How to Lead a Remote Team Effectively

When Coronavirus hit and the country went into lockdown in March last year, forcing almost all businesses to close their doors, most organisations had to put remote working practices into place practically overnight.

At the time of writing this blog, we are well and truly into our third lockdown! We are promised that this will be the last one, but no-one can really assume that will be the case with any amount of certainty at this current time.

What is clear is that for many companies, remote working to some degree will be the new norm, even in a post-Covid world. Many clients that we speak to are anticipating that their employees will work at least 1 days a week from home moving forward.

However, there are also the personal challenges for you and your staff in working away from the office and their colleagues, and the loneliness and isolation that can often come with that, especially whilst social distancing and self isolation are very much a part of our lives for the foreseeable.

With that in mind, we have put together some suggestions, taken from our own experience of implementing remote working and also talking to some of our clients and candidates about their experiences and what they have found works for them when managing their teams remotely:

1. Check in on a regular basis

The amount of times you check in with your team will be entirely dependent on you, them, their workloads and how often they work from home, but daily check ins certainly aren’t a bad idea and it is best to do this face-to-face (albeit virtually). To some, this might seem like overkill, but emails, texts and even phone calls only work to an extent.

Whereas once teams would be working together in an office environment, your staff are now finding themselves working alone with little to no face to face interaction. Just seeing another face and having the opportunity to have a proper one to one, no matter how long or short, on a regular basis can give morale a serious boost and ensure that you stay engaged with your team.

2. Communicate (over communicate if necessary)

These are challenging times for employees who are working remotely. Not only are they dealing with isolation, but they might be worried about how secure their jobs are or how the business is doing during this period of uncertainty.

Communicating with your employees, finding out how they are doing on a personal level and trying to reassure them is really important. At the same time, when employees are working remotely it is vital to communicate with them about their role and your expectations. Keep in touch about how they are performing and how they are finding things so that they are reassured about how they are doing and really clued up as to what is expected of them.

3. Technology is your friend

Now this might be a given, and by now you more than likely have lots of technology implemented to ensure that you can replicate the office environment to some degree remotely. However, in case you need some ideas on how technology can help you not just communicate, but keep a handle on team projects and tasks etc, there are three key pieces of technology that we think really help manage teams effectively:

Instant Messenger – This is the perfect tool for day to day engagement, quick conversations and project collaboration. Slack or Microsoft Teams are great interaction tools and can just help that day to day communication between teams stay much more seamless.

Video Conferencing – As part of the daily interaction with your teams, as well as team meetings, you need to find yourself a really great video conferencing software to use. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts are all great options and typically include screen sharing technology for when you need to deliver training, presentations or discuss work.

Project Management – Tools such as Trello, Basecamp or Monday.com are all great tools for helping you and your team manage their workload effectively. If you aren’t already using these tools, now is the time to embrace them. They can help you and your team assign and keep track of tasks for various projects so everyone knows what needs to be done, and you can keep track without having to micro manage your staff

4. Setting expectations whilst empowering your team

More than ever before, when working remotely it is really important that your team know what is expected of them and that this is communicated really well (see above). However, it is equally important that your team feels empowered to do their jobs and that you trust them to get their work done.

It isn’t always easy and whilst it might be tempting to micro-manage the work your team is doing, you are much more likely to engage your staff by focusing on outcomes rather than specific tasks and coaching them to meet your expectations. That way, they will have more opportunity to take ownership of their work, and you will be less stressed.

5. Be Empathetic

It is really important as a manager of a remote team that you are understanding of the obstacles that come with working from home, especially in the current climate. Distractions and isolation can have a big impact on productivity. Talk to your team about how they are handling such obstacles and help them overcome them with an understanding and empathetic ear.

6. Encourage Social Interactions

The likelihood is, many of your staff haven’t seen very many people outside of their home in almost a year. This can have a huge impact on their wellbeing and also their productivity. It can also mean that team ethics and bonding can take a big hit.

Try organising regular team socials. This doesn’t have to feel too forced or disingenuous. It could be as simple as incorporating a ‘happy hour’ into a team meeting at the end of the day on a Friday every now and then. Whatever you choose, it is important to try to encourage some kind of social element to your team that has likely been lacking for a long time now.

7. Be flexible

As mentioned above, your team members are likely facing a number of barriers to working from home and are also taking a bit of a hit to their mental wellbeing at the moment. The beauty of working from home means that you have much more opportunity to be flexible with your staff and their unique circumstances to allow them to do their work around other things that are going on in their lives.

8. Talk to your staff about what they want and what works best

Don’t be afraid to ask your staff what they want, how they like to be managed and for any ideas they might have on boosting team morale. It is a great way to ensure that what you are doing works for everyone, and also gives your team ownership of the process. Ask for feedback along the way to check in an see if what you are doing is working for everyone. Then re-evaluate your strategy accordingly.

9. Above All, Be Kind to Yourself

Just as your staff are facing big personal and professional challenges at the moment, so are you. Make sure you take time for your own wellbeing, but also realise that we are all on a learning curve here. Give yourself realistic expectations too, ask for help when you need it, celebrate your successes and take the time to have a break. Self compassion makes you more adaptable and resilient and will really help you through these challenging times.

To find out more about how we can help you with your recruitment requirements during or outside of lockdown, contact our dedicated team. 

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