10 Tips for Leading Remote Teams

Modis Posted 14 April 2022

Like all work, remote working – working from a coffee shop, hotel or currently mostly at home, rather than a traditional office – has challenges.

These include team bonding, collaboration, and work oversight, and employees and their managers must work together to adjust to the new normal. In achieving success, leadership matters. Up to 70% of employee engagement can be attributed to managers, while feelings of isolation reduce performance by up to a fifth.

The Resetting Normal whitepaper outlined why companies must support the new breed of leaders to ensure they are best placed to address major threats to company cohesion. Equipping leaders with upskilling, coaching and resources and technology that will help them to better listen to and manage their teams, increase and nurture motivation, and a strong team morale and culture should be a priority for businesses as managers play a key role in making remote work a success.

And at a time when we are connected all the time, the workforce has never felt more disconnected. Leaders hold the key to reconnecting employees and reinventing culture. Here are our tips on how they can maximise the potential of their teams.

1. Set clear norms

In an office setting, the nuances of expected behaviour are often clear, just from observation. That breaks down with a remote team, however, in which everyone develops their own norms. Start with a meeting that establishes some of the ground rules. It’s best to be collaborative and flexible about introducing these, rather than dictating norms. For example, setting a meeting for 9am every morning might not work for parents whose children might also be at home with them.

2. Determine flexible hours

Establish core hours when everyone should be available but create flexible periods outside of that. Take the time to determine the skills and capacity of your team members, so that you know what to expect from each. Last year Atlassian trialled a four-day workweek for nine weeks where they were able to maintain and improve on their key performance metrics and even felt an improved sense of wellbeing!

3. Not everything is an emergency

While setting your norms, decide what constitutes an emergency. Again, with people juggling other responsibilities while working remotely, it’s best to specify when an urgent task needs to be completed and within what timeframe. Perhaps tasks are assigned priorities 1, 2 and 3, in which the first are urgent and must be completed within the hour, the second are needed by 5pm and the third by the end of the week.

4. Have regular meetings

Have meetings at the beginning and end of the day, at regular times. In the morning, determine what needs to be done, and in the evening round-up what has been achieved. Everyone should be clear about which tasks they are responsible for and what the deliverables are.

5. Run productive meetings

Keep your meetings productive. Everyone in the meeting must be adding value, or their time is being wasted. If you need to have extra meetings, then make sure only the relevant people are included. Each meeting should have a clear goal. If it doesn’t, then perhaps it shouldn’t take place.

6. Break the ice

Find ways to build team relationships. Acknowledge achievements and give shout-outs to those who are doing good work. Celebrate birthdays or other milestones. And consider creating a virtual water cooler, where people can unwind but also build working relationships. This could be a channel on the company messaging platform, where people can share video clips or jokes and quizzes.

7. Be explicit about expectations

Don’t say a task should be completed by “close of business” when the team is working flexibly. Specify a time – and in which time zone if you are leading a global team. Don’t assume that people know what you mean and remember that checking on particular details is harder with a remote team because people might be more difficult to contact.

8. Break tasks down

Break tasks into smaller chunks and make sure everyone knows which piece is their responsibility. This isn’t micromanaging, it’s a recognition that remote working has its limits. For example, you can’t communicate with body language and written text can be misinterpreted.

9. Emphasise the personal

As mentioned above, feelings of isolation are unpleasant and unproductive. Keep everyone in mind in your interactions and remember that people will be experiencing more stress and anxiety than usual.

10. Turn your cameras on (if you can)

Finally, when it comes to team meetings encourage everyone to turn on their cameras (obviously, taking into consideration the current limits of internet speed, connectivity, and network capacity). Seeing people, rather than only hearing them, will create a stronger connection and make it easier for people to keep their attention on the call.

Building an effective remote team takes time and now that hybrid working is the new norm it’s critical that employees and managers adapt. However, when it comes to implementing the above list, take your time and be patient.

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