Lessons in Managing Remote Teams.

With changing times comes changing work environments. This as a whole has influenced the management landscape with many companies and teams moving to remote operations.

This means that whether you’re trying to quickly adapt to a remote management situation, or settling into the role for the long-term, the same fundamentals will need to be put in place to build solid communication, performance, and employee growth.

The process of adapting to the all remote style of management may feel difficult at first but as any good manager knows it’s our job to create a great place to work. It is so rewarding to have a productive team that is both flexible and independent while bringing diverse perspectives to the table.

Some steps to build your remote dream team:

Just like you would set up a designated section of desks or meeting rooms at the office, with remote teams you need to create a digital common space. A place to group together, access needed team resources and even participate in some conversations and light friendly banter.

This should go beyond a simple set of tools: It includes a shared set of expectations around how to use these tools so your team can work as one in these spaces.

Small mistakes can cause far reaching inconveniences, such as using @all in a team-wide messaging platform as it can affect a team’s productivity. It can be seen as the equivalent of standing up in the office space yelling out loud for immediate attention.

What are the 5 elements of an effective remote team?

  1. Synchronous communication: A chat tool like Slack can allow you to have a constant, real-time connection with your team.
  2. Digital workspace: A shared place where work happens, like Trello, so you can all have full access to project progress and assignments of who’s doing what.
  3. Video meeting space: An integrated video tool like Zoom or MS Teams that works smoothly to give your team face time together.
  4. Open document storage: Avoid storing closed files on your computer, and instead use a cloud-based shared document space like Confluence or Dropbox where everyone can access the files they need.
  5. A common calendar: A team calendar that shows vacation and holidays, important launches and due dates, and shared meetings so you can visually see everyone’s availability.

What are some steps to improving your remote team’s productivity?

Step 1:  Utilise regular 1-on-1 meetings, but keep them brief.

This level of communication is great as if you can set up 30 – 60min catch-ups you can check on on work progress and deal with any issues more directly than via messenger or email. 

Questions to ask during your one-on-ones:

  • Current urgent topics
  • Ongoing progress
  • Areas of growth and future goals – allowing you to dicuss performance on a on-going basis.
  • Keep a record of finished work and previous discussions to effectively trck progression.

Step 2: Provide one place that all requests can be shared and sent.

Communication is key, so is being able to locate information days or weeks later. Often this is difficult to do through the hundreds of emails many people receive. Providing a single place where communication is shared it ensures that as a manager you can effectively prioritize the work requests coming from your team and nothing is lost through excessive emails and messages.

Step 3: Foster a team dynamic of communication, health and fun.

Just like you’d have lunch, chat by the water cooler, or go out for special team-building activities in an office, all of these things can be replicated in a digital space.

Getting your team comfortable with virtual socializing is one of the most important things you can do to help your remote team be successful. Leading by example is the best way to get the ball rolling.

You can form a social committee and let people add and vote on different ideas to gauge interest and get a sense of participation. Once some programs, say a book club or movie club, are set up, you can then make a separate board to manage the events.

Step 4: Hire and onboard of new personnel remotely.

The process of completely hiring and onboarding a new employee remotely can be daunting but it is 100% possible. Ideally, even when everyone is distributed, you’d organize an onsite week to give them a chance to meet the team and build some in-person experience with the team, but that’s not always possible.

Employees starting in a fully remote setting, you just need to set up a clear structure:

  • Help your new hire settle into the role
  • Grow company knowledge and understanding
  • Empower them with the tools, info, and resources to get up-to-speed quickly

These are some practical steps and guidelines that can assist you in setting up a remote team that doesn’t just work together, but thrives as a productive unit no matter where they are.