What Every Team Leader Must Know About Remote Management - And Why You Must Master It If You Want A High Performing Team
Remote working is becoming more and more popular. Team leaders need the right skills and tools to manage their remote teams and get the results that they want from their workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that many teams have implemented remote working for their employees. It has shown leaders that remote working is possible and even beneficial, and organisations are now considering continuing it to some extent even as social distancing regulations are easing up and after the pandemic too.
A survey in May 2020 found that 69% of UK workers were working from home at least some of the time, while 68% expected to continue working remotely in some capacity even after lockdown restrictions had eased.
These changes in remote working have meant that managers need to adapt and master remote management.
Remote management has unique challenges that don't come up when managing a team on-site. If you are a leader or manager facing the challenge of managing a remote team, there are various skills that you can learn and things that you can do to ensure it works out well. Use this guide to understand the challenges that you may face and what you need to know about successful remote management.
The Importance of Mastering Remote Management
A team is only as good as its leadership. Without proper management, any team can fall apart, resulting in reduced productivity and communication, and more. When you have a remote team, leadership becomes even more critical.
Managers need to know not just how to lead, but how to drive a remote team and face the challenges that remote working brings up.
When workers can't work directly with each other, there are hurdles to be overcome regarding communication and collaboration. Individual workers also need to maintain productivity, and it can be challenging to keep up morale and motivation.
Although each worker needs to take their initiative to work well in a remote environment, it's also the task of their manager to bring everyone together. It is the manager's job to keep up morale and motivate their team, while also helping to facilitate communication and productivity.
If you want a high-performing team, you need to know how to give them the tools that they need to do their jobs well—understanding the unique challenges presented by remote working and the skills that you need to manage a remote team will help you to master remote management.
Challenges of Remote Management
Remote management comes with its challenges, separate from those of managing a team in an office or another on-site environment.
The State of Remote Work report from Buffer reveals that some of the top challenges that remote workers highlight include unplugging after work, loneliness, and collaboration or communication. If managers are also working remotely, they may experience these issues themselves, but they also have to help their team to navigate these challenges.
For leaders, one of the key concerns of remote working is whether productivity will suffer.
Many remote workers report distractions at home, and the line between work and personal lives can become more blurred.
One of the ways some companies approach this challenge is to ensure distractions at home are reduced. Remote workers may be required to have a dedicated office space at home, or are asked that they have childcare in place even when working from home.
Understanding how productive your team is when they work from home can be hard. You can't directly monitor them because they're not sharing the same space as you. However, it's still possible to ensure workers are productive when they're working remotely.
Managers can monitor whether members of their team are engaged in their work and displaying behaviours to show that they are productive.
Communication and collaboration can be another critical challenge for remote managers and their teams.
Without being able to meet face-to-face, it's essential to find other communication methods that work for your team. Fortunately, modern technology offers a range of tools that facilitate remote communication between team members. As a manager, you must encourage communication in your team and ensure everyone is working well together.
88% of remote workers use email to stay in touch with their colleagues, while 47% use instant messaging. Other popular technologies include video conferencing and VoIP/Skype. While it's a good idea to offer a few different ways to communicate, it can also be helpful to keep information and conversations in one place. Some companies choose to use tools like Slack for communications, or Asana, which also offers tools for organising and tracking work. Several firms have their own internal management tools.
While email and instant messaging may be useful for one-on-one communication, meetings using video conferencing or on the phone are often better for group meetings.
Being able to conduct virtual meetings is one of the key skills that managers of remote teams should develop.
Whether meeting with one or two people or calling a meeting with your whole team, video calls allow you to communicate practically face-to-face, allowing everyone to have their input.
Regular meetings keep everyone updated and help to ensure everyone knows which tasks they should be doing.
One of the other challenges of managing a remote team is maintaining work-life balance. This is something that is an issue for managers, but it's also necessary for leaders to help their team members.
A good work-life balance helps people to stay engaged with their work and maintain motivation, while also boosting health and wellness.
Remote working can make work-life balance a struggle, as it becomes difficult to separate work and home life when working from home. It's important to avoid expecting your workers to be available at all times or, if working with people in different time zones, to expect some people to sacrifice more of their personal time than others.
The Skills Leaders Need to Manage a Remote Team
To successfully manage a team remotely, managers and leaders should ensure they have developed several skills that will allow them to meet the challenges of remote management.
Being able to keep track of the progress and productivity of your team is one of the essential skills that you will need.
Remote working can make this more difficult, and you may need to do some things to improve productivity among your team. For example, requiring them to have no distractions at home, such as children or pets, will help to keep them on-task.
You can also help remote workers to be productive by putting the right systems in place to help them report their progress. This holds them accountable and allows you to track their productivity.
Whatever method that you use to check your workers' progress, make sure to communicate your expectations.
When tackling the issue of communication with your remote team, you also need to have the right tools and systems in place, as well as the right skills.
When you are relying on communication methods such as email and video calls, you need to be able to communicate effectively using these tools.
Making yourself clear when using email or being able to manage a video meeting are two of the skills that you will need to develop to be an effective remote manager. Many people have had to learn how to use tools such as Zoom during the pandemic, but these tools are, of course, useful for remote working at other times too.
Maintaining a work-life balance is something that you need to be able to do for yourself, as well as something that you also need to help your remote workers to do. If you work with people in different time zones, make sure you're not always putting the obligation to work or attend meetings outside of normal working hours on them.
Don't expect your team to put in extra hours if there is no need to, and avoid expecting them to respond to work communications outside of working hours.
Your work-life balance is important too, so learning to switch off at the end of the day is a must, especially if you are also working remotely.
Remote working can deliver a vast range of benefits to any business, but it does come with challenges. If you are a team leader, mastering remote management is a must if you want it to be successful.