The work-from-home era has opened up new opportunities for businesses to expand, and remote teams have become a popular way to get work done. In fact, 40% of companies globally offer hybrid work options.
With its many advantages, such as increased flexibility and cost savings, remote and hybrid work has become a go-to for businesses looking to stay competitive. However, managing a remote team poses an entirely new set of challenges.
Without effective remote team management, achieving the same level of productivity as an in-person team is nearly impossible. Even worse, remote teams can quickly become unhappy and unmotivated, leading to decreased morale and increased turnover.
Let's look at the challenges of managing remote teams and how to overcome them with practical tips and strategies to make remote team management easier.
Challenges of remote team management
With remote and hybrid work to stay, remote team management has become essential for business owners. Here are the top problems that can arise from managing remote teams:
A lot of the communication between team members is lost when working remotely. Those simple catch-ups before or after work to check in with each other and quick brainstorming sessions before meetings keep teams engaged and connected to collaborate as a unit.
Even with the best video conferencing and messaging tools, it's difficult to replicate the same level of communication as an in-person team. Thus, managers must be extra conscious of the communication barriers that exist and create strategies to bridge those gaps.
It can be hard to coordinate tasks when team members are spread across multiple time zones or have flexible schedules. Employees may feel overwhelmed or confused about their duties, leading to decreased productivity or burnout.
With this, managers must ensure that all tasks are completed on time by providing clear instructions and setting up systems for team members to work together even when apart.
Managing team productivity
One of the most crucial elements of remote team management is the ability to measure and monitor productivity. With traditional in-person teams, managers can observe employee performance in real time.
However, remote teams are more likely to suffer from reduced visibility, uncoordinated workflows, and lack of shared context than in-person teams.
Managers must rely on digital tools like project management software and performance tracking systems to monitor their progress, provide timely feedback, or troubleshoot issues quickly before they become major problems.
Building team cohesion
Without the usual office environment, remote work can be isolating for some employees who enjoy face-to-face interaction, making it harder for them to feel connected with the team.
Managers have to go the extra mile to create ways for their employees to build meaningful relationships with each other, such as virtual team activities or shared interests.
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Traits of a great remote team manager
All factors aside, the defining trait of a great remote team manager is their ability to foster an environment of trust and collaboration. Even without the physical presence of team members, it’s still possible to create an atmosphere where everyone feels connected and engaged.
Regular check-ins: Whether it’s an overview of upcoming tasks and deadlines or a quick catch-up on how everyone is doing, regular check-ins can strengthen teamwork and boost overall productivity and morale.
Promoting work-life balance: Remote employees are working longer than before, so managers must set clear expectations regarding hours and availability while ensuring that employees have adequate time off from their duties to stay productive and engaged over the long term.
Prioritizing mental health and wellness: Remote team managers should prioritize mental health and wellness by encouraging team members to take breaks away from their computers, make time for self-care activities, and practice mindful communication with each other.
Celebrating team successes: Since remote teams don’t get to share the same physical space, managers should take a proactive role in celebrating small and big wins. This could mean personalized notes or awards, hosting virtual team meetings to recognize achievements or rewarding hard work.
Emphasizing transparency and trust: As a manager, it's hard enough to build trust within an in-person team. Even more so with remote teams, managers need to create a culture of transparency and trust for everyone to feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions.
How do you manage a team remotely?
Most people think that managing remote teams simply involves setting up video conferences, but there’s much more to it than that. The following are tips and strategies for effective remote team management:
1. Set up clear communication guidelines
Reaching out to remote team members can be tricky, especially if everyone is in different time zones. In this case, it’s best to set up a standard communication protocol to establish clear guidelines regarding response times and expectations of team members.
Some of the important elements to consider are:
Dedicated communication channels such as video conferencing tools and messaging apps
Schedule for when team members should be available
Expectations for response time and communication frequency
Protocols for resolving conflicts or misunderstandings
2. Use of collaborative tools
Technology plays a major role in the remote work ecosystem. Employees use collaborative tools such as instant messaging, project management, and document-sharing platforms to stay connected and on track.
Larger companies may invest in team collaboration tools such as Slack, Asana, and Monday.com, while smaller teams may opt for free, low-cost options like Google Docs and Dropbox.
3. Encourage team engagement and relationship building
Since it’s more difficult to start conversations and build relationships in a remote setting, managers need to make an extra effort to bind the team together.
Organizing virtual team events, like online happy hours, game nights, or even fitness classes, can be a great way to create an enjoyable atmosphere and get everyone talking about topics outside of work.
4. Set clear goals and expectations
For a team to remain productive and accountable, it’s crucial to establish short- and long-term goals so team members don’t feel left in the dark about what needs to be done.
Setting clear expectations, deadlines, and check-in points is a great way to keep track of progress and provide feedback without micromanaging.
5. Establish a remote work culture
Going fully remote means that there is a need to create a distinct culture for the new work setup. The old norms and processes may no longer apply, so it's time to re-evaluate and adjust certain company policies and traditions.
Some of the things you can do include:
Encourage collaboration with frequent check-ins
Set up an online workspace where everyone can connect
Allow flexible working hours
Host virtual team-building activities
6. Provide opportunities for professional development
From urgent tasks and deadlines to meetings that take up most of the day, team members often have no time to learn new skills or develop their careers. Without face-to-face contact, it's even harder for managers to recognize and nurture individual talents.
Investing in professional growth and development will create an environment of learning that will benefit both them and the organization. This can be done through online training courses, webinars, one-on-one coaching sessions, or even virtual meetups with industry experts.
As the world of remote work continues to grow, the need for effective remote team management stays strong to create an environment of trust and understanding, build a sense of community among team members, and set the right tools in place to make communication seamless.
No matter where employees work from, teams must set clear communication guidelines, use collaborative tools, encourage team engagement, establish goals and expectations, build a robust remote work culture, and provide opportunities for professional development.
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