Managing remote teams can be challenging at the best of times. Throw a global pandemic into the mix and these challenges are amplified further.
A recent US study by Thrive Global revealed that 85% of workers surveyed would like more support from their employers as they adapt to remote working environments.
There’s no doubt it’s a testing time for managers. As well as all the usual remote working challenges to deal with, they now need to navigate their way through a rapidly changing and unpredictable environment.
Here are our top tips to help your remote team to thrive by staying connected and engaged:
1. Equip your team for success
First up, ensure your team have everything they need to work remotely - the right tech, tools, and processes. If you’re unsure where to start, we recommend using best-in-breed collaboration tools, such as Slack, Trello, Atlassian, Google and Zoom.
If your team has suddenly become remote and is usually based in a physical office, you may need to establish new processes or ways of working using these tools. It’s worth remembering that you only get out of tools what you put into them. So, investing time to properly onboard and train your team on how to use these tools will pay dividends in the future.
2. Rethink trust
Having trust in your team is so important right now. Try to be patient as they figure this all out and learn to adapt to new ways of working. And, most importantly give them your full trust to get their work done. If you micromanage or add any extra pressure right now it’s not going to be helpful for anyone.
If you ensure your team knows what they need to do and have the tools to do it, then trust them to get on with it.
3. Be available
Being part of a remote team can be isolating. Add social distancing on top of this, and it can be a lonely and anxious time for workers. As a remote manager, you need to work even harder to make people feel part of the team.
Be available to chat about anything, not just the day-to-day work tasks. Extend the conversation to general queries about how people are feeling, what they are getting up to outside working hours. At Adaptavist, our managers set up zoom calls once or twice a week to have informal chats with their remote teams about non-work related things.
If you are going to be offline for a while, keep your team in the loop, so they know to expect you to be unavailable.
4. Embrace the art of over-communicating
If it feels like you’re over-communicating with your remote team you’ve probably hit the right mark. But, over-communicating doesn’t mean telling your team absolutely everything - focus on what’s relevant and essential for them to know.
Try creating channels for a non-work related discussion on messaging platforms such as Slack, where people can share whatever is on their mind. At Adaptavist, we’ve recently launched coffee drop-ins via Zoom every morning and afternoon, to boost morale and keep people connected.
Use video calls over email as it enables better team interaction and gives everyone the chance to see a friendly face or two. And, if there’s an interesting chat thread in a Slack channel and you want to continue it via a video call, try integrating Zoom and Slack to do just that, here’s how.
5. Be clear about expectations
It’s crucial to strike the right balance here between micromanaging and total freedom. There’s no doubt trust is essential for remote teams to function well and ensure everyone is doing their part.
You should try to provide as much detail and clarity as possible around your expectations. And, then it’s about trusting your team to work towards that end goal. Open communication during your remote team meetings will help to keep everyone focused.
6. Be creative with recognition and rewards
Try to take your creativity to the max here to find new ways to keep your team morale high. Giving a shout out via Slack, for example, for great work or reaching a project milestone can be a great way of making people feel appreciated. Or you could go more traditional and give your team member a call to thank them personally for a job well done.
Experiment with new ideas and find what works best for your team to help everyone feel appreciated.
7. Be timezone sensitive
If your remote team is dispersed across the world. Be careful not to have a bias towards one timezone. Instead, rotate meeting times to make sure one member is not always waking up early for meetings and that another is not working too late.
Regardless of what time zones you are working within, consider having at least three to four hours a day where most of your team is online at the same time. Being online at the same time will help to bring your team closer and give them the chance to brainstorm and solve problems together.
Exceptional times call for extraordinary levels of empathy and flexibility from managers.
At Adaptavist, we’re encouraging our managers to be even more compassionate than usual, particularly towards remote workers who are juggling caring for relatives or home-schooling their children. As managers, we all need to be realistic about what our people can achieve in this new reality and try to be as flexible as possible.
Remember, this is uncharted territory for everyone, so it’s important to experiment and find what works best for your remote team.
For more information, check out our webinar about motivating your people in a digital world: