Given the situation the world is going through, many organizations have been forced to operate remotely regardless of the industry they are in.
However, one thing is becoming remote, and another thing is responding to a world crisis and having to become remote in a matter of weeks. This left many managers and decision-makers disoriented as to how to effectively operate and manage everyone without being physically present.
In this article, we will address the methods and considerations to help you manage remote teams. We will consider communication and best practice, the agile methodology, disagreement, and typical constraints to managing a remote team.
No, google meets and zoom is not enough to say that you have your communications with your team covered. When we say communication, we refer to the whole spectrum. Communication has to be reciprocal and it has to be built on transparency, accountability, and trust.
Fostering a culture of transparency will result in innovation.
When your team feels the freedom to share anything, the information will be shared across the borders. Thus, allowing managers and decision-makers to catch the “little errors” being made along the way, solve them, and move on.
Other than catching errors along the way, transparency allows for idea generation and collaboration, thus creating a culture of innovation. This mindset will enable the whole organization to really focus on what is important and deliver quality results on time.
A way to put this into practice is by simply scheduling quick, regular meetings with your team. Not to demand details on their work or how close they are to finishing projects, but rather for everyone to share what they are working on and whether they need any help with a specific task.
Since accountability can be very subjective, it is important to establish clear guidelines for expected outcomes and performance. A practical way to do this is SMART:
If your team has clear guidelines as to what is expected of them, there won’t be room for misunderstandings on either side.
There is no need to micromanage your team if you build a culture of transparency and accountability. Micromanagement will demotivate employees and make them feel like they cannot do their jobs. If you have set guidelines for accountability and have established a culture of transparency, trust your team to do their job, and be available to guide them and support them when needed. After all, that’s the job of a manager.
Best Practice For Remote Communication
Make it simple
If your company has employees from all over the world, you must take into account that English might not be the first language of some of your team members. Therefore, it is important to make sure that all communication is written and spoken in simple English. This will prevent unnecessary lag of work due to misunderstandings.
It can be the case that some team members may not make it to a video call. Even though we are all at home, it doesn’t mean that everyone will always be available. Hello! people have lives outside of work.
Assign a person to take minutes during a meeting and then share them in an email afterwards, or even better, record the meeting and share it with the team later. Thus, making information easily available to everyone, any time.
Find ways to motivate your team
Especially now. Some people may be OK with working from home, away from the team and close to their family, or even being completely alone in their comfort zone.
However, this may not be the case for everyone. Some individuals prefer going to the office and having human interaction with their colleagues. If this is something that keeps some of your team going, and now it’s been taken away, make sure that your HR department is taking all the necessary efforts to keep your team motivated.
Since it is no longer possible to have a quick chat in the hallway about your weekend, work has become only about work, and the social aspect of it has been erased for the most part.
At Appstrax, we do social chats every Thursday where we play games, talk about random topics, or simply get to know each other. These social chats have helped us tackle this problem. We take an hour out of our busy schedules every week, and put it aside for social interactions with the team.
Tools To Improve Communication
- Slack - As we all may know, slack is an instant messaging tool that allows you to communicate with your team via text at any time. Instead of emailing people back and forth, slack them!
- Google Drive - Google drive will allow you to centralize all your information and share it with whom it’s important. Again, this will save you tons of back and forth emails for important documents or presentations.
- Last pass - Last pass makes it easy to share passwords with your team. So, if you’re new in the company and need to access e.g. the CRM, just ask one of the team members to give you access through Last pass.
- Trello - At Appstrax, we use Trello to keep clear company rules and guidelines.
Having an agile team means that the company is constantly moving forward. It is a mindset that fosters collaboration among teams and prioritizes customer satisfaction, which translates to constantly presenting the work in progress and adapting to changes.
Now, more than ever, we need team collaboration to make sure the organization delivers the same quality (if not better) as if the team was working in the same space.
Disagree A Lot!
Disagreement is not something that everyone likes. In fact, many of us avoid it just because we don’t like confrontation. However, disagreement is necessary to avoid stagnation.
Remember, we want to foster a culture of transparency, collaboration, and innovation. If people agree to everything all the time, you may be a step behind innovation.
However, it is important to know-how and when to disagree (if possible).
Encourage disagreement. This will give a message to your team that, well, you don’t necessarily know everything all the time, and that there may be times when your ideas, or someone else’s ideas, could be done better.
Disagree often, this will take away its burden. Remember, practice makes perfect. So, disagree as often as possible until it becomes natural, avoiding tension as a result of it.
However, try to disagree early. You may want to avoid making everyone start all over when they are close to the finish line. This is important to always keep in mind.
Typical Constraints To Managing a Remote Team.
Depending on your company, you may have employees working in different time zones. Therefore, making communication kind of tricky. But hey! That’s OK. In fact, you should embrace asynchronous work, your company is practically working 24 hours a day.
One of the problems that has been arising is people burning out. Even though working from home may be a preference for some, not having a designated work area and boundaries with set working hours has resulted in people working until exhaustion.
According to Zapier, these are some of the methods on how to avoid work related burn out:
- Establish and maintain a routine
- Set and stick to priorities
- Create and keep boundaries
- Take short and long breaks
- Make time for human interaction
The Art Of Managing Teams
We can all agree that working remotely is absolutely possible. Even though it may feel a bit strange. However, there are certain aspects of it which we need to consider and adapt to.
Being transparent, accountable, and building a culture of trust among employees will ensure that the communication runs smoothly. Make use of communication tools available for free on the internet to ensure documents are widely available and everybody is in the same page.
Implementing an agile mindset and fostering team collaboration will help you to keep the pace of innovation at is peak. And don't forget to disagreeing often and open to conversation when things are not going well. We don't want stagnation at this point.
Learning how to effectively manage remote teams may take some time, but practice makes perfect. After all, this is just another learning process that I am sure we will all master soon.