Suddenly Managing Your Team Remotely? These Tips Will Help!

Now is the time to flex those leadership muscles. Teams are uncertain, people who haven’t typically worked remotely are now working remotely 100% of the time for the foreseeable future. 

As a leader and manager, the change from in-office to remote work can be just as daunting for you as it is for your team. So, today I’m going to share some of my tried-and-true tips for managing remotely in a way that is both successful and less stressful than what you’d imagine. 

Top 5 Tips for Managing a Remote Team

  1. Set a schedule.

    “Wow, duh.” you may say but not duh because a lot of leaders already don’t have a reasonable schedule and working from home can either cause you to work EVEN MORE or kind of go off of the rails. Your team is no different.

    Parents are home with kids, people may be care-giving for friends and family, or people are just trying to de-stress because things are pretty stressful right now. With all of that in mind, you can make their day (and yours) a lot less stressful by setting parameters for work time and to manage expectations.

    Set up a protocol for everyone with rules like:
  • Say “Hi!” in the group chat to show when you sign in.
  • Make sure to let the group know when you are stepping away from the computer for a break (15 minutes +).
  • If you need to be “headphones in” to get some work done without interruption, let the group know and then put the DND message up. 
  • Set up an out-of-office message for your email for before-and-after business hours. This can let your customers and vendors know your hours and that your team is working remotely and what they can expect to change if anything.

2. Do video calls instead of phone calls.

Everyone has someone on their team who complains about video calls but…times, they are a-changin’ and it’s time to get on board with things that need to be done.  Lifesize, a video-conferencing platform, conducted a survey to find out what was the what about video calls for business and came up with some great data. The two stats that stuck out to me the most were these: 

89% of respondents agree that video conferencing reduces time to complete projects or tasks

Firstly, as a leader, you think about productivity and profitability. You want people to get things done well and you want them to get things done consistently and there are a lot of fears around working from home and goofing off that have prevented a lot of business from taking this step. Let this stat help assuage your fears! 

89% of users say video conferencing helps them feel connected 

This one, for me, is really critical. There have been a lot of warnings about how the quarantine will affect people’s mental health. Going from a busy, populated office to a quieter, work from home environment can be both stressful and depressing. Humans are pack animals, we need to bond and connect with others to feel safe and happy. Video calls allow team members to see each other, share their thoughts, and, for some, may help stave off what could be a serious bout of depression and anxiety. 

Psst…if you don’t currently use a video platform there is a TON out there! Chat programs like Slack, Skype, Spark, Google Hangouts, and Teams already have video features built-in. And platforms like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Lifesize also have free options. 

3. Don’t micromanage.

This is going to be hard for some. Without the ability to check in more consistently and visually with your team like you can at the office, you may start to feel anxious about what your team is (and isn’t) doing.

Take some cleansing breaths because that is the new normal and that’s ok.

There are times when your team *will* be goofing off but, guess what? They were doing it already, just a little more subtly and it’s important to allow your team the time to let off steam, rest their brains, and get stimulation from other things besides their computer screens. You need to do this, too!

Clearly communicate your expectations, make sure your team is tracking time and know about their deadlines and let them show you that they’re doing just fine. Nothing makes a person feel less passionate and willing to work than a boss micromanaging them because it tells them one big thing: you don’t trust them.

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4. Conduct more regular one-on-ones.

Not everyone is comfortable sharing their fears or anxiety in a group chat or video call with their peers so you need to make time to check in with the individual members of your team. Whether that team is made up of managers managing their direct reports or not, everyone needs a little attention to feel reassured.

Please note: this doesn’t have to be daily or even weekly! I like to send out emails to the team along the lines of “Hey! I’m going to be setting up some check-ins with each of you as I know this situation can be a little overwhelming. If you want a chat sooner rather than later, either text me or respond to this email (just to me, please) and I can put you at the top of the list. Thanks!”

Even if no one responds to get moved to the head of the line, they see that you care and that you’re thinking about them and that can be more reassuring than the meeting itself. 

5. Set new/updated goals for yourself and for your team.

Yes, yes: goal setting. You may already have goals or milestones in place for projects but it’s time to re-evaluate them and make sure they still make sense. It may take longer to get that app ready to launch or that report to be finished because communication is happening in a new way that some team members may still be getting used to.

So check, or have managers check and report back to you, the current To-Do list for the team and make sure everything is on track and the deadlines are still feasible. Nothing makes someone lose steam more than a project that seems impossible to accomplish.

Along these lines: If everything is important, then nothing is important.

Be sure to effectively communicate with your team about the priority of all the things that need to be done. A little guidance can go a long way and it’s better to communicate expectations clearly than to assume everyone gets it and then find out (maybe disastrously) that they didn’t. 

Managing a remote team isn’t easy…but it’s do-able

There are more than 5 tips on how to make this work and, no doubt, you have a list of your own. If you take only one thing away from today let it be this:

Communication is critical.

Make sure the lines of communication are open. Team members that “aren’t good at Slack” or who don’t check their email more than once a day have to get good. Everyone has to be in it or no one is successful. 

Set expectations, be available, and wash your hands!