How to Effectively Manage a Remote Team

Feb 02, 2022 - Julian Mayhew

An increasing number of enterprises around the world are now using remote teams. While remote working is not a new concept, since the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a far more common practice.

Initially adopted in 2020 to safeguard staff, adhere to government advice and ensure firms remained resilient since a return to the office once more became possible, numerous companies continue to offer this option to employees.

Recent statistics make this move easy to understand. A 2020 survey on managers and remote working found that 71% of UK office bosses were positively surprised by levels of productivity among team members during the pandemic.

In the same report, 52% of managers commented that their teams were even more productive than when operating from the office. A year on, a 2021 poll surveyed 3,000 business professionals and found that almost 50 per cent wished to continue working from home.

Managing remote staff does not necessarily involve new management challenges, and most team leaders will find the same basic principles still apply. However, the same issues faced in an office setting can sometimes become even more compounded when teams work remotely.

As a result, it is the role of every manager to circumnavigate these situations. Read on for 11 useful management tips to ensure your remote teams stay productive and enjoy premium levels of health and wellbeing.

1. Understand the challenges of remote management

Educating yourself on the potential struggles faced when managing hybrid and remote teams can help you get prepared. With an understanding of the challenges on hand, you can react correctly and cope with situations swiftly and efficiently as they arise.

Wherever staff work from, you must understand how to maintain their level of engagement to ensure your team works effectively. Managers in charge of a remote team must acknowledge that they will lose the capacity to directly supervise their staff. A common scenario is when those in a management role feel they are unable to completely trust their remote team members.

A physical office can make it easier for managers to establish and maintain relationships with staff, but it is still possible to achieve the same result with a remote working model. However, first managers must accept they may need to alter their management style.

Establish a monthly or weekly reporting system, as this will ensure you maintain oversight on projects and progress being made on tasks. Only set specific deadlines when necessary, with the understanding that while your remote teams may work to a different schedule, they will still ensure work is completed as required.

Trust is an important element of effective home working, but it works both ways. While managers must be flexible, staff members need to take responsibility for their work. If employees wish to operate autonomously and not be micromanaged, then they must be diligent in their duties.

Keep your lines of communication open. While teams will need time to work undisturbed, keep in contact with a blend of informal chats, one-to-one meetings, and team conference calls. Always remain approachable and ensure you can be reached when support or advice is required.

Each member of your team will face unique challenges when working from home. This may include managing a work-life balance for those with families, a sense of isolation for extrovert staff members, or even communication issues for those with poor broadband connectivity.

Asking questions and listening to your team members will help you understand these struggles and help you offer them support. Remote teams can deliver high-quality work and productivity, but a manager who understands this working model and the challenges involved is the key to their success.

2. Establish clear guidelines for communication

When you must manage remotely, it can be tempting to let communication slide and simply allow your team the freedom to operate independently. Avoid falling into this trap and set up clear lines of communication.

Without an open channel that you and your staff can freely exchange information through, teams can splinter. As a result, staff members can become isolated, forgotten, and ineffective.

Instead, managers must develop a virtual team presence, where everyone shares the same understanding of work being undertaken. To achieve this, a continuous flow of information is key that includes updates from individuals as well as from the team.

Establishing clear communication guidelines creates a structure for this process and ensures all team members know how and when they can report and contribute.

Basic guidelines should include the preferred method of communication, for example, video conferencing, voice calls or instant messaging and the most suitable times.

Meetings may take place on certain days each week or at specific times. Expected turnaround time for communications like email should also be detailed, to avoid confusion.

3. Identify and delegate duties

Whether you manage an entire company or are in charge of a single team, an important part of your role is to delegate tasks and work. When staff are working remotely this still holds.

Understand the work involved and ensure you know what must be done. Break down projects or areas of responsibility into smaller jobs or a set of ongoing tasks. Establish goals for each task and define completion so that expectations are clear.

Now you can identify the best-suited members of your team for each task and delegate the workload. Use project management and task management software to ensure everyone has an overview and understanding of all ongoing work and expected deadlines.

