With the emergence of our latest feature to create and search for remote jobs, we thought it would be perfect timing for us to pitch in with some battle-tested knowledge on how to build and manage remote teams.
Remote work, or the WFH movement (WFH) is quickly becoming one of the most discussed topics in the business world.
Is it good or bad for productivity? Was it inevitable? And will people transition back into standard offices after the Covid-19 crisis is over?
The answers depend largely on who you ask. But in terms of job satisfaction, employees certainly favor working from home.
In fact, 98% of them would like to continue working remotely after the pandemic, and Owl Labs reports that 71% are happier now, versus 55% of on-site workers. That’s a fairly huge 16% difference.
Still, one thing’s for certain: there’s no escaping remote teams these days. And managers, founders and executives, must put all the odds in their favour when it comes to getting the most out of this new setting.
Which is why we’ve gathered 7 tips to help you get the most of this usual situation, which could very well become the new normal.
#1 Set regular remote check-ins
We’ve all heard the sentence “this meeting should have been an email”. But in a work from home setting, it’s more important than ever to create these meeting opportunities, in the form of one-on-one and face-to-face chats.
Of course, for larger teams, it’s feasibly impossible to do it daily, but a weekly video conference can go a long way in fostering a sense of community with your team.
A neat trick here is to understand the difference between asynchronous communication (emails, Slack messages, voice memos), synchronous communication (that happens in real time via Slack chat, for instance), and in-person communication. It’s the latter you need to focus on to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Keep learning how message and format can enrich each other once done right. Can you challenge the status quo? How about walk n’ talk’s in-person or separately over the phone? Do you live close to a colleague so you can meet in a park near your homes to do a walk n’ talk? And as point four indicates setting expectations is always important this is true for 1:1s as well. Agree beforehand if the meeting should be in person or online, walking or in front of the computer. Either way it requires prepping from both.
#2 Leverage technology designed for remote teams
One huge advantage of our tech-based work culture is that there’s no shortage of internal communications options. Zoom was poised to be the winning video conferencing tool during the peak of the pandemic, but Skype is still a strong bet, and Google and Microsoft also gave away their enterprise video calling tools due to coronavirus.
The main challenge here? Avoiding silos and crossed signals. If your employees have too many options for communication, it can be overwhelming and actually backfire. Which is why it’s so important to establish the rule of engagement.
#3 Champion clear communication
Clear communication is challenging enough in person, but with a scattered workforce it can become a minefield. Here, your goal is to ensure nothing gets lost in translation, even if it means over communicating at first.
Think about how you and fellow employees can adapt voice tone based on the communication channel. Adding a friendly emoji can go a long way in softening a pressing request or criticism. And once again, jumping on a quick call to confirm everything’s been understood by all parties is never a bad idea. It’s probably one of the compromises employees will be willing to make. Work from home, but be prepared for more video calls. It will help everyone in the long run when operating with remote teams.
#4 Manage remote team expectations
This step will already be familiar to managers, but it’s worth pointing out that expectations must be reassessed in a new setting. This is doubly true for working during a pandemic.
But the key is that it’s not about lowering your expectations. In fact, many managers will have to set the same KPIs and goals for remote teams as for physical office teams. It’s more about clearly stating the reasons behind the goals, the scope, deadlines and deliverables for each task or project.
#5 Focus on outcome, not activity
Another tried and tested technique from the best managers: they know the importance of focusing on results rather than activities. When staff focus on activities, they focus on staying busy. It’s particularly true in a remote teams / work from home scenario, where the task management software can become your office headquarters.
But zooming out on the optics with your staff helps gain better perspective on why things need to be done, rather than when. This is when you can begin to trust that employees will become more responsible, accountable, and hopefully productive too.
Remember to ask “the why”. Why are we doing this activity? What is the purpose? Maybe now is a good time to put some structure into everyday work to improve communication, to work more transparently and to make the goals and the means to reach them crystal clear. How you get there is not important but the fact that you do get there is. Suggestions on methods to apply:
– Incremental Levers: define those big sales that will bridge the gap for you in this quarter to create a clear focus and priority.
– Implement OKRs for your company, your teams and/or individuals. Define your objectives in a way that excites you all and get you up in the Morning. Your key results should be ambitious and measurable. Test the method out for at least a quarter to know if this is for you.
– Define specific growth experiments as drivers to your key results or as measurable output driven activities. These should help answer the why.
– Create structure with digital tools e.g Koan.co to manage your remote teams’ goals and OKRs, Trello or Monday to manage progress on projects or Notion to manage your remote teams, company and projects.
#6 Show empathy
If your team is working from home, chances are you are too. And any challenge you meet (screaming children, lack or space, tendency to procrastinate) are also faced by your colleagues.
So yes, as many COVID-19 emails have stated: we’re all in this together. And your job as a manager is to remind your team of the benefits of working from home, but also to be understanding of the difficulties it might create. This is probably one of the most valuable takeaways for managing remote teams.
#7 Promote social activities
Social isolation will happen more as people work so far away from each other. In fact, loneliness is one of the key complaints of remote staff. According to Gallup research, close work friendships can boost employee satisfaction by up to 50%. Employees with a best friend at work are also 7 times more likely to be fully engaged. But a lack of face-to-face interactions could hinder these beneficial connections.
Try to encourage your team to plan social activities and give them a mandate to spend money or book in other people’s time for non-business related tasks.
The takeaway? It’s your job to foster positive social interactions remotely. Luckily, there’s no shortage of tools at your disposal, from training programmes to online team building activities. You could even set up a virtual water cooler on Slack where employees hang out, share memes and just unwind with each other.
Whether you’re pro WFH or still have your doubts about it, one thing is for certain: we are currently witnessing a paradigm shift in how businesses worldwide do work.
A quality of the best managers is their ability to adapt. Circumstances change, the office as we know it might be a thing of the past in a few years. But your goal remains focused, patient and helpful for all the people whose productivity depends on you.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful for you to manage your remote teams during the COVID-19 crisis as it continues to unfold, but also for whatever the new era brings us!