Working remotely with a team of people presents its own set of challenges but it can also be rewarding if you make a few adjustments to your remote management style. Managing a team working from their own homes requires a careful balance of structure and flexibility. Here are a few things to keep in mind when managing remote teams.
Just as if you were working from an office, it’s a great idea to have a master schedule of every employee’s availability, upcoming vacation time, and lunch breaks. If you have remote staff members working in different time zones, a schedule can remind you when individuals will be available during the day.
If you have part-time and full-time remote employees mixed in across multiple time zones, a schedule is an invaluable tool. Create a master schedule as a collaborative spreadsheet and make sure every employee has viewing access to the schedule in case they need to contact their fellow team members. This also helps the team respect each others’ time. Don’t forget to include your availability, too.
Once you’ve made a schedule and shared it with everyone, it’s important to stick to that schedule. Expectations of when your remote workers can be expected to respond to calls, emails, texts, and chats have been set. Be respectful of your team with regards to their schedule. Don’t expect team members to respond to calls or emails outside of their availability even if they say that they will do so.
Allow team members to use their sick days, mental health days, and earned vacation time. Working from home does not mean that they will be working 24/7. Chances are this is a new venture for your team so help them work towards developing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Calendars are great for scheduling check-ins, meetings, follow-up reminders, and deadlines. Unlike the schedule, all team members should have the ability to edit and manage their team meeting calendars. Make good use of the reminders feature and encourage your team to set reminders for themselves as well.
If you like, you can keep a personal calendar for yourself to set reminders to check in with certain members depending on the depth of their assignments and their availability schedule. A shared calendar is just one tool in your arsenal when it comes to communicating with your team members.
When it comes to managing remote teams, erring on the side of over-communication is better than not. Because your team isn’t able to pop into your office to ask questions and vice-versa, you want to be as clear as possible when it comes to assignments, scheduling, and meeting briefings.
If you miss a phone call or cannot take a call from a team member, respond with a text or chat message to let them know you will get to it as soon as possible. Similarly, respond to emails within a few hours especially if they contain questions about assignments. Never take longer than 24 hours to respond to an email if you can help it.
Give your team multiple options to communicate with you in the event they do have questions so they can work quickly and efficiently. Check in with your team on a regular basis but not so much that you prevent them from working towards deadlines.
A scheduled weekly check-in is a great idea for remote work. Checking in individually with each of your team members at least once a week promotes individual accountability. It also helps you as a remote manager assess where your team members are as they work towards deadlines and allows you to assist with any problems or scheduling conflicts that may arise.
It’s important to have a virtual face-to-face at least once a month with your team members. This helps you both connect as a remote manager and team member and helps to put a face behind their voice.
All other weekly check-ins can be conducted over the phone if you wish. When making new assignments, it’s important to make time for a phone call to go over the specifics. Give team members time to review their assignment material and then follow up with a quick no more than 15 minute phone call to go over any questions or clarifications.
It is just as important for your team members to hear from you on a one-on-one basis as it is for the entire group to get together. If it works for your team, try and schedule a weekly check-in via Zoom or other video chat source.
While these meetings can be a little more casual treat them no differently than you would if you were working from an office. Be respectful of people’s deadlines: don’t let the meetings go over longer than necessary with chit-chat and catching up. Create a weekly agenda to keep everyone on task.
Group chats are also a great way to engage with your remote team as a whole. Be mindful of text and chat room etiquette and try not to blow up the thread with multiple chat messages that could go into a mass email.
Setting expectations through a shared schedule, calendar invites, one-on-ones, and group meetings is paramount to success when managing a remote work team. With the entire team working from home instead of in an office it will be an adjustment, but if you consistently apply all of the above tactics it will come as second nature in no time.
Since you are all working from your respective homes remember the golden rule when it comes to contacting your virtual team members. Do your best to keep work talk during work hours so that each team member can adjust to their new work-life balance.
If you work with your virtual team to set expectations and then follow through with those expectations in a manner that respects both their diligence and their time you’re sure to see success as a manager of a remote work team.
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