Remote Team Management: The Do’s and Don’ts

Remote team management has always been different for team managers and leaders. Not just challenging, but different. Not having the luxury to rub shoulders often and not having the liberty to have the entire team under one roof has compelled leaders to acquire new and innovative approaches to remote leadership. 

And while leadership styles and management approaches are ever-evolving, there are some core principles of effective remote team management that team leaders can stick to. In this article, we talk about some of the best practices for remote work, and some strict No-No’s for leaders managing a remote team. And if you are one, just dive right in.

Remote Team Management: The Do’s

Clear and effective communication

Communication is the core of everything in a remote working setup, and the manager’s communication influences the overall success of a project significantly. The clarity of the message or feedback holds utmost importance to ensure prompt action. As most of the communication in a remote work setting is asynchronous, it is important that the message should be clearly understood by all members of the team in one go to avoid confusion.

Also, it is equally important for managers to adopt a more structured way to communicate. For instance, it’s appropriate to write one detailed email about the tasks scheduled for the upcoming day, rather than sending intimation emails or messages after the completion of each task on the same day.

Set and respect boundaries for work

It’s often observed that the employees become more productive when working in a home setting, due to fewer non-work disruptions and more focus on the assigned task. While at a regular office, the focus time of a worker reduces to a significant extent if the managers and colleagues load him/her with questions and clarifications too frequently.

The other side of this “increased productivity” is that it’s often misread as employees left with too much free time at home. And as much as a manager may find it feasible to assign the worker a few more tasks for the day, the more hampering it could be for the persons’ social and personal routine.

So it becomes imperative for a team leader to set realistic expectations and ensure that the resources are not overwhelmed with work, and could maintain a healthy balance between their work and life activities.

Use the right set of tools for communication and management

It’s an undeniable reality that the effectiveness of a remote office is significantly influenced by the technology at work. And it is very important for managers and team leaders to pick the right tools for team communication and management, which may suit the exclusive needs of their team.

Having the right technology at your disposal significantly helps to keep the management and collaboration process smooth. It helps to define goals clearly, communicating effectively and monitoring the overall progress without much hassle.  

Facilitate out-of-work interactions

The workflow of a remote office could be both taxing and monotonous at the same time. As the workers work in isolation, without those chats by the watercooler and relaxing coffee breaks with teammates, they become prone to distress and often portray a lack of enthusiasm towards work. In such a case, the remote leadership should take initiatives to keep up their spirits and motivation.

Scheduling virtual hangout meets and fun activities could be a very effective method to cope with this scenario. Such interactions don’t just help to have some breathing space amid a consistent flow of work but also helps to create a bond and cultivate a sense of togetherness within a geographically distributed team.

Encourage and empower

Remote working liberates the workers enough and this could be turned into a fantastic opportunity to shape future leaders for the team. Managers should nurture the subordinates by giving them the freedom to make choices, and while still overseeing their working patterns, the leaders could choose to delegate a few more responsibilities across the team with a view upskilling and enhancing the understanding of the team.

This structured delegation of work ignites motivation among the team members and helps to accelerate the pace and increase the effectiveness of working.

Remote Team Management: The Don’ts

Never micromanage

While it’s absolutely OK and rather immensely fruitful for a leader to engage in productive work-related talk with the team sometime through the day, it is absolutely frustrating for an employee if a manager keeps asking for petty details frequently in the name of follow-ups or work updates.

Right from tracking the day of an employee to the smallest of its detail, to expecting their 24/7 availability at work, managers should introspect and identify if they are “overdoing” it. This behavior of a team leader gives the employee a sense of being under constant invigilation, which happens to be frustrating and immensely counter-productive. 

Don’t take your team members’ time for granted

As indicated above, it is of paramount importance for a manager to respect the employees’ time at work. It’s a negative practice to seek the employees’ availability at odd hours and expect over time. It is important to give the employees some time to fulfill their personal and social commitments. A worker with a refreshed and rejuvenated mindset is productive and proactive altogether, rather than someone who’s fatigued, drained, and unmotivated.     

Don’t let your team members feel neglected

Finally, managers are also responsible for keeping the worker engaged and interested in its work. Employees don’t feel respected when the work assigned to them doesn’t match their caliber or when their contribution at work goes unnoticed.

Uneven and improper delegation of work is among the root causes that tend to make employees feel neglected. Oftentimes, too much work is entrusted upon one or a handful of workers of the team. This approach tends to leave the other workers with relatively less and insignificant tasks.  

And while the uneven distribution could be overwhelming for some, the constant overlooking of capabilities could be much more draining for others. In addition, the isolation and distance from the team make it even worse. Therefore, the managers should always devise ways to make team members feel respected and valued.

Conclusion

It is a fact that remote team management is a hard nut to crack. The presence of a physical office with the team sitting just across the vertical provides the managers a great deal of luxury in overseeing the developments at work. But with a remote working setup, the leading and operating mechanisms go for a toss. And everyone, including the leaders, has to change their ways.

For being successful at leading and managing teams remotely, the leader needs to be more flexible, more understanding, and more considerate. Having these qualities will help both the leaders and their teams to overcome business challenges and take appropriate and humane decisions in their own interest.

Blog cover by Kalaimaran Jeyagandhi