Leading Your Team Remotely: The How-To
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Remote working has been adopted by individuals well before the coronavirus pandemic hit, and it has been on the rise for decades. With the development of applications on phones and computers, productivity, efficiency, and speed of work have changed and developed. Thanks to the availability of these digital tools that enable staff to do their jobs outside of a physical office, communication has become faster and more instant than in previous years. We are seeing more and more platforms develop to further assist and make it easier to connect with colleagues without sitting in the same office or even the same country.
Today, there are various methods and mediums to lead and manage teams remotely. Organizing your communication methods and strategy all fall in line with your industry, business function, team size, and other factors relevant to your operations. While there remains a debate on whether working from home is going to become the new normal, as entrepreneurs running businesses, here are a few tips to help you master leading your team remotely, in order to stay productive and connected:
1. Understand how you behave when it comes to remote working
Understand your “distractions.” Distractions are part of life, and in small doses, they can actually be a good thing. Small breaks during the day often help to refresh your mind and prevent stress and burnout. But when you take too much time away from important work to deal with less important tasks, you're sabotaging your own productivity. Working from home isn’t about giving in to the temptation of the snooze button; taking a break when you need to is about having the discipline to look after yourself. It's essential for a team leader to maintain a good work-life balance.
Take time to recharge with time off from always being connected. Maintain a suitable work schedule that prevents blurred lines between life and work. If you're stressed and anxious, take a break, and then come back to work. If you are at home with kids and having to home-school, flexibility is paramount. Establish parameters for a "work-life integration" plan for you and your team to adopt. It's important to be considerate to your team, as during these times, everyone is stressed and worried about their family, friends and what the coming weeks will mean. Your leadership now is crucial and defining.
2. Setting expectations and boundaries
It is important when working with a team to set clear deadlines and also boundaries on when you can be reached. Remote teams often need some kind of boundaries to outline their work and personal life. Working from home makes it seem like you are accessible all the time. Save yourself a lot of trouble by establishing communication expectations early on. Find out what hours you can expect your team to be available. Know what kind of turnaround time to expect. Set up regular meetings to touch base.
Remote work is supposed to be a better way to make a work-life balance. It's important to get work done in a timely manner, but that doesn't mean individuals need to be online or available 24/7. As much as your team members need to be able to manage themselves, one of your main duties as a leader is to set clear expectations and goals, and define how communication about delivering these goals should take place. Clear lines of accountability can be established by setting regular performance goals, checking in every now and then to see what the progress is, and lending a hand if something is not going as expected. Otherwise, don't be surprised if a few weeks from now you find yourself wondering what everyone was doing.
3. Communicate regularly and check-in
It probably goes without saying that you should be in regular communication with your team. Communicate frequently. Strong leadership inspires everyone. Ask your team how they prefer to be contacted. Are text messages okay for urgent issues, or is that an invasion of privacy? Make sure that team members constantly feel like they know what’s going on. You need to communicate what’s happening at the organizational level, because when they’re at home, they feel like they’ve been extracted from the main business. They wonder what’s happening at the company, with clients, and with common objectives. Whenever possible, opt for face-to-face meetings via video.
Your team needs to see you, and you need to see them. Ensure that no members feel like they have less access to you than others. When you run your group meetings, aim for inclusion, so everyone feels seen and heard. Create non-work focused sessions where employees can share recipes, memes, or quizzes- basically, make sure it is not work-related. After all, things that can take away from work also create connections between employees. Shared experiences, whether in-person or remote, create connections and define culture. These connections are especially important during stressful times. Being online constantly comes with its own stress, but taking a few moments to chat, laugh, and connect, even virtually, builds a stronger team.
4. Focus on outcomes, not activity
Measuring employee performance is a difficult thing in any organization, regardless of whether it’s remote or not. Many companies take the road of measuring hours worked as the main indicator of performance. Hours worked are irrelevant to the outcome. Showing up to work is simply not the same as getting work done. If you have agreed on certain goals and your team delivers, then who cares if they work eight or six hours a day, or which hours of the day they are.
Trust is important. Being able to trust your team members to have a large amount of self-discipline and get things done is an integral part of remote teams. If your team members feel like you don’t trust them, or that you’re constantly hovering over them, they’ll start to resent their work after a while. Smart teams spend time on what actually matters. As long as an employee is delivering quality work, hitting deadlines and goals, and being productive, it doesn’t matter when or how long they actually work. Each team and position should have some trackable metrics that indicate the level of productivity achieved.