You may have managed teams for umpteen years with great success, but if it’s your first stint at leading a remote team, it’s important to acknowledge the differences and perhaps even make adjustments to your management style.
While both set-ups have their benefits and drawbacks, many things that happen organically when working in the same office - such as collaboration and socialising - need to be planned in advance and structured when managing a remote team. With this in mind, we’ve put together ten tips to help you lead with confidence.
When you’re working at an office, a daily check-in or stand-up may not be necessary every single day, but it can be invaluable when the team’s working remotely. A 15-minute round table, first thing, can help to identify areas of collaboration and ensure that everyone knows what’s going on and make allowances for anything that might impact their workload. It can also help to set a clear delineation between 'home time' and 'work time'.
Respect other people’s time
This applies in person too of course, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this is extra important when managing a team remotely. If you’ve scheduled a meeting, do your utmost to stick to it and avoid cancelling or re-scheduling at late notice. We all have times during which plans have to change at the last minute, but if you’re consistently late or cancelling meetings last-minute, you’re giving the impression that you don’t value the other person’s time.
Establish workflows and processes
If you’ve not already embraced a collaboration tool like Asana, Trello or Basecamp, it’s definitely time to start doing so. When working in an office, it’s common for individuals to use their own task management methods, from checklists to Post-it notes, but when working remotely as a team, It’s a good idea to make sure that everyone is tracking their tasks using the same tool. This is especially pertinent when it comes to collaborative tasks or projects.
This isn’t about micromanagement, but is about ensuring that you and your team members reach mutual understanding over what’s expected in terms of output and ensure that the associated workload is appropriate. While many business in the past argued against remote working, citing decreased productivity as a reason, many have since discovered that the opposite is a far bigger issue.
In fact, a survey carried out by LinkedIn revealed that since lockdown began, those working remotely are clocking up 28 hours of overtime per month, which translates to an extra four days' work. This is another reason to make use of collaboration tools like Asana which help to give oversight on any team members who may have too much on their plate!
Encourage face time
Nothing beats face-to-face communication, but when it’s not possible, video calls are the next best thing - especially for collaborative efforts like brainstorming. But even for less collaborative tasks encouraging a ‘web-cams on’ culture can do wonders to help people to feel more connected to and invested in their input. Not sure which video conferencing tools to use? Check out our list of the best.
Find the right communication tools
Email’s great, but when working fully remotely, it’s not the best communication tool for every situation. If your team has recently moved to remote working, it’s easy to fall into the trap of continuing as if nothing has changed - with email as your primary tool of non-verbal communication. However, email isn’t always the best tool for the job - particularly when it comes to brief conversations or quick questions. These types of communication are best exchanged by via instant messaging. We’re big fans of Slack here at Superscript, but there are plenty of options to choose from.
In an office environment you’d probably work in proximity to your team, making it easy to catch up or have a quick chat on an ad-hoc basis. When working remotely, you’re automatically less approachable. Make use of instant chat - it’s the closest thing. And even if you can’t respond to someone right away, make an effort to acknowledge them, just as you would if they’d approached you in person.
Make sure everyone’s got a suitable home set-up
We’ve all got slightly different home set-ups. Some members of your team may have fully kitted-out offices, others will be working in communal rooms. You can’t change this. However, you may be able to provide a minimum standard of home office set-up. For example, offering to provide a proper office chair, desk and monitor. An unsuitable chair or tiny screen can lead to back pain and other ailments that could reduce your team’s happiness and overall productivity.
Set time aside for social activities
In an office setting, social activities tend to happen organically. Whether it’s lunch in the kitchen or post-work drinks, a happy team will probably naturally socialise without you needing to structure things too much. However, when it comes to managing a remote team it’s important to structure time for socials. Whether you’re all about happy hours or team quizzes, it’s important to allocate time to build rapport between team members. Need some inspiration? We’ve put together a guide to remote working company culture.
A little positivity can go a long way
Positive teams are more productive. It’s easier to feel less connected to the work you’re doing and the overall team when working remotely. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to lead by example. If you seem distracted or unenthused - even if it’s actually due to something totally unrelated to the task at hand - you could unintentionally set a negative tone. In an office setting, something like this would be more forgiving as you’d naturally have more interactions throughout the day.
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