4 Tips on How to Manage Your Newly Remote Team

Remote working has been rapidly thrust upon us and managers have had little time to prepare for this new way of working.

Leading a virtual team can be a scary prospect and if its introduction were part of a normal transformation programme, learning and development would be at the top of the agenda to ensure that the change is successful and sustainable.

The pandemic did not afford us the luxury of time and so managers and employees have been thrown in at the deep end, muddling through as best as possible to keep businesses afloat.

Now the dust is starting to settle and it looks like virtual working is here to stay, out of either necessity or desire, it is time to take a step back and make sure that we have evolved our management toolbox to effectively oversee, guide and motivate remote teams.

1. Embrace technology and use it!

Find out what collaboration tools you have access to and utilise them at every given opportunity.

With remote working, communication must be more deliberate and somewhat forced, especially to start with, so make sure your team knows what tools are there, what they are for, and define your “rules for engagement” for emails, texts, phone calls, video calls, chat, sharing etc.

If you have a mix of people in the office and people at home, make sure that you include everyone. This is often the most challenging of scenarios as sometimes those who are not in the office can be forgotten about and miss key pieces of information.

2. Video calls

Get used to video calls as your team needs to see you and each other, maybe not every day (Zoom fatigue is real), but at least a couple of times a week.

Never underestimate the power of non-verbal communication, a smile, the raise of an eyebrow, a shrug. It is these little movements that make people feel connected, and as a manager it is your opportunity to gauge how your team is feeling as non-verbal ques are easily missed over a phone call.

If you saw a member of your team in the office looking unusually down, not smiling as much, a bit dishevelled, you would (hopefully) speak to them privately to find out if everything is ok. The principle is the same for remote teams and video calls are your way to see that things are as they should be.

3. Resist the urge to micromanage

Effective virtual working is based upon trust and communication. The key is to focus on output not activity, and regular meetings with your team and customers will enable you to keep an eye on everything.

Micromanagement has no place in a high-performing virtual working environment and as the leader of the team, you have a duty to role model appropriate behaviour.

Define and clearly communicate expectations, cover everything from the delivery of work, to meetings, sharing information, working time and practices, and don’t be afraid to get input and ideas from your team.

Managers often ask how they will know that someone is doing what they are meant to be doing when they are working from home. My challenge is always, how do you know that they are doing what they are meant to be doing in the office? Just because you can see someone doesn’t mean they aren’t on Facebook or chatting to friends via email for most of the day. Focus on the quality and timeliness of their output.

Increased flexibility around hours and mixing time with non-work-related tasks is one of the distinct advantages to remote working. If you obsess over activity and online-presenteeism, you will stifle motivation and create a culture of mistrust.

So long as you have core hours covered for your customers, why not let teams embrace all the benefits of working from home?

4. Don’t be afraid to manage poor performance

If staff are communicating clearly, meeting goals and deadlines, and your customers are happy, you can feel assured that your employees are being productive and doing their jobs effectively.

Where this isn’t happening though, just like in the office, it is best to nip it in the bud quickly.

Start as you always would, gather examples and meet in person if possible. If a face-to-face meeting isn’t an option, via video is fine (just make sure that they know it is a private call so that others are not overhearing). Avoid phone calls or sharing your concerns via text message or email.

During the pandemic, increased flexibility is required, and you should fully explore the reasons why the individual’s output is not as expected before moving to a formal procedure. It may be that it is not a capability or a conduct issue at all. It could be that they don’t have the tools that they need, the right space to work from, issues with childcare and so on.

Consult your HR team to see how best to manage performance issues on a virtual basis to ensure that processes followed are fair, transparent, and compliant.

If you don’t have an HR team and would like more information or HR support on managing virtual teams and performance issues, contact us at Lotus HR today.