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How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams

Updated: Apr 27, 2021

Prior to the COVID pandemic, whilst some managers may already have been managing remote teams, for many, this has been a totally new experience both for them and their employees.

Suddenly being forced to work from home, with little preparation or choice, has been a tricky transition for all concerned and as a manager, it is important to remember the potentially negative effects of this and try to foster inclusive and motivational ways of working.

“It’s a divided world we live in. With remote working firmly entrenched as the norm for many, we’re hearing a split dynamic. There’s been a terrifying rise in employers using remote surveillance to track every mouse click during working hours for some. But for the other half, we’re seeing a welcome letting go, a demonstration of trust managers have in the staff who they have employed.”

Claire Lamont, Integrative Psychotherapist and Coach at Untapped

Due to the current COVID situation, remote working continues to be the norm for many. All of a sudden, a ‘quick catch up over coffee’ or a tap on the shoulder to check something is no longer possible. How can managers ensure that not only is everyone doing what they should be doing and when but that their team is also coping and adapting to this new way of working?

Whilst for some, working from home can be a very positive experience, with more family time, more flexibility and no commute, it’s important to recognise some of the potential challenges it can pose such as:

  • Lack of face-to-face supervision / contact

  • Lack of access to information / technology

  • Social isolation

  • Distractions in the home environment

We are sharing our Top Tips for Managing Remote Teams.

Working from home set up

It is important to recognise that the current working from home for some is not what ‘normal’ working from home always looks like.

Many employees who would not normally be working on a remote basis are having to work at kitchen tables, or in makeshift dining room offices. Whereas a formal working from request would take into account all of these aspects, the COVID remote working set up didn’t allow for any of these considerations. It is important that risk assessments are still undertaken to ensure any support or necessary equipment is provided to protect the employee but also the organisation with respect to any claims.

Communicate regularly with your team

Agree and set ground rules that all team members are committed to.

Ensure that everyone is clear on expectations, including email response times and project priorities. Create an inclusive culture so that if anyone has any issues, they feel comfortable enough to raise them in front of colleagues when you are on Zoom/Teams/Google etc.

When it comes to meetings, be aware of ’Zoom Fatigue’.

According to Psychology Today, our energy use during a Zoom call (or other forms of videoconference such as Microsoft Teams) is actually higher than when we are communicating face to face, or via text and social media The key is to keep this mode of communication to a reasonable level so your employees actually have the time to work through and deliver on their objectives.

It is important that managers also have one to one time with their staff to make sure tasks and objectives have been clearly understood. Not only do staff have the opportunity to clarify anything, but a manager can show empathy towards any issues the employee may be experiencing by simply asking ‘are you okay?’.

Also consider that what may be an appropriate level of communication for one employee may be different for another, so work out the frequency of these one to ones with each member of your team.

Trust your team and show flexibility

Just because you are not able to see your employees sat at their desk, it does not mean that they aren’t working.

Try and focus on the delivery rather than exactly when employees are sat at their computer, being flexible where appropriate as to how and when the work is carried out. Many employees are juggling numerous responsibilities currently and it is increasingly difficult to compartmentalise work and home separately. Many employees are also having to juggle childcare demands and caring responsibilities around working from home due to wrap around school childcare being cut and elderly care centres closing. Try and show flexibility whenever possible.

Celebrate success and achievements

With office lunches, after work drinks and dress down Fridays seemingly a thing of the past, it is important to build and strengthen relationships in other ways.

Whether it be the attainment of a project milestone, team or individual achievements, sharing success as a collective is another way to recognise contributions, collaboration and ultimately continue to engage your team.

As with any employee engagement initiative, to gain more of an insight into what your team would like to see, ask for their thoughts and ideas which can then be implemented. Ideas may be vouchers, a donation to a charity of the employee’s choice or simply a public thank you during team meetings or in team communications.


Thoughts to take away

Remote working has been a big adjustment for both managers and their teams but continuing the effort in getting it right will benefit both the organisation and the wellbeing of employees in the long run.

It’s important to recognise that whilst it continues to be challenging for many of us, there are also a great number of positives that we should ensure we retain as we emerge from the on-going crisis.

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