Remote work isn’t just a trend right now — for many of us, it’s a necessity. And if you’re tasked with managing remote teams, you’re likely familiar with the particular challenges that come along with it.
Remote work is on the rise
Even before COVID-19 took the world by storm, remote work was on the rise. Studies done by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics showed remote work is downright booming: as of February 2020, an estimated 4.7 million Americans, or 3.4% of the population, work remotely. Those numbers are impressive, especially when you consider that’s a 44% increase over the last five years, and a 91% increase over the past ten years.
As you can imagine, these numbers have skyrocketed even more over the past few months. While a lot of us hope to return to work soon (or already have), many businesses plan to incorporate a long-term remote work plan. And in many cases, that means someone needs to be tasked with managing remote teams.
How to successfully manage remote teams
Just as managing any team can be challenging, there are particular factors to keep in mind when it comes to managing remote teams. With that in mind, here are some of our top tips to help you and your remote team be a success.
1. Daily check-ins
Daily meetings are commonplace in physical workspaces. They’re useful for making sure everyone’s on the same page. They also minimize miscommunications when everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. Daily check-ins also give your team a chance to ask questions or voice opinions, and trust that they’ll have the chance to be heard. When it comes to remote work, daily check-ins can be just as useful.
Pick a set time each day for a remote check-in with your employees. We find a video call is one of the most effective ways for doing this. But if that’s not possible, consider using a tool like Slack to chat online.
2. Open communication and accessibility
If your employees can’t walk down the hall and poke their head in your office, they still need a way to contact you.
Some people find they’re more comfortable communicating in person, while others prefer to be behind a screen. Either way, when you’re managing remote teams, you need to foster open lines of communication with your team. They need to know they can access you for help when they need to. And they need to trust they can ask questions and get answers in a timely manner.
But of course, no one can be available 24/7. Maybe you always arrived at your office at 8 AM and left each day at 5. Your employees knew they could pop into your office during those hours if they needed you. But now, your schedule might have changed.
This leads us to our next top tip for successfully managing remote teams.
3. Establish clear expectations
Establishing clear expectations and boundaries with employees is critical in the workplace and while working remotely. Naturally, expectations could change as you shift to remote work.
Let your employees know exactly what you expect from them. Maybe it’s that they’re online for at least seven hours a day. Or maybe they need to be reachable by phone between 1 and 2 PM each day. Maybe all emails must be responded to within 24 hours. But if they don’t know exactly what you expect from them, you’re setting you and your whole team up for failure.
And as important as it is for your employees to know what you expect from them, they need to know what to expect from you. If you plan to take lunch from 12-1 PM every day and you know you’ll be away from your computer, let them know. If you won’t respond to emails between 10 PM and 6 AM, tell them ahead of time.
On that note, we’ve got tips for structuring work-from-home days in this post.
Similarly, let them know which hours you WILL be available. That way, they’ll trust that they can access you at some point.
Of course, these expectations and boundaries might change and adapt from day to day, week to week, or month to month. And that’s okay! Just keep your employees informed as you’d expect them to do the same for you. This all goes back to how important open communication is with your remote team.
4. Build trust (both ways!)
Now, let’s put the previous three tips for successfully managing a remote team together and look for a common theme…
Managing remote teams successfully can be next to impossible if you don’t trust your team and they don’t trust you.
If you’ve worked with the same team in person for years and you’re suddenly working remotely, you might have already established trust with them. But if you’re working with a new team, perhaps one you’ve never met in person, you might be finding yourself struggling to trust them. And consider this: they could be feeling the same way about you!
Here are some ways to establish trust with your remote team:
- Give your remote team the chance to succeed. Trust that they were chosen for their position based on their skills and that those skills will allow them to do their job effectively.
- Lead by example and demonstrate trust in your team by assigning them tasks and giving them creative control.
- Avoid micromanaging right off the bat. This signals to your team that you don’t trust them. If possible, save your micromanaging for the event a team member shows signs of needing more guidance. Until then, give them the benefit of the doubt that they can do their job without constant supervision.
- Establish bonds within the team. As you and your team members get to know each other, you’ll often find trust is established naturally. But there are also ways to move this process along. One example? Once a week, during your daily check group in, everyone shares a fun fact about themselves.
We’re all facing new and unique challenges during unprecedented times. But don’t lose hope! Managing remote teams might take some time to settle into. But as you establish trust, set clear expectations, and offer open lines of communication, success is within your reach.
Do you have experience managing remote teams?
Do you have other tips for managing remote teams we didn’t cover in this post? We’d love to hear them! Comment down below and let us know.