How to manage your team remotely: Advice for leaders

man on a conference call

Struggling with some of the challenges of working from home? Our guide to remote team management is here to help.

We may be apart right now, but it’s important to remember that even though many of us are working remotely during this global pandemic, we’re all in this together. For leaders, managers and directors, these temporary office arrangements are likely going to be a particular challenge for the time being, taking away that essence of leadership that they’re used to when in the office. And because of this, you might find that your team’s productivity or work ethic has taken a knock as a result.

If you’ve struggled to marshal your team’s skills in the ways you’re previously used to, then don’t fret. This is a new situation for managers and leaders of all kinds, no matter how experienced you are. However, with the plethora of modern technology at our

Hold daily check-ins

Whether you opt for one-on-ones or team calls, some face-to-face contact through things like Skype or Zoom is a good way to re-establish the contact that remote work minimises. It’s a strange, solitary time and some members of your team will certainly appreciate the fact they can see some familiar faces.

Use it as a way to see how everyone’s getting on with the new format, and provide them with time to raise any issues, questions or concerns they have with their workload. You can even keep the conversation light-hearted and casual as a means to start the day on a positive note.

woman talking on conference call

Communicate frequently

Chances are you’ll be doing this anyway, but strong communication is key right now, so provide your team with several different ways to get in touch beyond e-mail.  Video conferencing, for instance, provides us with the visual cues that we’d get from actual face-to-face conversation and further serves to reduce the feeling of isolation. Additionally, it provides a better avenue for sensitive or personal conversations compared to e-mail or phone calls.

Mobile-enabled messaging platforms like Slack and Zoom are useful for quicker, less formal and more collaborative conversation, and give everyone on the team the all-important connections to stay motivated and productive.

Provide rules of engagement

Once you’ve made the means of communication available to your team, you might then decide to make it clear to them what modes are for what, as well as how frequently and at what time you like to be contacted at. You may not be the type of leader who is bothered by things like this, but if you are, then setting some rules of engagement can be beneficial to everyone.

In your first team check-in, let them know which modes of communication are to be used for what, as well as the best ways to reach you at certain times throughout the day. All members of the team need to be on the same page regarding communication.

Focus on the outcome…

…and not the activity. Since you’re no longer physically around your team, the temptation to micromanage may increase as a result. However, it’s simply not possible to manage every aspect of work a remote team does.

Micromanaging is something we don’t recommend anyway, so attempting to do so when your team is scattered across several different locations is a task that’s simply not worth attempting. Instead of focusing on how many hours have been worked or activities completed, measure your team’s success and productivity on the outcomes of such activities.

Successful manager-employee relationships, whether remote or not, are built on trust. Demonstrate that trust by leaving your team to their tasks. You should only intervene when necessary.

woman writing notes in diary

Allow for remote social time

Interacting socially is a part of any workplace, so it’s important to maintain this aspect of the office day even in remote teams. If there were any traditions you’d hold throughout the week back in the office, see if you can replicate these via video call. Perhaps you held a weekly quiz or treated the team to pizza on Fridays? Whatever it was, it’s important to try and boost team spirit while everyone is in isolation.

Offer encouragement and emotional support

Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty about our current situation, and that may affect certain members of the team. If anyone on your team is feeling stressed out or anxious, it’s essential for you as a manager to empathise with them. If you notice that any members of your team seem stressed, withdrawn or their work has started to suffer, then be sure to reach out to see how they’re doing. Listen back to their response and restate it to show you’ve understood the problem. It’s important to engage with struggling employees in a more conscious, attentive way.

At the moment, your employees will shape their own response to how you’ve reacted to current events. If you’re outwardly projecting stress and feelings of helplessness, then this will have a knock-on effect on your team. While you should acknowledge that this is a difficult time, you should also instil confidence in your team through positive reinforcements and affirmations. We’re not in this alone, after all.

father playing with son

Be flexible

Everyone on your team will have a lot on their plate right now. It’s unrealistic to expect the same from them as if things were completely normal; the usual 9-to-5 isn’t a thing for the time being. Many of us will be having to multi-task like never before. Working hours have probably been cut down, and some members of your team may have to look after their children while schools are shut. The latter will be feeling especially stressed as they juggle their work duties with childcare around the clock.

As their manager, you should adjust your expectations accordingly. Allow your team the freedom and flexibility to get work done on their schedule – the increased trust will surely benefit everyone in the long run.

Take care of yourself too

In helping the members of your team who are struggling, it’s a good idea to heed your own advice if you’re also feeling pressured by the current situation. Now is the time to be taking care of yourself as well.

Exercise regularly, even if it’s just a brisk walk on your lunch break – while maintaining distance of course. Regular exercise increases energy, improves your sleep and boosts your mood overall.

Eat well and avoid consuming too much alcohol. Junk food can temporarily relieve stress, but will leave you feeling sluggish. Go for 2-3 nutrient-packed meals a day to stay focused and energised.

Take regular breaks while working and stick to your own working hours. Working from home reduces the distinction between your work and home life. Don’t be tempted to work past your usual hours just because it gives you something to do. Set a cut-off point and come back to your duties the next day instead.

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