struggling with hiring the right employees, employee retention or lack of team cohesion contact us to see how we could help.