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Remote work is our current workplace reality, but managing remote teams and keeping distributed employees engaged can challenge even the best managers. This unique environment, however, can present myriad opportunities to support your teams and grow as team leaders.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to care for a team not only as colleagues but as human beings. The transition to working remotely can impact a team’s culture, as anxiety around future projects and team collaboration can seem uncertain. Additional factors such as kids at home, the caretaking of parents, and more will now be a part of their typical workday. It is crucial for those in leadership to support teams through online communication.
So, what does remote work mean for those in leadership? How can managers continue to lead and inspire their teams without meeting in person? What practices can we implement to care for our coworkers beyond the office?
We’ve compiled a few best practices and practical tools for successfully managing remote teams.
As your team transitions from a shared office to remote workspaces, there are a few logistics items that can help ensure success.
First, consider what equipment your team needs to work remotely. Many employees just need a laptop (with a webcam) and a good internet connection. Reliable internet is key, as many home wifi systems don’t scale well if there is a large demand on the network, such as additional users at home also video conferencing (or watching Netflix). The cool thing about Zoom is that it prioritizes voice over video, and we encourage customers to utilize customer audio, or VoIP.
But do encourage your employees to take the time to set up a good spot at home for a dedicated workspace (and share them with us on social!).
Some other logistics tips:
Identify points of contact for your team’s technical and corporate needs so they know who to reach out to with questions, bugs, or outages, should they arise. This frees you up from being “remote IT.”
— Romero-Isart Group (@Romero_Isart_G) March 13, 2020
When teams transition to remote work, it is easy for projects and initiatives to get lost in the mix. It’s important to maintain your team’s feeling of togetherness while ensuring that projects stay on track. It is crucial for leaders to reaffirm the team roadmap and ensure alignment on priorities. And since you are unable to rally a team in your regular conference room, video meetings save the day!
Make these meetings fun by scheduling them around morning coffee or lunch breaks, encouraging team members to share how their days are going, tips for working remotely, and how the team can help support them this week.
— Marleen Lodder (@LMLodder) March 16, 2020
Video improves trust, engagement, and productivity. Your tone, facial expressions, and body language communicate as much as your words do. So, be sure to lead by example by turning your camera on.
Even on those days where you don’t feel office-ready, know you’ll always look your best with the “touch up my appearance” feature. Social connection, now more than ever, is integral to the well-being of your team. And have fun with virtual backgrounds! (You can even enter our virtual background contest.)
Once everyone is settled, nothing says “We’re all in this together!” quite like a team check-in to rate everyone’s virtual backgrounds and caffeinated drink of choice. It’s also fun to share photos of new desk setups or what’s for lunch in your team chat. Lead the fun, and encourage your team to bring their whole selves to these syncs — your pets and all!
Don’t minimize the above team check-in tip! Your team members are allowing you into their homes, which helps create a more personal connection. You also can use video to help them troubleshoot any workplace setup issues they may be having.
— Haroldo Oliveira (@HaroldoOliveira) March 20, 2020
Transparency is key when leading a team remotely. If any member is confused about strategy, deliverables, or priorities, the entire initiative suffers. Build trust and confidence with your team with honest communication so your team members feel secure while working remotely. Stay on track by using a team chat, regular Zoom Meetings, and frequent calls for cohesive communication. Leaders are able to guide team members with openness and clarity, as these platforms foster connectivity regardless of your environment.
Encourage your team to keep up their regular morning routines, from getting dressed for the day to working their usual hours. Encourage simple actions such as “clocking in” at 9 a.m. and taking a scheduled lunch break, which can help support workflow and help people maintain focus on their responsibilities.
— Trénell Ladd (@MrUnstoppable1) March 11, 2020
Just because you’re not all in the same office, doesn’t mean that you are not all part of the team. As mentioned in Tip #2 above, build in time for fun, engaging activities to reduce the potential loneliness of remote work and create camaraderie. Some of our favorite virtual activities are coffee breaks, Sli.do polls, stretching and yoga sessions, and “Virtual Lunch Wednesdays,” where we evaluate who is having the most delicious lunch!
Don’t forget to promote self-care strategies in your team syncs, such as getting outside for breaks, staying hydrated, and scheduling calls just to connect with others.
While it can seem daunting to lead a team that you can’t connect with in person, you have a wide range of resources to support remote management. Here are a few additional resources to help you remotely manage your teams:
Maintaining your team’s workplace routine can soothe feelings of dysregulation, and it’s up to managers of these remote teams to take the lead. As organizations adjust to working remotely, we encourage you to be creative, innovative, and compassionate toward yourself, your team, clients, customers, and communities. We’re all in this together!