How convenient was it to walk out of your cabin and request your team member to join you for a quick meeting? You could have a one-on-one with any of your team members anytime during the day. Your team could come to you every time they got stuck at something. Getting things done was simpler and quicker pre-COVID-19.
However, ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the office dynamics changed completely. Companies had to shift to a remote working model. Having employees come to work wasn't an option, and companies couldn't stop work altogether. The only option left for employers was to make employees work from home!
While that ensured the work didn't halt, deadlines were met, and the business sustained through one of the worst economic situations, team management was extremely difficult!
Everyone was trying to get accustomed to the new normal. Everyone had their fair share of struggles. But the struggle for the team managers was the worst! And it still continues.
Most people have gotten so comfortable working from home that they never want to return to their offices. Employers can't force their employees to come to the office because the employees are fulfilling all their KPIs and there's no reason for the employer to impose anything. This leaves the managers struggling.
If you're a team lead who has got a team of remote workers, you might know what we're saying. But fret not. We've listed down some remote team leadership do's and don'ts that will help you streamline activities and manage your team better.
What Makes Managing a Remote Team Difficult?
Remote team leadership presents unique challenges that may hinder work. The managers and workers aren't present in the same premises and it can get hard for the manager to ensure the employee isn't compromising their work. Some of the biggest challenges that team leaders of remote workers have to face every day are:
Inability to Supervise Their Team On-Ground
One of the benefits of having your team work in the same premises as you is face-to-face supervision. You can see how exactly your team is working. You can give your input on the go and correct your team member if you see them doing something wrong.
Having your team under the same roof doesn't mean you can hover over them round the clock. That would only annoy your team. However, you can assure your team that you're there to help them if they need it. Face-to-face supervision is a strong tool for managers.
When the team is working remotely, a manager won't know if the employee is working dedicatedly or is surrounded by distractions and home responsibilities.
This means that the chances of the work not being up to the mark when delivered are high. Had the team been working at the office, the manager could have corrected a lot of mistakes on the go which would have saved the employee a lot of hassle and time.
One of the biggest challenges for remote team leadership is the lack of communication. No matter how advanced virtual communication channels are, they can't beat the effectiveness of physical, face-to-face communication.
A manager may tell their employee something they need to get done. The employee may not fully understand the instructions and do it wrong. However, when the team is working at the office, the communication is two-way and more open. The workers can ask questions while the manager is explaining the task, ensuring the manager and team members are on the same page.
The productivity level of remote workers is lower than on-site workers. Not everyone has a separate room to work. Most remote workers also have to fulfill home-related responsibilities while at home and can't possibly say no to them. This results in missed deadlines. When important deadlines are missed, the entire pressure falls onto the team lead.
Making the employees work at their full potential and get things done in the committed timeframe is one of the biggest challenges for remote team leaders.
Poor Team Cohesiveness
One of the most important elements when working as a team is team cohesiveness. The more comfortable and close the team members are, the better they'll be able to work together. With the remote working model, the problem of isolation and lack of team building has become a serious challenge for team managers.
The teammates are unable to form a professional bond and communicate comfortably, which often leads to communication gaps and errors in work. This is yet another challenge for remote team managers. They've got to work out ways to improve team cohesiveness and communication.
Remote Team Leadership Dos and Don'ts
We know managing a remote team isn't easy, but some tips can help you manage a remote team efficiently. There are things that you should be doing and some things that you might be doing wrong. Let's look at what these dos, and don'ts are.
Train Your Team for Remote Working Model
It would be best if you didn't keep unrealistic expectations from your team. The transition to remote working is new for them, too, and they may still be trying to figure out a way to make things work.
The most important thing that you should do as a remote team leader is to prepare helpful training content to facilitate your team during this transition.
Train them on how to use different communication channels and company portals. Make sure your team has a clear understanding of how things will be done. Give them a heads up about the challenges they may face and how they can overcome them.
Set Clear Expectations
One of the biggest challenges of remote working is the communication gap and miscommunication. You should be as clear as you possibly can with your expectations and instructions. Communicate verbally and document everything on emails.
Make Yourself Available
You aren't working at the office where your team members could come up to you in case of confusion. You've got to make sure your remote team knows you are available for them during work hours and after work hours (if possible) so that they don't hesitate to clear any confusion that they might have during work.
Give Your Team a Freehand
You'll be amazed to see the difference giving your team a freehand will make. Instead of dictating everything, tell your team what you want them to do and leave it to them how they do it. When the team members feel a sense of authority and ownership, they'll put more time, effort, and heart into their work, which will reflect in the results.
Schedule Regular Meetings
You should schedule regular meetings with your team. Meet your team virtually as a team at least once a week so that everyone can talk about work, and life and brainstorm over roadblocks that they may be facing. You can have a Cork Board Bulletin Board in your home office where you can explain to your team things that you would explain at the office using flow charts and figures only that they'll be watching you through their screens.
Schedule a one-on-meeting with each team member at least once or twice a week to see the task's progress. It'll also enable the team members to discuss with you in detail any problems they might be facing. One-on-one meetings also allow both you and your team members to be more open about things you can't possibly discuss when all of the team is present.
Set small rewards for small milestones and achievements to keep your team motivated and happy. The happier your team is, the better they'll perform.
Meet Your Team Once in a While
Invite your team out for lunch or dinner once in a while to enjoy informal time together. This would improve team cohesiveness.
As much as you want to stay updated with what the team is up to, you should avoid micromanagement. It gives an impression to the team that you don't trust their ability. It even frustrates them, and that can have a direct impact on their efficiency. Micromanagement also stresses people out and you can't expect your team to work well if they're stressed.
Don't Schedule Meetings Too Often
You may feel the urge to conduct meetings every day so that you know what the team is doing and what the status of the work is. But this is something you shouldn't do. Conducting meetings when there's no need or urgency will only waste the time that your team members could use to work.
Don't Work by the Clock
Most job roles today don't necessarily require you to sit in front of your computer screen from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. These shift timings are for on-premise workers. A remote working model is all about providing employees with some flexibility, which means they don't have to be in front of their computers every minute of the day. You don't have to work by the clock as long as they're doing their job well.
While the remote working model has more pros than cons, we can't turn a blind eye to the challenges. If you've been struggling to manage your remote team, try changing the way you manage your time, and you'll be amazed to see the difference!