8 Ways to Support Your Remote Teams
Even though we are two years past the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and workers are now more equipped and comfortable with working remotely, it is still important to offer support for the remote workers on your team.
Before the pandemic, nearly a quarter of workers were already working remotely (at least for some portion of the time). For those businesses and their teams who were previously and have continued to manage remote work successfully, we can learn a few things from them!
Establishing remote-working procedures, policies, protocols, and training in advance is preferable. But as we learned during the seemingly quick onset of the pandemic, where everything shut down at a moment's notice, advanced preparation is not always possible. However, some studies have proven some of the best ways for leaders to improve their remote teams' morale, engagement, and productivity, even with minimal preparation time. The time to increase support for your remote team is now, and we are going to show you how to do just that!
Common Challenges for Remote Workers
A good place for managers or team leaders to begin is understanding and acknowledging the factors that can make remote work quite demanding or stressful. High-performing teams or team members specifically may increase decline in productivity, performance, or engagement as they shift from in-person to remote work, especially if the proper training and protocols are not in place. Make sure you are checking in and listening to members of your team. Below are some of the most common challenges associated with remote work:
- Lack of supervision
- Lack of information or access to the correct information
- Social isolation
- Distractions in the remote working environment
- Enhanced issues with pre-existing silos
How to Better Lead Your Remote Teams
While remote work consists of both pros and cons, managers can do some super beneficial things to make the transition easier!
#1. Set Expectations Early and Often
Providing guidelines and procedures, setting boundaries and expectations, and reviewing the basics of the position and the company is critical when setting up remote teams. There will always be questions, so a team leader should be available to answer them, provide clarity, and set performance expectations and goals.
It is crucial that team members feel comfortable asking for help, asking questions, becoming knowledgeable on policies, and how to successfully work remotely. There should be model behaviors, leadership, and engagement, just like in traditional work settings. This is how team members maintain a healthy and optimal work/life balance. It helps prevent burnout, which can occur when there is no physical separation between workspace and home space, which is common when employees are working from home.
#2. Schedule Check-Ins: Individual and With Entire Teams
To some, this may seem like an unnecessary part of the workday, but it is critical to success, especially for those new to the remote working environment. Staying in contact with your team members increases engagement and productivity. Stay connected by using email, phones, and chat functions and scheduling check-in meetings with your team as a whole and with specific employees. Use video conferencing, like SimplicityCOLLAB, to establish a face-to-face interaction team members often miss when shifting from in-person to remote work.
#3. Don't Be Afraid to Over Communicate With Your Team
Beyond the regular team member and group check-ins, over-communicating proves vital when managing tasks, duties, responsibilities, and setting or achieving goals. In traditional workplaces, lack of communication among teams is a challenge and can be frustrating for everyone. This can be amplified when your team is remote; there is an added physical barrier. Communication is paramount with remote teams; everyone may have different tasks, goals, out of the office, and more. Don't be afraid to over-communicate to ensure everyone is in the loop on all things business.
#4. Be Organized and Flexible
When it comes to remote teams, flexibility is crucial. Flexible hours can maintain consistency and productivity. While a concrete plan is essential, you should allow for the adjustment of strategies and working hours for your team members. Some team members may prefer to get their work done early in the morning, and some may like the late evenings; it shouldn't matter as long as everything is completed with the highest quality! Life happens, and remote working offers a sense of flexibility that the traditional work setting does not; allow your team to take advantage of that.
#5. Use Technology to the Fullest
Modern technology continues to grow and is transforming so many industries. Tools like Zoom, Google Hangouts/Meet, and Microsoft Teams provide simple technological solutions to support your remote teams. They can provide a centralized point of access, communication, and task management to ease workers into their new work environment. When combined with a cloud-based phone system even more benefits can be achieved. These platforms are a great way to support team engagement and ensure tasks are completed on time.
#6. Provide Collaboration Opportunities
Providing opportunities for employees to connect with each other, even when they are not physically together, is crucial to boosting productivity and morale. It also allows managers to stay on top of what their team is doing. It is a good practice to execute, whether remotely or in person. Managers can refine expectations and scale the responsibilities of employees when collaboration occurs.
Also, make sure all team members contribute to the expected behaviors for virtual collaboration. How quickly should we respond to colleagues? Is it okay to message outside of the team members' working hours? Commons inquiries like this should be addressed ahead of expected collaborations. Managers should also join in whenever possible for additional guidance and support.
#7. Focus on the Outcome, Not the Time Spent on an Activity
In traditional work settings, as long as a team member is clocked in, sitting at their desk or workspace, and leaves at their scheduled time, they have completed a day's work. However, the workplace and home environment are no longer separate from remote work. With that in mind, it is important to focus on the work delivered, its quality, and not the amount of time spent sitting in one place "working."
For managers, it is crucial to set expectations and goals that should be accomplished in a given time period. This ensures that your employees are productive, have goals in place and that precise deadlines are there to manage progress on tasks. Some people may finish these tasks before others, which is fine. Don't focus on the time as long as the quality of work is up to standard.
Some jobs will require you to track time and time spent on tasks. There are tools like Everhour and Workpuls Clocker available to manage and provide an overview of employee time management for these jobs.
#8. Mentor More Than Manage
The best managers mentor or coach rather than "manage." They exhibit empathy, understand that life happens, provide leadership and management, and support their employees to the best of their abilities. And that shouldn't stop just because you have a team online rather than in person. Sometimes delivering the best mentorship involves support, creating initiatives, and taking the time to connect with your team.
Each of these tips above is not always easy to implement, but they are essential. They require time, attention, consistency, and commitment. However, when team leaders follow them, your team will be stronger, successful, engaged, and thankful. The company will benefit, and your team will be more prepared to take on any new challenges or changes that may come your way!
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