The 3 Keys to Successfully Managing Your Remote Team
The pandemic has changed a lot about how we live and work. While we don’t know exactly what the world will look like on the other side of COVID-19, one thing is certain – remote work is here to stay.
According to data from Gallup, remote work was already on the rise, but the pandemic has accelerated the trend. Even as offices began to cautiously reopen, many workers only returned part-time under hybrid work models and more than 25 percent remain fully remote.
For business leaders, remote work and hybrid work models require new ways of leading and managing their teams. What does it take to manage a remote team? How do you keep your employees engaged and productive while working from home? What common obstacles and challenges need to be overcome?
We’re breaking down the three keys areas and best practices every leader needs to address to successfully manage their remote team, through the pandemic and beyond.
Your employees are critical to the success of your business. That’s why the first area leaders should focus on when managing a remote team is their people. If your team was entirely office-based pre-pandemic, the shift to remote work might have been especially challenging. Issues like poor communication, lack of direction or misunderstanding, and social isolation can all be demoralizing. Remote work also changes and blurs the lines between the personal and professional. As a leader, how do energize your team and keep them productive while also ensuring your employees’ wellbeing?
Setting a clear direction for the team is a great place to start. Ensure everyone is on the same page by establishing frequent check-ins and aim to overcommunicate in order to avoid misunderstandings. It’s also important to consider forms of communication you might not have used previously. While email or instant messenger may have been enough in the office, in a remote setting, face to face interaction is lacking. This is where video conferencing tools can be useful. Regular video meetings and team calls can help to replicate the normal work setting and maintain a cohesive group identity that makes everyone feel more connected.
As a leader, it’s also important to practice what you preach. If you’re encouraging employees to turn off their computer at the end of the day to maintain a healthy work-life balance, taking care of emails in the evening or working late can send the wrong signal. Set remote work norms that align with your company culture, then lead by example and follow your own rules to build a productive, prosperous team.
Resources & Technology
After you’ve addressed the needs of your employees, you’ll want to consider the resources and technology tools your team needs to work efficiently from home. Does your team have access to fast, reliable internet? Are they missing resources they had available in the office? What new tools are needed to address challenges or issues related to remote work?
There are so many technology tools, software, and programs available today that it can be overwhelming to figure out what’s right for your team. That’s why technology experts at McKinsey suggest focusing less on the tools and more on what your team needs to do. What is the outcome you’re looking for from a tool or resource? Do you need software for content creation or file-sharing? Are you looking for a video conferencing tool, a channel-based communication method, or a resource to support team culture? Once you determine what result you’re looking for, you can narrow down the options and pick a tool that will meet your needs.
After you’ve selected your tech tools and resources, you’ll want to spend some time considering security. Remote work requires online collaboration, document sharing, and an infrastructure to enable and support operations. However, in the rush to remote work, system security is easy to overlook. That’s why it’s necessary to revisit your team’s security standards and practices regularly to make sure your team and tools are secure. A strong remote infrastructure with the right resources and technology will ensure your employees are successful no matter where they’re working from.
Expectations & Outcomes
The final key to leading and managing a remote team is setting clear expectations and outcomes. By its nature, remote work is less structured than work done in the office. You won’t know what each employee is doing at every moment and you can’t just drop by their desk or office to check in. This is why setting clear, realistic expectations is so crucial. What is it that your team should be doing on a daily basis? What tasks need to be accomplished and why? Are there specific deadlines or deliverables that must be met for a project? Setting expectations for everyone (including yourself) will help the team stay on track and measure their success.
Along with establishing clear expectations, it can be useful to set rules of engagement. For example, what should communication look like within the team? Is there a time of day that’s best for check-ins? How should people communicate with each other when small issues or questions arise? Creating standards within the team helps everyone stay on the same page and work toward a shared goal.
This leads to the final point: At the end of the day, outcomes, not activity, are most important. As a leader, you won’t be able to control every aspect of the work done by your remote team (let’s be honest, micromanaging never turns out well). So instead of focusing on hours worked or items crossed off the team to-do list, measure your team’s success based on outcomes and adjust accordingly. Focusing on outcomes over activity is a best practice known for increasing engagement and empowering employees. By defining desired results from the start, your team will understand what they’re working towards and why it matters.
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