Discuss tasks with your team and support them with any information, advice, and resources they require. Keep on track of work via strong communication and scheduled calls. Any progress or problems can be discussed and resolved to ensure work stays on course.

4. Ensure the right tools are always accessible

Part of managing remote teams is also making sure they are equipped to perform their roles from home. From hardware and software to online collaboration platforms, support your staff by kitting them out with the same tools at their disposal when they work from the office.

5. Set expected standards for work productivity

Every remote worker is an individual. When working in a flexible environment, it is only natural that they will select the schedule that suits how they work best. As everyone is so different, establishing standards designed to measure productivity is often helpful.

Start by setting time frames. Unless teams are providing customer support, the hours they choose to work don’t need to be fixed, as long as they are completing their contracted quota. Set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for staff so they know what is expected from them and fix milestones in place for largescale projects.

6. Be mindful about overloading and over-working

In the role of manager, you must make sure you never assign too many tasks to your team members or impose impossible deadlines. However, when you are working remotely, you must also be careful about how much work you take on yourself.

Keep communication channels open with your team. Remain open to staff members feeling pressured by workloads and prepare to make adjustments that ensure the work is completed, but their schedule is slightly easier for them.

When working from home yourself, create set limits on how many hours you work without taking a break. Avoid blurring boundaries between work and life and take regular exercise in a routine that suits you.

7. Establish a virtual social meeting point

While working from an office location, team members interact socially with one another in break rooms and around coffee machines. While team meetings and work-related communications keep staff in contact, these everyday interactions may be lost.

Setting up a virtual meeting point that is always accessible with a video conferencing solution allows team members to interact not just as co-workers but as people. This connectivity unites teams and strengthens interpersonal relationships enhancing the way people collaborate

A study undertaken by the Royal Society for Public Health uncovered that while overall most people found working remotely to be beneficial for their health and wellbeing, many experienced feelings of disconnection from their colleagues (67 per cent).

Try establishing a virtual meeting area for spontaneous interactions or include an additional five to ten minutes into the end or beginning of regular video conferences allowing employees a chance to get personal.

8. Keep collecting feedback

Whether managers are adopting a flexible work model for the very first time or continuing an ongoing approach to remote working, collecting feedback is key to ensuring that it’s an effective option for your team.

Reporting helps managers identify strengths and weaknesses in the model and feedback can inform any necessary adjustments. Feedback can be collected in three different ways.

Anonymous surveys or polls can be useful for gathering data on remote working, while one-to-one meetings will give you a personal opinion of the experience from each of your team members. Finally, virtual workshops can give you insights from the group as a whole.

9. Offer emotional support

As touched on briefly, isolation is an issue that can impact your team’s psychological wellbeing. Fortunately, you can support them. Communication is key, but don’t wait for employees to request assistance.

Instead, stay informed by asking pertinent questions regarding their wellbeing and how they are coping with remote working. Makes sure you listen to their answers and understand them, using your empathic abilities.

Company values can offer remote team members a focus. By reminding them of what you are attempting to achieve as a team, and what you stand for, you can inspire and support them. Additionally, set up supportive networks where staff can listen and talk about issues among their peers online.

10. Never neglect the individual

Every manager understands that a sense of team is essential, but every team member is an individual. As a result, one-on-one meetings are essential as they allow each employee to address issues that are important to them in a private experience.

Staff are often more comfortable expressing their feeling or discussing problems away from the team. Additionally, one-on-ones can make for clearer, and quicker communications when staff fear an email might be misunderstood or be a slower process to find a solution.

11. Stay adaptable

Finally, while the work must come first, being flexible is vital for managing remote teams. Avoid resorting to micromanaging home-based teams by using set targets and establishing expectations and deadlines.

A simple way to offer flexibility while ensuring your teams deliver is to allow them to spread their set working hours over seven days and work to a structure that best suits them.

By following these tips, you’ll have an excellent handle on how to manage your remote team but keep learning. Let every new experience inform your knowledge base, and keep adapting your management style to get the results you require.