7 Remote Management Tips

Managing a remote team can be difficult. Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy and productive team.
Bossing It Coaching
8 min to read

7 Remote Management Tips

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’ve always been very pro remote-working. When done right, it’s great for the employee!

The benefits of remote-working:

  • It promotes a better work-life balance
  • Reduces commuting time and cost
  • You can work for any company anywhere
  • and you can enjoy greater flexibility!

The benefits when a company offers remote-working:

  • Increases their hiring pool
  • Lowers overhead (no office space lease & general business bills)
  • Reduces carbon footprint
  • Increase employee satisfaction and retention

Many newer companies choose remote-working because they would rather spend money on things like regular company get-togethers in fabulous locations. Nowadays, with frequent full or partial lockdowns constantly looming on the horizon, remote working has gone from being a perk to an essential. With ever-increasing technology, connecting with people online is becoming easier and more common: from online dating, forums and online choirs, it’s becoming the norm to engage with people digitally!

That being said, remote working and leading a remote team has its challenges. It’s very important to get it right in order to get the best out of your team and create a culture where people are happy, productive and engaged! I’ve been leading global teams for most of my career and here are my tips to help you create the best possible culture when you have people working from all over the world, whether that’s from home or from different offices.

1. Foster a Culture of Trust

I have a friend who had a nightmare experience when she was working from home. Her manager ‘checked in’ with her constantly and would query any periods of time away from her desk that were longer than a few minutes. This so frequently to the point where she felt she had to tell her manager when she was going to the toilet! How would you feel working in an environment like that? I’d imagine demotivated, resentful, on edge, like you were back at school? Hire people that you trust and trust the people that you hire! If you rule with an iron fist, people will always look for ways around those rules and try to take advantage whenever they can. If you create a culture of trust, freedom and respect then people will want to show that they’re deserving of that trust, freedom and respect.

2. Set Clear Expectations

That old adage of ‘you can’t hit a target that you can’t see’ is so true; and you can’t hold people accountable for expectations if they don’t know what you expect from them. Do you have set working hours or is there flexibility? Outline clear targets and goals. Go through them together and agree that they’re achievable and make a plan on how to achieve these together.

This works both ways: I always like to clearly outline what I expect from people on my team and what they can expect from me. We’ve all had that absentee manager who rarely replies to emails, misses 1:1s, is late for meetings and delays annual reviews. They’re a nightmare to get hold of and you never know when they’re working or not. Make your availability clear, stick to meetings and 1:1s that you set. Moving scheduled events tells your employee that they are not a priority and that their time doesn't matter to you. You expect your team members to respond to you and clients in a timely manner so you should absolutely hold yourself accountable to these same expectations. I tend to over-communicate too, sometimes I'll say “Hey guys, I'm in meetings for the next couple of hours so I won't be available, but if you need me, get in touch and I'll respond as soon as I'm done.' You can still be visible even when you're working remotely and, in fact, it’s even more important to be visible when you’re not physically visible.

3. Be Results-focused

It's not about the time you have bums on seats, it's about what they accomplish during that time. Especially with everything going on now (from child care to mental health issues), it’s really about adding value while your team is working, achieving objectives and not about how much time they spend working. You may need them to have certain times that they’re available to answer clients and that’s absolutely fine. But as much as possible, aim for task-driven objectives that you need them to achieve. So long as the quality meets your, clearly defined, expectations and you know that your team is working hard and doing their best, that should be all that matters. Remember that your employees are first and foremost human beings and leading with understanding and compassion will always be the right thing to do! That’s what will make your team members feel valued and supported. Ultimately, that’s what will keep them engaged and motivated which will allow you to be successful as a team.

