How to effectively manage your remote team

Woman working from home - HR Advice on how to effectively manage your remote team.

Due to the current COVID situation, remote working has become the norm for many.  All of a sudden, a ‘quick catch up over coffee’ or a tap on the shoulder to check something or check on someone is no longer possible.

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 to your teams including:

  • Lack of face-to-face supervision / contact
  • Lack of access to information / technology
  • Social isolation
  • Distractions in the home environment

So how can you ensure that not only is everyone doing what they should be doing and when but that your team is also coping and adapting to this new way of working?  Here, we share our Top Tips for Managing Remote Teams.

Working at home 

It is important to recognise that the current working at home for some is not what ‘normal’ working from home looks like. Many employees who would not normally be working on a remote basis are having to work at kitchen tables, bedrooms or in makeshift dining room offices.

A formal working from home request would take into account all of the aspects working from home would impact but the COVID remote working set up didn’t allow for any of these considerations.  However, it is still important that risk assessments are undertaken to ensure any support or necessary equipment is provided to protect the employee but also the organisation with respect to any future 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 you also have one to one time with your staff to make sure tasks and objectives have been clearly understood.  Not only do staff have the opportunity to clarify anything, but you 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 and outputs 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 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 has been challenging for many of us, there are also a great number of positives that we should ensure we retain as we emerge from the current crisis.