How Leaders Can Manage Remote Teams Effectively
The pandemic has been one big test. It tested our ability to multitask as we juggled online meetings with household chores. It was a test of our patience as we could no longer just walk up to a colleague to discuss something and instead waited for replies to emails and texts. It was also a test of our mental strength as we sailed through uncertainty and paranoia. Most importantly, it was the biggest test for leadership as leaders across the world tried to keep their teams together and came up with ideas to lift team spirit, reduce workplace stress and boost mood at work.
Remote leadership can be tricky. Here are a few things you should keep in mind while managing a team remotely:
1. Don’t send emails and messages after work
To ensure that your employees have a healthy work-life balance, it’s important to respect their personal time and space. Earlier, employees had the benefit of commute to separate professional and personal time. Some have even included fake commute in their schedule to do this efficiently. However, working from home has blurred the line between personal and professional, with emails pouring in after work. For managing remote teams, lead by example and discourage people from sending emails after office hours. It’s important for employees to unplug from work and set aside time for themselves.
2. Check-in on your employees frequently
Working from home has made socializing difficult. Interestingly, this is when we need to be the most social because staying at home and following a monotonous routine can impact our mental wellbeing. Social wellbeing has become one of the biggest challenges of managing remote employees. Since we spend several hours on calls, check-in with your employees to see how they are doing and if they need help with anything. The "Let’s stick to work" attitude while managing a team remotely can come across as cold or rude. Some organizations schedule weekly or bi-weekly catchup sessions where they discuss everything but work. It gives you a peek into your employees’ achievements and issues, so you can offer solutions and support them accordingly.
3. Weekends are to rest
Everybody deserves a break and weekend is the only time we get to rejuvenate and recharge ourselves. If your organization has a five-day work week, don’t expect employees to work on weekends. These meetings often start with, “It will only take five minutes” or “Let’s get on a quick call to finish this” and eat up a big chunk of your day. With top-down approach, you can create a company culture that treats weekends as sacred to one’s wellbeing for effectively managing remote teams. Have a strict policy against scheduling meetings or sending emails on weekends. If your employees feel overworked, they won’t be able to perform well.
4. Check the tone of your emails and messages
Working remotely means we rely heavily on non-verbal modes of communication which are devoid of intonation. A simple "Is this done?" can be interpreted in a million different ways over text or email and is one of the most confusing challenges of managing remote employees. Make sure your emails are worded appropriately to avoid any miscommunication and encourage your employees to do the same. Tone deaf emails and messages can lead to major clashes and while managing a team remotely, they become even harder to resolve. Refrain from using accusatory phrases and rude language to avoid such situations.
5. Be patient
Everyone is rushing towards the next deadline. But while working from home, there are additional responsibilities which may hamper one’s speed or flow of work. Avoid sending frequent, rude follow-ups while managing a team remotely. If something needs to be done on priority, emphasize on the urgency but don’t ping them incessantly for constant updates. Everyone has different working circumstances at home. Give them some time to work on it properly and respond at ease. Work is important but so is work-life balance. This fosters a healthy working relationship and helps in managing remote teams.
6. Lead with empathy and trust
When an employee says he/she is feeling unwell, don’t question it. Believe them and let them take the day off. If you think absenteeism will diminish productivity, think again. When someone works half-heartedly, they will neither be productive, nor efficient. Presenteeism is as detrimental to workplace wellbeing as absenteeism. Hence, guilting employees into working while they feel unwell or have personal commitments can lead to lower productivity while managing a team remotely. When you lead with empathy, employees feel cared for and trust you more. It establishes a good professional and personal relationship.
The challenges of managing remote employees are unique in their own way but easy to overcome. What has been your biggest learning during the pandemic? Tell us in the comments.