How to Successfully Lead an Effective Team of Newly Remote Workers
COVID-19 is forcing us to make organizational adjustments that are outside of the comfort zone for some. Although it’s been reported that 43 percent of employees work remotely with some frequency, leading a team of employees from afar can feel daunting, especially if those employees are new to working from home.
Working remotely is an adjustment. Some people can work independently and actually waffle when there are too many distractions from other co-workers. On the other hand, there are some people who actually feed off of the energy of other people, so they don't do as well when they're set to work by themselves at home. Here are a few tips that you can incorporate into your management process to make the best team of remote workers possible.
Provide a Variety of Effective and Collaborative Communication Channels
Even though each of your team members are working from their own homes, they still need to collaborate with each other on some projects. Email is appropriate in traditional face-to-face office environments, but it is not an efficient collaboration tool for remote teams.
Instant messaging platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams provide an outlet for quick mobile-friendly communication. Chats are organized by project and brainstorming can be done in real-time, just like in a physical meeting space. In addition, video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts are easy-to-use tools for face-to-face collaborations and meet-ups.
You and your team should exchange telephone numbers so that everyone can get a hold of each other if there's ever a time when talking on the phone is actually the better form of communication.
Set Up Recurring Group Huddles and Meet-ups that Foster Interaction
One of the biggest concerns of having a remote team is people not knowing how to understand each other or work through problems online. It might be a breeze, or it might be a struggle, but having social opportunities will help with the transition to establishing remote relationships.
Weekly, even daily, meet-ups or huddles are a perfect way to get your team prepped and engaged. Try starting each meeting on a personal note by catching up on news, sports or weekend plans. This will increase social interaction between team members. Or you could:
- Host a virtual water-cooler session(s) for 5-10 minutes throughout the day for people to drop in for a quick chat
- Schedule a virtual lunch for 30 minutes a few times a week where team members can catch up over lunch
- Organize an after work Happy Hour to celebrate a team win over an adult beverage
Clearly Define Expectations
When you're working with a remote team, it's especially important to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. Just like starting a project where you'll all be physically meeting to work together, you need to clearly define expectations and goals so that everyone knows what their part is and how it fits together with other people's parts.
This includes communication expectations. Be sure it is clear when to use various channels with clear expectations like, “We will use Zoom for daily meet-ups but urgent communications should be handled via phone,” or “All project-related communications should be organized in the appropriate Slack channel.”
Encourage Employees to Create Balance
You want your employees to be diligently turning in their work, but you also need them to create some balance. Since they're working from home, they might have difficulties creating boundaries between their personal and work lives. Poor balance between work and home life happens to the best of us, in fact, but if your employees don't have any time for family because they're working too much, they might be less enthusiastic to do quality work.
Help your employees create a balance between home and work by letting them know that you support them creating boundaries and giving them strategies for unplugging from their email and other accounts that might call them back to work in the middle of dinner with their families.
There are many benefits to having a remote work team, but you need to be prepared if you are starting one for the first time. There are many challenges that are different, but they're not always any more or less difficult than the problems you might encounter when working in a physical office with your team. Make small adjustments as the months roll forward. Soon enough, you'll feel just as comfortable with your remote work team as you've been with on-site teams in the past.