- Communicate, communicate and communicate with your remote team
- Get creative with your daily standup
- Create a safe space for your remote team members to talk to you
- Customise your management techniques to suit your remote team
- Organise 1-1s with your remote team members
- Invest in the technology you need to communicate with your remote team
- Always prioritise onboarding new team members
- Organise regular team-building activities for your remote team members
- Set a good example for your remote team members
The Covid pandemic has changed the way we work forever, and we are now officially living in a bold new world of remote working. Indeed, the latest results of a survey conducted by Eurofound (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions), based on nearly 90,000 ‘online’ surveys conducted in July 2021 have shown that almost half (48%) of respondents are now in remote work at least part of the time. And, of these, more than a third (34%) are working exclusively from home.
That’s more than one in three workers – and, as more and more companies embrace the world of remote work, that number is only expected to grow.
Of course, any astute leader will realise that the benefits of remote working are incredible – not just because it provides a better work-life balance for employees, but also because it reduces staff turnover, boosts productivity, and reduces the need for office space. Throw in the results of a recent report by the IWG Global Workforce Survey, which found that having more people work from home would help the environment, and you have a no-brainer: remote working is here to stay.
So, what’s holding some people back? Well, leading a remote team can be difficult – and some managers have found the transition from meeting team members in person to meeting them online a little… well, a little trickier than expected.
If managers adopt the right leadership strategies, however, they will find it simpler than ever to effectively lead a remote team to success.
Communicate, communicate and communicate with your remote team
“Over-communicating is one of the best things that you can do,” says Tania Kefs, the CEO and co-founder of Jurnee, during her appearance on the Leading From Afar podcast.
It’s better to talk to your employees too often rather than too little. “If it’s too much, your team will tell you,” she adds.
Essentially, a good leader needs to make sure that the lines of communication are kept open at all times. This is particularly important when managing remote teams, so be sure to book in regular brainstorms, meetings, and monthly updates – and make the most of all those brilliant online tools (such as Slack, Linear, Microsoft Teams and Zoom) to ensure that your team always has an easy way to reach out to you.
Get creative with your daily standup
Wherever possible, try to organise a quick 15-minute meeting for everyone at the start of your working day. Use this to run through a plan of action, open the floor up to questions, and – most importantly – figure out how everyone is feeling.
The easiest way to do the latter, Tania says, is to introduce a non-work-related question, such as: if you were an animal, which would you be – and why?
“It’s really simple things like this that can help you get a pulse of how everyone is doing,” explains Tania.
“You can get a sense of how people are feeling by how they react and answer to the question”, she adds.
Create a safe space for your remote team members to talk to you
It is important to create safe spaces for people to tell you if there's something happening in their lives.
With that in mind, remember to channel kindness and empathy, and be sure to keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your remote team members. And, on that note, ensure everyone has access to a line manager or HR advisor – just in case.
Customise your management techniques to suit your remote team
Everyone is different, which means that everyone works best in different circumstances. Be sure to ask each of your team members the following questions:
How do you like to be managed?
Some employees prefer to have their managers set a vision and overarching strategy, before allowing them to get to work on their own terms (check-ins will mainly take place to make sure they’re on the right track or to share new insights). Other employees might prefer to be involved in the decision-making process, and some might like to have their manager act as a coach and teacher. Try to customise your management style (within reason) to suit each employee, and they will thrive under your leadership.
How do you like to be communicated with?
Some employees might like to do face-to-face meetings for every update, while others might be happy with a more casual approach via a messaging service like Slack. Many employees still appreciate a follow-up email to important conversations.
What are your learning techniques?
Whether it’s active learning, presentations, or something more informal (perhaps a Q&A breakfast via Zoom), it’s good to figure out how your employees best learn and retain new information, to help them be the very best versions of themselves.
Different teams are not going to want the same things.
So don’t be afraid of testing different things at the beginning, figure out which rituals and techniques work best for your people, and adapt accordingly.
Organise 1-1s with your remote team members
If you want to be the kind of leader who inspires confidence in your remote team, you need to give them the opportunity to talk to you.
With that in mind, then, 1-1s are a must. They don’t have to be long; just a 30-minute chat every two weeks will do. Pop a recurring meeting into each of your team members' calendars, grab a coffee (or a tea), and sit down together for a virtual catch-up. Use these sessions to connect with them, as well as keep them informed about any updates and changes, offer constructive feedback, and ask for their feedback in turn.
Ask simple questions such as “Do you need help? Is there something that is unclear?" and "how are you feeling?” advises Tania, when asked what sort of questions a leader should ask during a 1-1 with a remote team member.
By delivering clear lines of communication, you will rapidly build trust amongst employees, which will, in turn, instil confidence in their abilities and in the company as a whole. Talk about a morale booster!
Invest in the technology you need to communicate with your remote team
We all know that it’s good to talk to our teams via the likes of Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams. However, it’s just as important for leaders to ensure that their remote team members are working to the same deadlines, goals and visions – and that’s where work management tools such as Asana and Trello come into play, as they allow everyone to keep abreast of what each other person on their team (and the wider company) is working on. From video conferencing tools to shared file storage apps, chat applications to reward and recognition software, be sure to do your research; choosing the right products is the best and easiest way to help your team collaborate efficiently.
Always prioritise onboarding new team members
Becoming the newest member of a remote team can feel lonely and isolating if it’s not done correctly. Make sure to create a digital handbook, introduce new team members to their colleagues, and set them up with a “work buddy”. Send out tech and logins ahead of time. Organise regular video coffee chats – and be sure to keep them going after the first week; set some goals, book a 30, 60 and 90-day meet-up, and keep talking. Because, as per Sterling, employees with proper support during onboarding are 54% more productive as new hires.
Organise regular team-building activities for your remote team members
All work and no play makes Jack a… well, we all know how that old adage goes. And that’s why it’s important to encourage informal communication between remote team members, to allow friendships and a sense of camaraderie to form.
“If you’re not in the office, you need to find new ways to meet and connect,” says Tania, who advises that leaders organise regular team-building events with their remote teams to get them to connect and engage with one another.
Of course, it’s trickier to chat socially as a big group when you’re tuning in virtually, so Tania urges leaders to book in something that requires “active engagement” – like a cooking class, a cocktail-making session, or a gardening lesson, or even a classic pub quiz.
These, she adds, will encourage employees to interact in a way that “feels comfortable” – and help them to bond with one another more effectively in turn.
Set a good example for your remote team members
When the boundaries between work and home are blurred, it can be all too easy for employees to work longer and harder than ever – and burnout as a result.
To help prevent this, it’s up to you to lead from the front. So be sure to…
- Take regular lunch hours and switch off on time – and, more importantly, encourage others to do the same
- If you must send emails out-of-hours, stress that an immediate reply is not required or just schedule your email for the following working day
- Set an out-of-office when you’re not working – and switch your status to “away”
- Prioritise results over hours worked
- Offer flexibility to your employees, and let them (to some degree) set their own schedules
- Don’t shout out or celebrate those who work overtime
- Encourage teamwork and collaboration
- Say thank you and celebrate great efforts – and do it often
Above all else, be the kind of leader who is open, collaborative, and intentional in all they do – and be sure to share your vision with your remote employees, too. Because this is the easiest way to become the kind of leader that inspires success and loyalty in their team.