Managing Remote Teams

Mar 24, 2020

This article was inspired by a recent Ladders article on which I was featured discussing strategies for managing remote teams. Click here to read the full article.

In the last week, much of the business world has been upended with the sudden COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent changes to daily business operations. Some industries have too much work, others have too little, and still others are trying to juggle the new work from home schedule. As we embrace this new reality, it’s important for managers to understand the best way to approach this situation with clarity for the sake of their teams. 

Along with clarity, positivity is vital now more than ever. Is this situation inconvenient? Yes. But it isn’t all bad.

According to freelance website Upwork, 73% of all departments in America will have remote workers by the year 2028. As you adjust to this new work style for the time being, know that this is the trend many businesses are heading toward in the coming years. Many of us are just getting an accelerated look at what that might mean for our own businesses in the future.

If you’ve found yourself suddenly managing a team completely remotely, it can be intimidating trying to figure out how to best keep everyone productive and communicating regularly. For those of us who have spent our entire careers physically in the workplace everyday, this change could disrupt a lot of what we know to be normal. 

For that reason, I wanted to highlight some methods that could be helpful in managing a completely remote team for the first time. The following tips come from the previously mentioned Ladders article, along with my own thoughts on how team’s can best be managed from a distance. 

Encourage team members to set up shop. A sudden change in work environment could cause some to struggle in maintaining a level of productivity at home. Make sure your team members have a personal awareness of stressors so they can free up their mental hard drive for productive work. Never discount the importance of a clean workspace and short breaks every so often. 

Default to over-communication. Communication is undoubtedly challenged when teams aren’t in the same workplace. However, there are plenty of systems and technological resources that make this process a lot easier than it would have been in the past. Slack, Zoom, Skype, phone calls, texts. Whatever it may be, make sure communication is a top priority for your team, and especially for you as a leader. 

Keep it light-hearted. Now, more than ever, it is vital that we keep a sense of fun and light-heartedness in our team communication. With such drastic changes in home and work lives, it’s important that we keep our teams safe but also calm and content at the same time. Fun plays a big role in our daily work environment at Elevate, and I don’t plan on changing that with the recent workplace shift. It will just look different and require more intentionality to incorporate that factor into a remote work culture. 

Train your managers on how to support their team’s “waves”. Some team members might find it difficult to work from home, especially if they have never worked remotely in the past. Being physically present in the workplace offers extensive accountability, while being home often comes with periods of productivity and other periods of distraction. Understanding these “waves” is vital for leadership members in order to encourage their teams and to give them the proper resources to stay on track. 

Process, process, process. Setting standards and expectations for the work that needs to be completed is easier when efficient processes are in place. Staying productive requires that team members understand what is expected of them and have a way to stick to a schedule. One system my team has used in the past (and will continue using during this time) is the software Asana, which allows for scheduling and setting deadlines for work that needs to be done. 

Cater to team member’s needs when you can. It’s important to make sure your team feels comfortable and well adjusted to working remotely. We should take the time to ensure our employees know how the new systems work and how to best stay productive from a distance. 

Set parameters for technology. With the change in work environment, I am realizing just how grateful I am for the technology we take for granted every day. As we lean on technology in the coming weeks, let’s set clear parameters on how we use it as a team. I would encourage frequent Zoom meetings to allow face to face interaction among team members. However you decide to use the technology at your disposal, make sure your employees are also aware of the protocol and understand how to use it effectively. 

As we lead our teams going forward, keep in mind the fact that many of our employees are in completely new territory. As we try to adjust to this new reality, take some time to encourage team members and to make them feel more comfortable. We have a unique situation on our hands, but despite the sudden changes, we should be prepared keep productivity and positivity at the forefront of our leadership.


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