Even before the pandemic, remote teams have been established by companies or even small businesses. Some companies have a part of their workforce who already works from home a few days a week. However, in response to the uncertainties presented by COVID-19, remote working or work-from-home has become a total trend.
Many companies have established remote teams to prevent the spread of the virus to continue the business operations after several months of closure due to lockdowns.
Aside from a few employees who gradually adapted remote work even before the pandemic, new policies leave other employees, including the managers, working out of the office, too.
The thought of managing people remotely for the first time sounds scary, however, it can be resolved through preparation and guidelines.
Common Challenges of Setting Up a Remote Teams
As a manager, first, you need to pinpoint the possible challenges your remote team might face in this set-up. You should be aware of changes in the performance of your employees because just like you they are also adapting.
Here are common challenges your remote teams might face in this new set-up:
Lack of face-to-face supervision
One of the biggest change managers and employees will face is face-to-face interaction. Usually, teams express concerns verbally or face-to-face. In this set-up, the element of immediate interaction is absent.
Managers might worry that their remote teams will not work as hard or as efficiently. Meanwhile, employees might struggle to communicate with the manager for support and assistance.
Struggle in accessing information
Because of the lack of immediate response and interaction, remote teams are often surprised by the added time and effort needed to locate information. Even getting answers to what seem like simple questions can be a struggle for an employee working from home.
Loneliness and social isolation are some of the most common personal complaints from members of remote teams. Even though members are seeing each other virtually, employees are still missing the informal social interaction of an office setting.
For extroverts, this set-up is not their thing and they may suffer from isolation more in the short run. However, over a longer time, isolation can lead to seeking a sense of belongingness to the organization which may result in an increased intention to leave the company.
Distractions at home
Most especially to employees who are parents to small kids and toddlers, this set-up will be a challenge. Even in normal circumstances demands concerning family and home can be a distraction on remote work and managers should expect these distractions to be greater during this unprecedented work-from-home transition.
How to Successfully Manage Remote Teams?
1. Be Consistent on Checking for Updates
As a manager, it’s a must to conduct meetings via video. These meetings are recommended to be conducted at the beginning of the day or week to set the expectations for the week. Also, through these meetings, you can provide the feedback and resources your team members need.
Aside from work-related stuff, these meetings can also be a way to catch up with your employees with updates outside work.
Even though phone conversations, email, and Slack are used daily for updates and queries, seeing your team is still better. It lessens the feeling of isolation.
Fortunately, there are tools like Zoom or Google’s Team Hangouts that make this relatively easy.
2. Communicate a Lot
This one goes without saying because this is a must that you have regular communication with your team. Aside from daily or weekly meetings, you should be consistent in communicating with your team if you have immediate concerns.
It was mentioned that one of the expected challenges of working remotely is the feeling of loneliness and isolation, so having open communication with your team can go a long way.
3. Take Advantage of Technology
Committing to a remote work set-up, the use of technology should be utilized and maximized. As a manager, you can choose some communication tools you and your team can use.
You can always use email and text messages, however, this might be a short-term solution. You can opt for tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams for better collaboration and communication.
Moreover, there are also management tools you can use to organize and be updated on the projects you are working on.
Fortunately, some of those tools are available for free. But if you think the free features of some of these tools are limited for your team, you can always opt to upgrade for a paid plan.
4. Manage Expectations
You should always remember that everyone from your remote team including you are adapting to this new set-up so it is just right to manage your expectations.
You and your team should talk through the scope of your tasks including deadlines, and deliverables. From there, you can have an idea of what is the working situation or environment of your team that might affect their productivity. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if a few weeks from now you find yourself wondering what everyone was doing.
5. Focus on Outcomes, Not Activity
When you finally begin working remotely, it’s impossible to overlook everything that your remote teams are doing, so to lessen the burden and stress for you you should focus on the quality of outputs Instead of activity or hours worked.
Let your employees design their work schedule based on the tasks and deadlines you give. Require them to give you the specific tasks that they will be working on in a particular time frame.
During these times, you should trust the process. Similar to the normal set-up just because you can’t see them working at their cubicle doesn’t mean work isn’t getting done.
6. Make Sure Your Team is Equipped
As a manager, you need to make sure that your team has the technology required – internet connection, laptop, software, etc., to be able to work-from-home. It’s not reasonable to assume that everyone has all of those things, and it’s your responsibility to make sure they do.
7. Be Flexible
Despite the current situation, your company still needs your work to be done, however, you should always keep in mind that everybody’s going through something right now and these personal struggles should be enough reason to reconsider productivity.
Another reason why you should allow your remote team to have the freedom and flexibility to get work done on the schedule that helps them be the most productive.
To maintain consistency and less burn out moments, you should allow flexible hours when it comes to working with remote teams.
In addition, a concrete plan is still a must, however, you should be prepared for changes and adjustments especially when your team cited a good reason behind it.
Usual working hours should not be required as long as the work gets completed and is of high quality.
Not all things can be done by you and your current team. Sometimes adapting to a new set-up requires you to have a helping hand. You can consider outsourcing a virtual assistant to keep your team coordinated. Virtual assistants are used to this set-up so they can help you manage your team and coordinate requirements. This eases you the effort in hiring another regular employee in this transition period. Moreover, you can have someone who is already prepared in assisting your and your remote teams’ needs.
Learning how to handle remote teams, it seems to be easy and very flexible, however, you should also remember, as a manager, that you and your team must honor personal space and time. If you continue to practice a work-life balance, this work-from-home set-up will be successful. You and your remote team should be open and considerate that everyone needs their time away from work.