Remote Team Management
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic small business owners, and their teams, are working remotely to keep their business running. But if you’re new to managing a remote team, it can feel overwhelming.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of the best ways to keep your team motivated and engaged while face-to-face interaction is no longer an option.
1. Schedule Meetings
Tony Sherba, President and founder of Yeti LLC, highlights the benefit of creating a standard meeting structure for employees to follow. During the pandemic, Sherba’s team is working hard to incorporate standard team meetings to mimic what would have happened in the office.
At Yeti LLC, all teams ‘meet’ at a set time on Mondays to discuss weekly strategies and allocate tasks. The individual teams then have daily “scrums” and follow-up meetings throughout the week.
This consistent conversation ensures that everyone feels involved and knows how their work impacts the overall company. It also provides a sense of certainty in an incredibly uncertain time; we can’t control much at the moment, but at 10 am on a Monday, at least this team knows what’s expected of them.
2. Huddles and One-on-Ones
In addition to large weekly meetings, Sherba also emphasizes the importance of smaller, scheduled meetings throughout the week. In particular, a group call on Fridays allows the team to share their successes and discuss improvements that can be implemented over the weekend.
It’s also vital to check in with your team in a one-on-one setting. Use a team calendar to schedule individual meetings where you can discuss triumphs and struggles in a more personal setting.
By showing your team you’re still there for them, even when you’re not in the same room, you’ll be able to maintain relationships and ensure your team feels valued and heard.
WorkWithCo has some brilliant tips to help your team stay engaged when working from home and looks at how important it is to consider emotions. Ensuring that everyone feels involved and cared for is essential for managing a remote team successfully.
3. Offer Flexibility
In the office, it’s easy to manage distractions and foster a productive working environment. At home, however, daily distractions can be much harder to control.
Lynette Pettinicchi, the founder of Lynette Nicole PR, suggests giving your employees space to deal with children needing help with homework or dogs who need to go outside. This adaptability will enable your team members to be more productive and focused in the long run.
She believes that not micromanaging your team and permitting some flexibility to deal with personal matters during “work hours” can help cultivate focus and “result in more quality work”.
Tom Seery, founder, and CEO of RealSelf, also believes that offering team members a little more flexibility can help build a sense of team spirit that might otherwise be tricky to promote in a remote working environment. “I’ve seen firsthand how our team has come together… thanks to leaders revealing the impacts they’ve endured as parents, taking care of family members and their own mental well-being.”
4. Use Messaging Tools Effectively
If your team is new to online working, it’s a good idea to utilize messaging tools, such as Slack, to your full advantage.
Not only do these tools offer communication between staff and management to answer the smaller everyday issues that arise, but they also offer the team a chance to chat amongst themselves, perfect for building morale.
Emails should be reserved for lengthier communications, external messages, or daily updates relevant to everyone. Group chats are great for keeping the team engaged and passing on smaller updates as they arise.
5. Video Conferences
If you’re only communicating with your team via conference calls or the written word, you’re missing out.
Group video chats using software such as Zoom can ensure your team gets valuable face-to-face time with you and their colleagues, even when you’re not physically in the same space.
Video calls are also a great way to ensure your team is engaged: it’s much more difficult to be playing with your phone or multi-tasking when you’re on a video call versus audio-only.
6. Office Hours
But while flexibility is important, many entrepreneurs also recognize the benefits of having set working hours.
Ensuring everyone is in the same virtual space during particular hours (for example, 10 am to 4 pm) enables open communication and ensures everyone is available for important updates and information.
Having these hours set also gives your team (and yourself) a vital lifeline: the ability to switch off.
By ensuring meetings, one-to-ones, and general office hours are scheduled, your team can have a clearer idea of what they need to be doing and when. It also means that they can switch off their computer at the end of the day and leave their designated workspace, rather than feeling like they need to stay available all night long.
This also has benefits for you as the leader of a remote team. By setting clear expectations and availability, your team knows when you’re available to answer questions versus when you’re “out of office.”
7. Make Time for Mental Health
Working from home can be an invaluable way to boost productivity and motivation, but only when managed effectively. Try to prevent every communication from being work-related and set aside time in your day, week, or month to share social moments and celebrate special occasions.
Some successful leaders suggest hosting a weekly “happy hour” or “coffee break” to allow their team a little downtime and the chance to develop emotional connections. Celebrating moments such as birthdays or work anniversaries via video chat also cultivates a sense of connection that can be tricky to achieve when working remotely.
But while it’s important to focus on your team, your mental health should not be overlooked. Lily Scanlon, principal at Korn Ferry, encourages leaders and entrepreneurs to remember you’re “not in this alone.”
Scanlon recommends that leaders “reach out to your networks and ask for their perspectives.” Sharing your experiences, resources, and lessons learned – or even just offering empathy and support – can all be invaluable for leaders trying to navigate a strange new world of remote working.
Making time for communication, sharing valuable work-related updates, and keeping your team involved in the daily decisions are brilliant ways to keep remote workers engaged. But permitting ‘down-time’, chatter, and a little flexibility can also go a long way to cultivating a virtual workplace that feels supportive and welcoming.
Talk with your team about how they would like to be supported and utilize other contacts to create a positive work environment. This way, you’ll have a happy and productive team, even when they can’t all be together physically.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.