It’s not as new as you think, but remote work teams are solidifying their foothold in the modern workplace culture. Advantages start with a reduced footprint for the organization accompanied by the benefits of reduced operating costs. Remote teams also cast a wide net when seeking new talent for the best and brightest that was never available before without an expensive relocating package. The finishing touch is an increase in productivity and satisfaction for your employees paired with reduced stress. What’s not to love?
Remote teams don’t require new skills as a leader, but they do require some different methods and practices when it comes to your interactions and monitoring progress.
Establish boundaries and expectations
To keep work and personal life distinguished, remote teams need to set boundaries to be respectful of everyone’s time and work-life balance. When teams cross different time zones, a chat message or phone call may disturb another’s dinner time with their family, or worse yet, their sleep. Start building those positive relationships with your team members by discussing reasonable expectations of availability to the team.
In addition to availability, other expectations you should solidify and communicate to your team are:
Communication methods and systems
Critical projects and deadlines
Responses to email
Refine communication methods
In addition to availability expectations, communication is addressed differently in a remote environment, and when done well creates a very productive team. When done poorly, essential details are missed, or misunderstandings create strife.
Have a plan for the details
First of all, you need a plan for synchronous (phone, video, in-person meetings) and asynchronous (text, slack, messenger apps) communication. This plan includes which type of communication is most appropriate for different events and circumstances. This practice will save your employees “inbox fatigue” with their email. A group may use a program like Slack or Microsoft Teams for their internal chatter and reserve email for external groups and clients. Channels can be created to control access and keep the conversations relevant to the topic. When using these tools, extra attention is paid to being very clear and concise to avoid confusion.
Never depend solely on text as the primary form of communication. Tone can be misunderstood in tense (and sometimes casual) situations, creating unnecessary frustration and ongoing strife if not addressed. If you notice this occurring, it’s time to pick up the phone for a personal conversation for absolute clarity.
The value in explaining why
A disadvantage with remote work is that side-conversation details that become important may be missed by other employees since you’re no longer sharing a workspace. When delegating work, you want to take extra steps to explain why you delegated the task to them. The reason could be based on one of those side conversations or a specific skill set of this team member. The critical factor is gaining their alignment, so they take full ownership of the task. This practice can especially help a sensitive worker understand before they get defensive.
In the book “How Did That Happen?” the author speaks of FORM-ing expectations. It’s an acronym for making your expectations framable, obtainable, repeatable, and measurable. The FORM method is used to make sure expectations are well planned and presented clearly to employees. Add FORM to “why,” and you’ll gain that critical alignment.
Even with the best team collaboration tools, a vital detail is missing in your communications. That detail is the physical aspect of facial expressions and hand gestures. Because of this missing detail, you must compensate for your vocal qualities when speaking on the phone.
While the walking around option is lost with a remote team, you are now monitoring your team’s progress with the use of productivity tools. You still oversee the operation, and when clear expectations are followed by defined tasks, things run smoothly.
Assume the best intentions with your team
Being out of sight can be a little unnerving, even for the seasoned manager. There was once a need for a leader to oversee the team, otherwise known as “management by walking around.” Remote workers value independence and trust to establish a plan to meet their deadlines and expectations. Increase flexibility with precise deadlines and let them choose the best path to achieve their goal.
Keeping track of progress
You can monitor task progress as remotely as the workers themselves with online management tools like Asana, ClickUp, or countless other project management systems. They enable you to break down projects into individual or group tasks and build in dependencies and sub-tasks. Employees can log their time within the tasks, as well. Other reporting features like Gantt charts and Kanban boards are also available to adjust your individual view to an operational view.
Create an expectable cadence
While there is often great flexibility with remote work schedules, many teams find value in some standardized cadences where they all come together. A couple of cadence examples are regular team meetings or virtual office times, where everyone logs into a conference while they work independently. The goal is a platform where they can hold conversations just as they would when sharing an office.
Another cadence as a manager is regular feedback through one-on-one conversations with each team member. This feedback is even more essential with remote teams to keep them motivated and on-course.
In all instances, when you are working with different schedules across several time zones, a lack of consistency can quickly turn to chaos. Gain a consensus on a regular cadence of meeting times and make it a priority for everyone on the team.
Help your team unplug completely on vacation
When managing a remote team, we become accustomed to texting as ideas strike us, and those on the other side are compelled to answer right away no matter the time of day. This overlooked detail not only impedes on daily family time but also precious vacation time. When your employees go on vacation, insist that they silence all work-related notifications, put up their out-of-office status, and enjoy a stress-free get-away while you delegate their workload, so it doesn’t pile.
Make it count – make it meaningful
The final words of wisdom for you today are when it comes to your remote team, never miss an opportunity for a virtual high-five. Recognition is not reserved for those in an office. Keep using your Lifestyle Savings Account (LSA) as a motivational tool for your team as designed and reward their hard work. Work2Live’s program, with your meaningful presentation, is the icing on the cake for your employees giving you more with less as a remote team.