Managing a remote team has long been a daunting challenge, whether it’s working to accommodate time zones, granting access to data or building long-term rapport between team members – remote team management can be a subject often avoided. While 2020 has proven a year with lots of unexpected curveballs, the most recent of them all has forced managers around the world to confront remote team working as working from home becomes the new norm. In today’s blog, we’ll dive into the challenges of remote team management and the tools which will help you improve efficiency.
Historically, working from home remained at the discretion of employers – with a recent survey showing that less than 30% of the 32.6 million employed in Britain as of December 2019 reported working from home. But with the current state of the world, working from home is no longer a luxury of a flexible employer, but instead, a government-mandated requirement. So how can managers unite teams in this ever-changing climate?
To successfully manage a remote team, we must first understand the key challenges remote teams often face. While traditionally limited to technical issues, this now expands further to consider employee emotions and morale.
Importance of Unplugging
Everyone has been affected by the rapid change witnessed in recent weeks and with everyone limited to the confines of their own home, feelings of cabin fever, isolation and restlessness are appearing around the world. No matter the size of your house, spending 24 hours a day in one place is difficult for anyone, especially when work-life and home life becomes entangled between the two. Perhaps most importantly, encourage team members to unplug and take time to recharge or even make use of the outdoor exercise options permitted by the Government. While seemingly counterintuitive at first, employees who unplug and set working from home boundaries actively work to avoid long-term burnout.
Make time for questions big and small
Often with rapid change, comes feelings of uncertainty and concern – with employees finding their feet in a new way of working. For many, simple tasks now have an added layer of complexity – no longer can employees quickly bounce ideas off each other and work collaboratively. Instead, many employees feel a level of formality in picking up the phone or sending an email – often which invalidates simple questions. While managing remote teams, incorporating instant messaging apps allow informal conversations to take place and emotions to be expressed with the use of GIFs and images. Consider utilising platforms such as Slack, WhatsApp or Skype as a means to allow your team to remain connected throughout the day, and encourage informal work-related chat.
Invest in platforms built for the cloud
When many think of working remotely, many begin to think of lack of collaboration, information silos, excessive emails and calendar overload – but with so many cloud-based solutions, teams can connect like never before. Many of tech’s biggest names have cloud-based productivity suites, from Office365 through to G Suite – there is no shortage of choice for your business. In the current business landscape, cloud-based solutions keep your teams connected, no matter the location and without unnecessary emails, meetings or silos.
Invest in dedicated workstation setups
Another challenge proving detrimental to efficiency and innovation is the setup of your team members home workstation. In the office, your team have their workstations and tools set up to optimise output, and for employees who regularly work from home, you’ll often find the same in a dedicated space with the necessary equipment. Now that all employees are working from home, and with the pace of implementation, many employees find themselves working from impromptu workstations, and increasingly experiencing reduced efficiency. Where possible, encourage team members to carve out space in their home for a dedicated workstation. Better yet, encourage staff to incorporate a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Something as simple as having a dedicated workspace with a basic ergonomic setup can have profound impacts on employee output and health.
When encouraging a great working from home setup, Fitzrovia IT recommends the following essentials:
- External monitor, keyboard & mouse for improved posture and ergonomics
- External webcam to ease neck and head strain
- Noise-cancelling headphones to improve focus
- Wifi extenders for improved connection quality
Set clear goals and stay on schedule
With the world in complete disarray, individuals and teams find themselves looking for familiarity. That’s why it’s never been more important to stick to timeframes and plans, as these often help ground the team and prioritise what they need to do into smaller manageable pieces. If your team can no longer have a daily huddle with ease, try investing some time into trying online project management apps designed to increase team visibility and track progress towards outcomes.
Some of our favourite online productivity apps are:
- Trello – great for user-friendliness, organisation and value for money
- Asana – great for integration, task management and progress tracking
- MS Teams – great for compatibility, collaboration and tracking group progress
Also important at this time, is remaining in touch with your team members, on a one on one level. While there are plenty of tools that exist in connecting people, it needn’t be any more involved than a simple phone call. A regular one on one chat allows each of your team members, the opportunity to feel heard and the opportunity to voice how they are coping.
In your next round of one-on-ones, try opening up a conversation with the following questions:
- How are you finding your routines while working from home?
- How are you finding your workspace setup and ability to focus?
- Are you feeling connected to the rest of your team?
Reinforce positive team culture
Lastly, remind your team of their part in your team and business. At a time where isolation is at an all-time high, creating a sense of belonging and shared efforts increase engagement and keep teams working cohesively. Do this in a way that is organic to your team, and have fun with it.
In conclusion, remote team management can be a daunting task, but with the amount of technology and resources available, it needn’t be. Bring a team closer together, when the world is keeping them apart, by working together to find their working from home groove. In turn, teams can begin to acclimatise to the change and build efficiency and collaboration in their workflows.