words Al Woods
While many companies have been offering remote work opportunities for a long time now, the coronavirus pandemic has forced an unprecedented number of businesses to switch to a remote or hybrid work model. Now the restrictions are slowly being lifted worldwide, but the job market has already adapted. A lot of workers, as well as business owners, don’t want to go back to the office, at least not full-time.
However, while remote work is definitely safer, cheaper, and considerably more convenient in many aspects, it comes with its own set of challenges that companies need to address if they want to stay afloat.
The biggest responsibilities rest on the shoulders of managers. After all, they need to manage teams from a distance — in today’s world, many people working closely together have never actually met in person. Luckily, technology has already provided us with all the necessary tools; a good manager needs to choose the right ones and combine them with their leadership skills.
From building clear communication channels and encouraging social interaction to providing resources and access to collaboration tools — below, we present five essentials for managing a remote team effectively.
Technology makes it possible to work virtually with anybody, anywhere in the world, as long as there’s high-quality internet access. Communication makes all the difference; it is the foundation of any successful project. If team members can’t communicate efficiently and clearly with each other, they will never be able to collaborate effectively.
A business owner has to ensure there are clear communication lines set up between every member of the team and designate accountable individuals for every role — from project manager and designer to content marketer.
Everyone from an intern to a CEO needs to know who to talk to in case of all kinds of problems and issues. If the company is operating partly or wholly remotely, it becomes even more critical to use the right communication tools. Depending on the nature of daily business operations, an organization can go for Slack, Weave tool, Skype, Google Meets, or any other platform designed for digital communication.
Apart from the communication tools mentioned above, which are crucial for effective collaboration, numerous apps, websites, and software types allow efficient teamwork and make it easier for staff members to manage projects.
For example, Google Docs and Google Sheets enable team members to work together on documents and spreadsheets, observing all the changes made in real-time. Trello and Asana are the most popular project management platforms, allowing managers and team members to manage tasks and projects. It doesn’t matter whether you have a separate person in charge of keeping track of every project or not — these tools are perfect for facilitating remote collaboration.
It is also vital to note that collaboration can happen on different levels, not just within teams but also across departments. Good communication and collaboration tools allow everyone to have efficient meetings, share files and documents with team members, send notes and reminders to people who need to take action on something and make private calls whenever necessary.
Business owners and managers always need to ensure their employees have everything needed to do their job correctly. This point especially applies to remote companies, where workers can’t seek assistance in person.
As such, it’s essential to ensure all workers have the necessary software, apps, and tools needed for their job. For example, designers need to have a good image editor, while software engineers require development tools. On the other hand, project managers need to know how to use planning tools.
As a manager, you need to ensure that all your employees know where to get the necessary software or apps and who they can ask for help if they’re struggling with any type of technical issue. It is also vital to offer employees training opportunities that would help them improve their skills.
Even though it is evident that a remote team doesn’t have the same opportunities to get together and interact in person, it is still important to encourage social interaction between employees. Team members should be able to participate in their own social community, ask questions, and exchange thoughts with other team members on a daily basis.
So, apart from your regular work-related team meeting, you can think about organizing more casual team-building digital get-togethers to enable people to get to know each other better and have fun. Doing this can be a valuable tool for building a solid team and a successful business. You can try various games and exercises with your team, from simple questions to mind-teasing puzzles.
It is hard to feel connected to a group of people you haven’t seen in a while. The biggest pitfall is that as long as the results are promising, team members probably won’t get any feedback or praise from others — sometimes not even from their managers. This lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings and even conflicts between individuals.
A manager needs to be on top of things and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Empathy is one of the most important traits a manager can have. When assigning tasks to other team members, you need to be aware of their current workload and find ways to optimize their time, and facilitate communication with other team members.
Finally, a good manager needs to be flexible enough to understand and facilitate every team member’s specific needs. For example, if someone working remotely on your team has a family to care for, you need to develop solutions to help them manage their time efficiently but still make sure their performance doesn’t drop.
Good leaders can unite their team members in a virtual workplace using tools that allow them to get to know each other better by sharing ideas, projects, and problems. Like in any traditional company, remote teams need to work together to ensure they share the same vision and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Virtual meetings are great for sharing knowledge and experience, as well as helping team members grow professionally.
Ensuring that your employees and team members have everything they need, encouraging social interaction, and managing communication channels are essential tasks you will have to deal with daily as a business owner or a manager of a remote team.
But all these challenges will be rewarded with higher employee retention rates and happier workers. All in all, it’s worth it!