7 Mistakes Leaders Make When Managing a Remote Team

Improve your remote team's productivity by avoiding these common mistakes.

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By John Rampton

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Working remotely is undoubtedly having its moment. And, while some may still be adjusting to their new routine, there is a silver lining. Working remotely is effective. It keeps employees engaged and productive. For you, that means better performances, lower turnover and the ability to attract top talent. You also don't have to worry about rent or utility costs, and it's beneficial for the environment.

Of course, these benefits are only possible if you're able to manage your team from afar effectively. To achieve that goal, you first need to avoid the following eight mistakes.

1. Being too rigid.

What's the best thing about working remotely? It's not wearing comfy clothes all day. It's not having to follow a strict traditional work schedule, like the standard 9-to-5. Instead, it's the ability and flexibility to work whenever is best for you and your team.

Why's that so important? For starters, we all have different times when we're most productive. For example, some of your team members may be the most productive first thing in the morning, while others are later in the day. What's more, remote work allows employees to have more balance in their lives. If the COVID-19 pandemic has proven anything, it's that there will be times when it's essential to work remotely. Right now is one of those times, since some of your people may have to homeschool their children.

Also, according to a 2020 Deloitte study, "nearly all respondents say they would benefit from work flexibility (94 percent)." The top advantages are "being less stress/improved mental health (43 percent) and better integration of work and personal life (38 percent)." As a consequence, you'll have a happier, healthier and more productive team.

2. Failure to communicate.

If there's a drawback with working remotely, it's that communication can be a problem. Instead of leaving your team to their own devices, make sure that you schedule regular check-ins with them. You may have to put in a little more effort here, as opposed to just stopping by their workspaces or holding problem-solving sessions, but it's not impossible. Thanks to email, Slack or virtual meeting tools like Zoom, you can achieve this.

In short, make sure that you are frequently in touch with your team. Just make sure that you do so through both group gatherings and personal one-on-ones.

3. Being disrespectful of everyone else's time.

Let's say that you live on the east coast and want to plan a meeting at 9 a.m. At first, that might not seem like an unreasonable demand. But, if you have team members who reside on the west coast, you're now asking them to have a meeting at 6:00 a.m.

Even if all the attendees are in the same time zone, you may also schedule virtual meetings at inopportune times. Employees may be watching their children or focused on deep work. Remember, everyone has their own peak productivity hours and their personal lives that need attending.

The easiest solution? Poll your team with a tool like Doodle or share your calendar with them to find a suitable slot. If they've allowed access, you may even have permission to view their online calendar. Or, you could use scheduling software, like Calendar, that used machine learning to make smart suggestions on when to plan events — it even considers time zones.

Other ways you're disrespecting your team's time? If you arrive late to a scheduled event — or a team member arrives late — that is disrespecting time. Even worse, keeping them longer than initially allotted.

And, make sure that you aren't sending them digital messages all hours of the day. Just because you're awake at 4:30 a.m. doesn't mean that they are.

4. Social disconnect.

Your remote team needs to socialize. In fact, because of recent events, more and more studies are examining the consequences of isolation. And, suffice today, it's just not good for anyone's health and wellbeing. Besides, encouraging your team to socialize with each other builds rapport and improves collaboration.

That may seem like a challenge. But, even quickly checking in with your team every day can make a huge difference. You could also socially spend time together via virtual happy hours to celebrate milestones and birthdays. Other ideas would be to set up virtual water coolers, book clubs, or dance parties. You could even plan something fun like an online game tournament or movie night.

Related: Are Virtual Games, Workouts, or Happy Hours Most Popular Right Now? (Infographic)

5. Lack of feedback or learning opportunities.

One-on-one meetings? Check. Employee surveys? You know it. Are you conducting annual performance reviews? Yep.

Despite all of these, data collected by Know Your Team, though, shows that 80 percent of the 1,468 employees surveyed wanted even more feedback regarding their performance. "What it illustrates is a strong desire from your team to receive even more critiques, suggestions, and ideas  —  the bad along with the good  —  about what they can be doing better," adds Claire Lew. "You might think you're giving enough of it, but you could be giving even more."

Beyond that, your remote workers demand learning opportunities. It's one of the most effective ways to retain them and keep them engaged. Unfortunately, they often get overlooked here. But, you can avoid that mistake by offering plenty of career growth opportunities.

6. Failing to address your team's struggles.

I don't want to sound hyperbolic here. But, your employees are going through some stuff right now. Even if we weren't amid a pandemic, they would still have some hurdles to jump.

According to Buffer's State of Remote Work 2019, the most significant struggles are unplugging, loneliness, communicating/collaborating and distractions at home. I've already gone over a couple of these, so let's focus on downtime and distractions when working from home.

Don't expect your team members to be on-call 24/7. They need time away in order to rest and recharge. That means not sending them work-related messages during off-hours. And, encourage them to take breaks and time-off u201 even if it's just a staycation.

You could also give them pointers on how to prevent getting interrupted while working from home. Suggest that they set up a home office so that they have a quiet space to work. You could even send them a standing desk and pointers on how to set it up so that they'll be more productive. If that's not an option, recommend that they work somewhere else that's free of distractions like family members or the TV.

It's also been found that 35 percent of people working from home have said that their mental health has deteriorated. You can help them with this by offering access to in-person or online therapy. You could also pay for apps that help relieve stress and anxiety-like Calm or Headspace.

And, one final struggle they may be going through is not being able to manage their time correctly. There are many ways that you can help them correct their time management problems. Start by having them track their time so that they can see how they're spending their days. You could also break larger projects into more manageable pieces. And, you might want to reduce the number of meetings or assignments you're assigning them.

7. Not using the right tools.

Let's keep this final mistake short and sweet. Your team needs communication, file-sharing and project-management tools at the minimum. Depending on their role, they may also need more specific tools. Regardless, you need to make sure that they have access to these so that they can get their work done and collaborate with each other.

Related: 111 Free Tools to Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic

John Rampton

Entrepreneur Leadership Network VIP

Entrepreneur and Connector

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the calendar productivity tool Calendar.

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