working from home

4. Focus on Work-Life Balance

I’ve said that working from home can really give your team the best of both worlds and I really do believe this, but you need to ensure that you and your team work to maintain this balance. The positives are that there’s no commute, you can be available for your family or anything urgent that might come up and, whilst you absolutely should be clear in your expectations so that no one abuses this, you also need to make sure that you and your employees don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the clock too or dipping in and out of work. It’s good to separate work from personal life as much as possible and establish boundaries as much as you can. Set up an office somewhere separate so you can leave and close the door. Have set start and finishing times. You'd be surprised how many people end up working too much when they work from home and that’s a surefire path to burnout. Hold yourself and your team accountable. I’ve learned this the hard way so trust me when I say that, if you answer emails at all hours of the day and night, you’ll create a culture where your team feels guilty if they don’t do the same. Instead, have a clock in and clock out time that you agree across the board (with some flexibility of course), and if you see a team member answering emails or working outside of these agreed upon times, check in and see what’s going on. Do they have too much on their plate? Do they need help managing their workload?

Always aim to do this in a caring and compassionate way though – you don’t want them to feel that you’re clock watching or ‘having a go’ at them. Make it clear that you don’t want them to feel as though they have to work extended hours and that you want to help them find a solution. A good approach to take is to say something like “I really see how dedicated and committed you are”, thank them for caring enough to work extra hours “but it’s not sustainable for you  to be working such long hours. Let’s look at what’s going on and figure out a plan” whether that’s to lighten their load or to improve their time-management, you’ll find out when you delve into the reasons behind why they’re working late. Remember, they’re probably already tired and stressed which can cause emotions to run high. The last thing you want to do is make them feel like they’re being attacked or like they’re failing for working late.

5. Invest in the Culture

Have them order lunch on you, eat it together in google hang out or on a zoom call and just take the time to chat about anything non-work related. Do a ‘bring your pet to work day’ or ‘meet the family’ and have a group call and intro pets or kids or family. Have a team event: do a quiz, or a getting to know you challenge. Play Jackbox or other games! Send care packages that include things that make working from home easier or birthday gifts. I like to use Kudos to send round messages for birthdays or promotions – it’s a website that allows you to create a board and people can post messages, photos or GIFs. It’s really easy for people to add to when you can’t just pass a card around the office.

6. Focus on Building Relationships

It’s so important to build strong relationships between you and your team and to encourage them to do this with each other. But work around what suits them. I've heard people say that you should do video calls for everything but I really don’t agree with this - some people aren't comfortable on video and they feel awkward – that’s not going to make for valuable interactions. Work with what suits each individual. The blanket rule of management is that there is no blanket rule. Mold your approach to suit the individual. If someone is working on 4 day old hair, has kids at home being noisy and making a mess, they haven’t had time to tidy up or they work in their PJs, they're not going to want to video call you and that's fine. But make every interaction meaningful and personal. I like to find out about my team members as people. What are they passionate about, what interests them outside of work and check in on those passion projects or hobbies and how they’re going. It's also a way to connect people. I sometimes 'matchmake' with my team. If I know one person loves painting and another is passionate about art I'll tell them and nudge them together. Creating common ground and common interests is a great way to have a team that knows each other and cares about each other. It must always feel natural and organic when you're building relationships That shines through vs following a template.

7. Continue to Guide and Help Your Team

Understand that there will always be an adjustment period and they may need continuous support from you. Remote-working is a skill in and of itself and needs to be learned and constantly worked on to be effective. Your team may take time to find their feet. They may need help with time-management or staying focused and eliminating distractions. If you do all of the other points on this list, you'll create a culture that's built around trust and mutual respect that fosters your teams, allowing them to feel comfortable and tell you about the challenges that they're facing. You always want to be seen as someone who is truly in their corner and there to help guide them to success. You’re not someone watching over them and rapping them on the wrist when they fail. You're helping them to recognize when they're struggling, so they will want to seek your guidance to success through learning from mistakes.

working from home

And there you have it! Those are the key things that you should focus on when leading a remote team. A few points to add here too, which you should take away from this: You have to be deliberate in the culture that you want to create. Good cultures don’t happen by accident. Define your culture and ensure that everything you do feeds into that culture. And above all, remember that your team members are human beings and they’re facing challenging difficult times. Now, more than ever, is the time to lead with compassion, care and understanding. Your team will respect you more for this and you will ultimately have a more successful, happier team.

by: Bossing It Coaching

  • @bossing_it_coaching

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