Manage a remote team

As vast numbers of businesses begin to introduce remote work policies, managing a team from a distance will become the norm for many. This comes with some unique challenges, but it is certainly possible to excel once the transition is made.

If you find yourself managing a remote team for the first time, here are some strategies that will prove useful as you adapt to this practice.

Communication and Connectivity

Communication is essential when you are working with a remote team. Use tools like Skype for Business, Slack, and Microsoft Teams to organize regular meetings.

Urge everyone to participate in video calls when possible, as seeing each other will help with team camaraderie and curb any loneliness you all may be feeling. (This feeling is common when people begin to work from home for the first time.) Seeing people takes away some of the distance you’ll be feeling and is very reassuring when in transition.

Make sure you touch base with your team at least once a day. If you can’t hop on a phone call, shoot an instant message or an email. Regular contact will keep everyone from feeling isolated. Make sure you are sending out messages as touchpoints throughout the day, even just to check in on your team’s emotional state.

To that same end, do not neglect social conversation amongst your team. Whenever you touch base, be sure to take some time to ask how everyone is doing. Check on the mental and physical wellbeing of your team, just as you would in an office setting.

Control What You Can, Let the Rest Go

There’s a certain feeling of loss of control when you’re in transition mode or navigating uncertain waters. This is normal. Do not attempt to control every little thing your team does, or even what you are doing.

Good leaders who embrace the fact that they cannot oversee their team as closely in this environment will trust them, coach them, motivate them, and train them so they have the tools to succeed. There is an element of a leap of faith here, as willpower within your team members is essential. Bear in mind that empowering creates power. You can let go of the control piece and watch this happen.

Let your team discover what they can do with the freedom that comes from remote work. Give them the autonomy they need to thrive and watch their confidence take off as they succeed in this environment. Give them support when helpful but let them discover their power as autonomously as possible.

Embrace Bite-Sized Tasks

While you and your team are transitioning to a work-from-home environment, you’ll want to break things down. When setting goals, start small and make them measurable and realistic. Ensure that the tasks you assign to yourself and your team are communicable and actionable in the short-term.

This will make everyone feel more in control and autonomous.

Be Clear on Daily Tasks and Goals

Similarly, it is not enough to simply communicate; you must do so effectively. Know what is on your direct reports’ plate each day and let them know if there is something they need to prioritize. Have a plan when you go into a call or meeting with each of them.

There is a difference, though, between handing down orders and figuring out what will work best in your new working situation. Instead of hopping on a call and listing out tasks, ask your team members what they have on their docket. Give them a little freedom to figure out their new schedule and find a stable workload. If there’s something additional you need from them, ask them to prioritize it and give them an idea of what tasks can wait until tomorrow if necessary. Always give deadlines, goals, and due dates.

This way, you know for sure that everyone is working with a cohesive plan and strategy to get their work done effectively.


Be Understanding

Empathy is extremely important during the remote work transition, especially if it is spawned by uncertainty. Your team will look to you for guidance during this time. They may express feelings of unease or have questions.

When they come to you, be empathetic. Understand where they are coming from and be as supportive as you can. Be receptive to their issues and provide tools to help them find solutions.

Patience is essential here and will help you all to get over the hump.

Make Sure You’ve Also Adapted

If you aren’t taking care of your own workload, you can’t very well ask your direct reports to do so. Lead by example and make sure that you are getting your tasks done efficiently and effectively. This could include limiting distractions, setting a personalized schedule, and creating a designated workspace, among other things.

For some advice on this, check out this post on working from home effectively. For more management insights, please check out our Michael Page advice column.

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