In any major city, you are bound to find cafes teeming with remote-working professionals who have various skillsets and passions. In the digital age, having teams that work remotely from home (or even in other countries) is becoming increasingly common. A remote working team grants new freedom and flexibility. However, for managers who want to manage a successful team, this may also pose some challenges.
When managing a team that works outside of the office, the biggest challenge is making sure that your members are engaged and that they feel like an essential part of the company. Several communication strategies can help you stay connected, increase productivity, and feel like a unified team. Here are five strategic implementations to increase success in managing your remote working team.
1. Create a Communication Plan
Communication is a vital ingredient for managing a team, and it’s particularly important for managing a team you won’t be seeing at the office every day. The team needs to know what information needs to be shared, how to share it, who to share it with, and how to consistently stay in touch.
Opening multiple channels of communication allows team members to touch base, ask questions, and connect as often as needed. Some of these channels can include emails for ongoing threads, chat programs for creating a team environment, phone calls for personal interactions, and sharing videos or screenshots for explaining something visually. Use communication channels to help remote workers share ideas, connect with one another, and stay motivated.
Here are some useful communication platforms that you might consider using:
2. Use Project Management Tools
Remote team collaboration can be incredibly effective and efficient with the right collaboration and project management tools. Depending on your exact needs, you can choose collaboration tools such as Google Drive and Dropbox for sharing files.
You can also use a full-fledged project management system with a host of useful features. Many project management systems have a variety of benefits including organizing and storing shared files, assigning tasks within projects, tracking the progress of projects, and setting schedules on a calendar to assign deadlines. These tools are helpful for any team, but become essential when communication is hindered by not sharing an office. Some project management software that can help you connect to your remote team include:
Even the smallest teams can benefit from having all conversations, documents, and other information related to a project in one main location instead of scattered throughout their email inbox.
3. Make Time for Personal Interactions
Connecting personally is essential for building familiarity and trust within your team. Set aside a few minutes during each phone call or video conference to chat about the same type of things you’d ask on-site team members. For example, you can ask about their kids, their pets, their family, or their weekend plans.
Face-to-face meetings can also go a long way towards building trust and camaraderie. Depending on how remote your team is, you may be able to schedule face-to-face meetings more often. Periodically flying in team members to take part in meetings or company retreats is a way to develop meaningful relationships in a short amount of time, while helping all employees feel included. However, if in-person are impossible, you can still help members get to know each other by holding virtual team-building sessions.
Regular one-on-one phone or video calls with your team members is another way to check in with your group. A weekly monthly one-on-one lets you provide individual feedback to team members while checking in on their progress. This also helps you see if there’s anything they need from you.
4. Extend Company Culture
No matter how strong and vibrant your company culture may be, your remote team will have a harder time getting a sense of it unless you openly share it. Make sure that your team has a clear understanding and affiliation with the company culture. Creating videos for your team can also serve to motivate, inspire, and reinforce the company values, vision, and mission.
If your company regularly hands out T-shirts or other giveaways, make sure your remote team members get them as well. The same holds true for awards, recognition, and other on-site perks offered throughout your organization.
Another way to consistently maintain company culture is to have a culture calendar. This calendar should be accessible by everyone and can include company birthdays, weekly fitness challenges, or free events such as a company-sponsored movie night.
5. Establish Expectations and Processes
An effective leader always sets clear team expectations from the start and establishes ground rules for interactions, accountability, processes, and performance goals. The same guidance needs to be extended to your remote team. Specific topics to address can include: etiquette and corporate guidelines around communication, how meetings will be scheduled, how conflicts will be resolved and avoided, and how progress and productivity will be measured and reported.
While managing a remote working team is different than managing an in-office team, there’s one aspect that remains the same: you’re managing and connecting with real people. Even if you never meet any of your remote workers face-to-face, they are much more than names and photos on the screen. They are real people with desires to contribute to your company while growing their career. Give them the same level of praise, feedback, and professional guidance you provide to all other employees, and you both are highly likely to shine.
One of the challenges of remote team members is that it can be difficult to get to know their personalities if you have limited face time with them on a daily basis. One way you can speed up the learning process of getting to know your colleagues is through a personality assessment—a great team building tool that you can easily administer to a remote team. Personality assessments can act as a catalyst towards establishing trust between a manager and their team.
The Birkman Method is an assessment tool that gives insights into one's personality and helps build self-awareness as well as mutual appreciation within teams. Birkman delves into facets of one's personality such as their strengths and what they expect from their peers. This can be especially helpful when working with remote teams. A manager may give his remote team plenty of freedom and autonomy in how they execute their tasks, while the team may actually crave more structure and guidance. Knowing this, the manager can better plan projects in detail, avoiding potential issues that may arise.
Amy is a third generation University of Texas Longhorn. Since graduation, Amy has had a passion for all things Birkman as she works to continue her grandfather’s legacy. In 2011, Amy completed her MBA at Tulane University. In her current position of Director of Product Innovations, Amy’s mission is to maintain the sophistication of the Birkman tool while expanding the use and application for the next generation. When not at work, Amy and her husband, Hatch, enjoy spending time with their daughter Lulu. Together, their favorite activities include eating brunch, lunch, and dinner.