Posted on: Monday May 11, 2020
Everyone within a managerial position wants to be seen as effective in all aspects of their role, but when your team move from being based in one location, to one that is in multiple places, the challenges and the skills needed to overcome them change.
We lose the ability to notice subtle visual cues due to the distance between ourselves and our team. These can be crucial in identifying problems that may be happening or preventing any future ones. It is paramount that as a manager, you remain connected with your remote workforce and that you keep them connected to one another.
There are several common concerns that remote workers face:
Lack of face-to-face communication
Relationships are vital within a business, none more than the interpersonal ones that make up your team. When people find themselves disconnected from the group, they can feel a sense of isolation and begin to wonder where their role in the team now fits.
Disconnect in managerial support
Due to the above, it can be easy for employees to feel like their manager is not fully aware of their needs. This can lead to employees withdrawing further from communication.
Delay in information from co-workers
A newly remote workforce may become frustrated with their new ways of working due to the unfamiliarity they are facing. We all know that day-to-day tasks can become slightly more challenging, for example, having to go through remote server connections can cause delays in obtaining what once was easily accessible information, and with colleagues no longer at arms-length, asking questions and seeking input from team members gets increasingly more difficult.
If you're aiming to effectively manage your team, it's important to take these factors on board and create a virtual working environment that can be inclusive and productive.
Managing a remote team means that the onus falls on you to ensure that operations continue to run smoothly therefore, being proactive is key. If there is a major project or piece of work on the horizon, giving your team as much notice as possible will enable them to adjust their schedules and any outstanding work in order to accommodate. You should also factor in absences, planned or otherwise, and where feasible have a contingency plan in place that accounts for shortfalls in labour.
Provide multiple methods of communication
There are numerous ways in which people can stay connected. Make sure your team know when and how they can reach you. An email, whilst quick and simple to send, may not always serve as the best form of communication and can lack the personal touch. Video calls, live chats and even an ‘old fashioned’ phone call can hep enhance communication and give your team a variety of ways in which to connect with their colleagues.
Instant messaging is a great way to keep a dialogue open, however can be limited through its text-only nature. Like phone calls, instant messaging can be ideal should a member of your team need to get hold of you quickly, however, if the nature of the conversation is more personal or in-depth, then video calling platforms may be better suited and can help you as a manager read body language and treat the situation more personally and with the right level of support.
Encourage a culture where people feel they add value. Each team member will have a different skill set or something unique that they bring to the fore. Be sure to utilise and recognise this by inviting multiple team members to contribute to meetings and projects. This will naturally build inclusivity and help your employees to feel a strong part of the team.
Establish regular check-ins
Regular communication with your team is paramount but can be all too easy to let slip when the team is dispersed in multiple locations or when you are busy with your own workload.
By scheduling regular team and individual catch ups you can stave off any ill-effects that remote working may cause by ensuring your team's 'social' needs for work are addressed. Making these take place via video calling technology gives your workers a platform for which to normalise and socialise with their colleagues.
Video should also be the medium for one-to-ones with individual reports. The visual element will mean that they should be more relaxed and open to discussing potentially more complex or individual matters.
Encourage and give emotional support where needed
Employees often look to their line manager for ways in which to react and adapt during times of stress or new situations. Making sure you are available and approachable to your team is vital. Refrain from cancelling one-to-ones or other scheduled meetings unless it is entirely unavoidable. If you do need to cancel, be sure you let them know immediately and explain, within the best of your constraints, why it has happened and when you can reschedule.
It may be that the prospect of remote working is causing stress or anxiety to your team. Be mindful that everyone has different coping mechanisms and some may find change easier than others. Ensure your language is understanding and empathetic but remain positive. Phrases such as 'I know it is tough at times, but I am here to support you and I know we can work together to get this done’ or a simple ‘you’ve got this' demonstrates to your team that you are there for them and you believe in their abilities.
Importantly, be aware of their remote working environment, as some may have children or other dependents at home, thus making their ability to be as productive as they would in the office slightly more difficult. This can be a natural cause of worry to these individuals as they may feel they are not contributing as much as other team members. Make sure you communicate that you understand the challenges that can arise when working from home when not alone and that you appreciate their efforts and value their work.
The challenges of managing a remote team can be difficult and sometimes you may feel the struggle yourself, therefore be sure that you also have the support you need, whether that be from your line manager or from friends and family.
Despite its challenges, remote working can be very rewarding. With flexible schedules and often less distraction some people actually find they are more creative and productive. Whether remote working has been enforced, or your business is generally adopting new ways of working, be sure to highlight the positives to your team.