Remote working continues to remain the primary way for organizations to continue operating their businesses. While the pandemic is steadily going away, plenty of companies are considering the idea of going fully remote or implementing a hybrid. Business leaders need to ensure they are aware of the best ways to manage a remote team. Remote work can introduce some challenges that need to be addressed immediately, or else it could cause problems in the long run.
It's crucial for those in leadership positions to understand what is required to lead a remote team. Some of the skills you previously relied on while working in the office space may no longer be effective or apply on a remote scale, while some other skills you may not have utilized to their full potential are now highly required. Either way, managers must take the time to brush up on their skills and get ready to continue leading their teams while working from a distance from each other.
That said, let’s go over the top leadership tips you need for a remote work environment.
Establish productivity expectations
The productivity standards you establish with your remote team will vary from everyone's role, but there is still a standard that needs to be upheld by the entire organization. One of the many company-wide policies implemented by business leaders can be that every customer email gets answered before the end of everyone’s working hours. Maybe team members need to be available for a specific hour for either virtual meetings or calls.
However, individual standards need to be tracked and analyzed to improve productivity. For instance, you and your remote team may decide when one of the developers assigned to a project needs to hand over the code for testing on a particular day. If the deadline isn’t possible for them to meet, they should send out a notice 48 hours before the deadline. That way, everyone is aware of the changes and can work around them.
Furthermore, a customer support team may need to resolve ten client inquiries an hour while guaranteeing that there is no distraction impacting them. Or maybe a sales member needs to close a particular amount of deals within a month. While some managers may see the idea of tracking productivity as too much effort, in reality, it could assist them in finding out issues that may need to be addressed.
For example, after a few months of gathering data on your remote employees, you may find out that there is a need to extend customer support hours or identify congestion that affects your team's productivity.
Differentiate remote work from traditional work
Several aspects make a remote work environment different from the traditional work environment. Hence, remote work requires a whole set of diverse skills from those necessary in the traditional working space. For example, remote work requires better time management, the ability to follow written guidelines, and the ability to communicate effectively through the usage of technology and information.
Since there is a possibility that the manager and employees do not have much remote work experience, they’ll assume that the same rules applied to the office space are transferred over the remote work environment. The dissimilarities between remote work and the traditional workspace mean that you need to start searching for how to hire employees effectively and how to appropriately onboard remote workers. If managers don’t take this seriously, they will find themselves with remote employees who are excellent in co-location environments but have a troubling time in remote working environments.
Before you can even determine what is expected of your team members within the remote environment, you need to start looking at what is expected of you as a leader. Of course, that all comes down to your specific situation.
For a remote setting, the interaction between employees may no longer be similar to those working in the traditional office environment. As a result, one of your most critical jobs is to give a clear understanding of what's required from everyone on the team. That will ensure that each remote employee understands what you expect from them and how it is all connected.
It’s also crucial that you understand the role you hold in enforcing these rules of the organization fairly and consistently. Additionally, you also hold the responsibility of ensuring that employees have access to the resources they need to accomplish their tasks and when there is an emergency.
Onboard the right people
As beneficial as it can be for most employees, not everyone can handle working from home. Similarly, not everyone can supervise a remote team. That is why managers are required to remain observant when they onboard new members onto the remote team. In a remote environment, employees need to understand the importance of deliverables and goals. Even though these employees still require direction and guidance, they should be capable of getting the work finished no matter where they work from. That implies that these employees are trustworthy enough to deliver results with barely any supervision.
It’s challenging to acquire potential employees during a short interview, especially when it’s done virtually. One possible way to resolve these issues is by hiring several individuals on a short-term basis for a couple of projects and evaluating their skills. Once you’ve looked over the results, you can choose the ones with the appropriate skill as permanent employees. If any of your employees have transitioned from an office environment to a remote environment, you could help them adapt by providing training.
Determining what’s best for the team
Any well-organized remote team will have a set of established procedures and expectations to ensure a smoother operation. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be alone coming up with these expectations. For that reason, you should consider inviting your team to participate in coming up with these rules.
Problems that arise in an office space can be better dealt with due to everything being transparent. However, remote employees are the only ones aware of their particular situation in a remote working environment. Plus, it’s the team members who know how they can get their jobs done to their best ability. One area that you should include your employees is the method of communication they would prefer. The answers they provide should assist you in setting a communication system that everyone on the team is comfortable with, especially during one-on-one communications.
Build documented procedures
One disadvantage of working off-site is not seeing team members in the same environment. That means your team can't walk up to your office to ask questions about a project or request help from a nearby team member. One of the most critical duties a manager has is to make sure that there are well-crafted documented procedures set up for everyone to look over when needed. Make sure that everyone on the team knows where to find these informative documents and to follow them.
However, don’t just tell your remote employees where they can find the procedures they need to follow, provide them with ideas on how these tasks are done. To ensure this process can go smoothly for you, let employees participate in creating these standard processes for their particular roles. Frequently update these procedures as things continue to evolve over the years.
Promote social interaction
Because of recent social distancing requirements, many people are experiencing social isolation, which has caused some adverse effects in the workplace. Too many employees tend to feel isolated and lonely from the rest of the team, which can lead to negative consequences. Remote managers need to take social interaction seriously if they wish to run a successful remote team.
As the leader of a remote team, you need to come up with ideas that will ensure that your team members are not affected by social isolation. Fortunately, there are several ways for remote managers to pull this off with the help of technology. For example, you can create a workspace account on team chat apps, like Slack. Create dedicated channels for each team and let them discuss things within the team and do cross-team meetings.
Many companies who shifted to remote environments have also considered using business phone systems for seamless communication. These services come with a wide range of features enabling teams to do voice calls, video calling, or chat over text without sharing their phone numbers. So, the dilemma of isolation and communication barriers among remote teams has definitely lessened.
Although these tools work best to let your team discuss business, but to make things engaging, you can also hold events to break the ice and change the vibe.
Consider setting up a time where everyone can have lunch together on a virtual call. This could also be done one-on-one if you want remote members to get to know each team member better. Coffee breaks are also another excellent way to prevent social isolation from creeping onto your team.
These opportunities serve similar functions to what you would see in the office setting, with everyone sharing information and casually talking about current events. Another excellent idea is to set up several chat rooms that are always available. Using these chat rooms, remote team members can ask questions and share information.
Team activities are also just as critical as preventing social isolation. These team activities not only help prevent social isolation but help the team establish bongs among each other. It also serves as a great way to break the monotony of work and get everyone excited for a night of fun with their colleagues. Here at Brightful, we have an assortment of games that you and your team can play together. Games like Werewolf, Draw & Tell, Mimic, and Gin Rummy are excellent ways to spend time together.
Remote work is becoming the future for many organizations, and business leaders need to prepare themselves to handle this with care. The knowledge you have on traditional office space is not always applicable to remote working. There are skills you need to brush up on that can only be used in a remote setting. Consider what we have mentioned here and see what you need to improve upon to ensure your time as a leader in a remote environment is smooth.