How To Manage A Team Remotely: 7 Actions To Become More Effective

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Concept of Teamwork

Managing a remote team is going to make you a better manager. Period. It pushes you to excel at what you do and become more conscious of the skills you use.

There are challenges, for sure but if you wish to be a good manager and a great leader, it’s up to you to learn to adapt. Rather than sliding into poor communication habits and only caring about productivity, you can proactively learn how to manage a team whilst the current climate dictates you now must work from home.

So that you can be fully prepared to transition or improve your remote management style, we’re going to look at:

  •       What managing a team remotely looks like
  •       How you go about managing a remote team
  •       Adaptations to your management style you need to make 

How do I manage a team remotely?

Black Office Rolling Chair Beside White Wooden Table

Managing a team from home in 2020 is something new to many people. With many businesses uncertain over what actions to take it’s looking like remote working will play a large part in the future of working life, so now’s the time to start asking questions about managing a team from afar.

First, it’s going to take some effort. There are no more quick chats by the coffee machine or bribing your team with Friday donuts in the same way as in a bricks and mortar office.

The expectations of governance and performance adherence might get tougher, your KPIs might change, your line manager might expect more but one thing remains consistent and that is you still need to get the best out of your team by keeping them motivated and engaged.

Sounds tough? Remote working was already on an upwards trend before Covid 19 so it’s time to adapt and get on par with your peers.

You’re going to need to:

  •       Find new ways to engage your team without having face-to-face contact
  •       Design new processes to monitor performance and development
  •       Introduce new communication systems and frameworks
  •       Settle into a new working pattern and learn to manage across time zones
  •       Figure your health and wellness obligations when you’re not seeing your team every day
  •       Be innovative with training and career development for your team

As you learn how to manage a team whilst working from home.

What do I need to do to manage a team remotely?

These ideas are all well and good, but we need to get some solid actions built around them. Concepts are abound when looking at managing remote teams but you need to find what works best for you, your organisation, and, most of all, your team.

Whether you’re taking over an already established remote team, or converting an existing team to being fully remote, the steps to consider are generally the same.

 

Great Communication

When you’re working with a remote team, being aware of your communication becomes much more important.

Practically, there isn’t any need for you to ever sit down next to anyone on your team and so the task is to continue discussion using one of a plethora of communications systems and software to help you manage your team remotely.

Think about:

  •       Email
  •       Zoom
  •       WhatsApp
  •       Slack
  •       Signal
  •       Snapchat
  •       Skype
  •       Google Meetings
 

And they’re just the market leaders. These tools need to be used in the right way, with the right level of formality, and at the right times. Do you really need to have everyone on a Zoom call or can it be sent out by email?

Remote managing a team is not the time for micromanaging. Set a plan to have a morning catch up and a review at the end of the day so everyone can get on the same page. Don’t expect hourly check-ins, that’s not going to be good for productivity.

Keep communication channels open, too. Make sure you team know they can still grab ten minutes if they’re struggling and you still want to know their kid’s football results from the weekend. Just because you’re not seeing everyone each day doesn’t mean you all become robots.

Build relationships

As we’ve just touched on, you don’t switch off from having personal relationships with your team just because you communicate through computers now. Knowing the people who you work with, as well as the work they deliver, will make leading them easier and collaborating much more smooth.

Having empathy with those you manage remotely isn’t always easy. Being behind a computer screen adds a fresh challenge to your leadership.

Remember that your team are human, and you are too. Learn about each of them, what their style of work is, and you’ll have a much happier and engaged team. Have your team create a Personal Guide that explains to you and  their fellow colleagues how they work, when they work, what skills they want to develop, etc. so that everyone can understand each other better.

 

Plan, plan, plan

Your role as a remote team manager is to keep all the proverbial plates spinning. You’re there to monitor productivity and efficiency, develop your team, find new ways of working – and once you’re remote you need do all of this with all the inherent flexibility your team needs whilst remaining consistent.

Consistency is the key, for business continuity if nothing else. Make a plan for how your week and month will look, build your KPIs into it, be sensible with your actions. Most of all, be ready to adapt when things inevitably change.

Having a task planner like:

  •       Trello
  •       Asana
  •       Basecamp
  •       Omniplan

will keep everyone up to date with your plan for the team and keep things visual and easy to access.

 

Be trusting

The idea of letting your team go home, sit on the sofa in their pants, and drink as much tea as they like, is pretty scary. As much as your first thought is about all the skiving they’re going to do, you need to shake that off.

Remote workers, on average, work around one and half day more per month than people working in offices. Generally, your team want to show you what they can do and show you why you should trust them.

Return that trust by not demanding keystroke logging software and look at the results they deliver, not the hours they worked to make it happen. When you have a team of motivated individuals, you know the job is going to get done – your role is to facilitate that with training, feedback, and recognition.

Modern working mother looking at pictures of kids at home

Make allowances

You’re probably not the only one new to remote team management. The skills and tech are likely new to some, most, or even all of the people you’ve got working under you.

Don’t expect everything to work straight away. People are going to move tasks through management board too fast, someone’s going to forget their login details, if you have an international team I promise there’ll be at least one time zone screw up before you put together a plan to mitigate it.

By having the Personal Guide for all your team that I discussed before, you can learn where the struggles are going to be. Yes, remote team management has a focus on results and outcomes, but by drilling your team hard every day you’re not going to get there.

Would you expect hours of endless work in the office? Be as accommodating when you manage a team working from home as if you were working at the office.

 

Show some love

Without a team around you to share in your success, a big win can feel kind of hollow. How can you celebrate a successful product launch, a project delivered in budget, or a week hitting all conformance targets?

As a manager, you need to get creative. Recognising a job well done when you manage a remote team is probably even more important than in an office space.

You can organise small treats like home delivery of lunch for your team and even plan an informal Zoom gathering to bring everyone together. Send gift cards for retailers local to each person; the gesture has a personal touch that will be appreciated. You might not be able to bring in a box of Friday donuts, but why not send a box to each of your team?

Your rewards can be bigger, too, with travel vouchers, high-value gift cards, and spa days all extra you can organise remotely.

Don’t forget the little things either. A message to the team Slack highlighting the great work of an individual or a quick voice call to say thanks for a week of exceeded targets will go a long way.

General employee development will need to look different too. Have your organisation look at Learning Management Platforms as a way to offer career development remotely.

 

Break the rules

There is less oversight when you manage a team from home. If you want to work in your garden at 1am on a warm summer’s evening, what’s stopping you? Feel like cutting loose on a Friday lunchtime and having a long, lazy afternoon?

These are the perks of working remotely and it’s ok to take advantage of them, and encourage your team to do the same. As long as the job is getting done, KPIs are being met, and you’re improving the company’s bottom line, you’re basically free to make that happen however you want.

The take home

Knowing how to manage a team remotely isn’t just about picking up a standard management framework and applying it with the hope it works. 

Sure the principles are the same but working from home means you especially need to know how to communicate with your team. This involves remaining personable, whipping your organisation skills into shape, and creating new relationships dynamics built on trust. Understand your team want more than a salary; they want recognition too.

Every team is different with varying goals and requirements so be brave and don’t be afraid to explore an entirely  new way of working.

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