Coronavirus and Beyond: Adapting Your Management Style for a Remote Team
When you’re managing a team remotely, you’ll need to make some big adjustments. While there might be a slight learning curve for teams completely new to remote work, there is no reason to think your team will lose any productivity or cohesiveness once you find an effective remote team management style.
If you can leverage the right communication tools, then this can actually be an opportunity for everyone to improve efficiency and develop new skills. Individual employees will need to manage their own time, and managers will need to be more perceptive when it comes to the needs and difficulties of each member of your team.
Here are eight helpful tips for improving your remote team management style:
Rally the team with daily meetings
Even before lockdowns and quarantine, the loneliness epidemic was a challenge for employers. When employees work remotely, they naturally start to feel disconnected. Daily team meetings (ideally with video) help maintain a sense of togetherness and keep open channels of communication. Without daily contact, misunderstandings impair productivity and morale suffers. This is also a great time to encourage feedback in an open forum where employees can bounce ideas off on another.
Diversify with calls, chats, and video meetings
When managing a remote team, you must make sure that you’re using communication channels appropriately. A phone call is a great way to discuss high-priority tasks or updates, and it’s easy to confirm that important details are understood. For teams that need to collaborate throughout the day, Slack, Google Chat, or Zoom are great for dialogue and brief comments that wouldn’t justify a full email.
Video meetings are great for team meetings and one-on-ones, allowing for beneficial non-verbal communication like nodding (or looks of confusion), plus seeing a friendly face always helps morale. Video conferences should always be scheduled in advance so that participants have a chance to prepare. After days or weeks at home, an upcoming video meeting is a good reminder to shower and change clothes (or at out of your pajamas).
If you communicate regularly with each member of your team, that routine will help identify bottlenecks that otherwise go unnoticed. Equally important, you’ll help employees feel valued and encourage them to voice concerns. According to Andy Grove, former CEO and Co-founder of Intel, “90 minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for 2 weeks.”
One-on-one time becomes even more critical when employees are working remotely. When visual contact is limited to an occasional group video conference, it’s easier for individuals to feel disconnected and underappreciated. Use this time to really get to know your employees, make sure they (and their family) are doing well during this time, and build a more encompassing relationship with the individuals.
Focus on goals, not staying “busy”
If hourly productivity is an important part of your pay structure, then you’ll need timekeeping and reporting solutions adapted for managing a remote team. For salary positions and companies with the flexibility to de-emphasize work hours, it’s often more constructive to focus on individual tasks and goals. You’ll want to include quality assurance checks as part of the process because employees find ways to complete tasks more quickly on their own time. Keeping the team positive and motivated isn’t just about productivity; it’s also crucial for mental health.
Set clear goals and expectations
When the traditional 9–5 workday isn’t practical, clear tasks and project deadlines give your team concrete goals. Before you stress about delayed responses to emails, make sure you’ve set clear expectations for your team. What’s a reasonable timeframe for replies before and after normal business hours? Just because your team is always at home, that doesn’t mean they’re always expected to be in “work mode.”
Help with time management
When employees are suddenly asked to telecommute, you may need to provide helpful work from home tips. Many professionals haven’t needed to plan their own time carefully since college. Time management is a critical skill that’s easy to forget when transitioning from the office to home. Even if your company isn’t tracking work hours, encourage employees to keep their own personal spreadsheets with time for individual tasks. When tasks take longer than usual to complete, that may mean it’s time for a break or snack.
Celebrate the Accomplishments of Your Team
Positive reinforcement encourages your team, as well as individual employees. It costs nothing to send an appreciative email or add a genuine note of gratitude before your usual sign-off. When goals are surpassed and difficult deadlines are met, take a moment to celebrate before redirecting the team toward the next challenge.
Trust Your Team
Back when your team worked together in the office, you didn’t have the time to stand behind each employee and watch over their shoulder. Frequent check-ins and micromanagement can feel similarly overbearing for remote employees. Your remote workers will need more trust and free reign than employees sitting nearby at work. When remote workers miss a deadline, there may be excuses that never would have occurred in the office, especially during a unique situation like the world is facing today.
Daily goals for productivity and task deadlines are important, but when you’re managing a remote team, you’ll have to remember which deadlines are flexible. There will always be opportunities to optimize team performance, but try to keep the big picture in mind.
If your team is dispersed because of COVID-19, then you can expect things to eventually return to normal. In the meantime, take advantage of the opportunity to develop new communication methods and strengthen the sense of teamwork among employees through your improved remote team management style.
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