The dramatic change all of us have gone through means that companies and staff were thrown into the deep end of Zoom, telework, and virtual management. But working from home was already on the rise before COVID-19. If anything, recent events are going to make it even more common. Global Workplace Analytics estimates at least a quarter of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.
After working as a freelancer for over 10 years and now working with remote freelancers and clients all over the world I’ve found the following tips to be essential in managing teams remotely.
1. Set Expectations
Having clear and understood expectations is essential for any team, but even more so when the staff is remote. Your team should know what to expect for call times, availability windows, and deadlines. Don’t think of this as micromanaging. Think of this as setting up the fence of expectations. They are free to roam around within that fence however they see fit.
2. Communicate and Connect
Being remote can lead to feeling isolated, which can zap productivity. In the beginning of your remote relationship set daily or every other day check-ins with your team. This doesn’t have to be an hour-long call—just a ping, a text or a simple email. It’s important to connect the group to each other, as well. You are building a connected team, not operating as a den mother.
3. Utilize Software
There are so many amazing programs available for connecting remote teams and making project management easier. Many of them are free or inexpensive. Find what works for you. Don’t overwhelm yourself or others, just start with the basics and add more later if needed.
4. Be Human
Working virtually already feels a little robotic so it’s extra important to be as human as possible. Approach virtual meetings and interactions the same way you would face to face. Start with small talk. It’s important for everyone to catch their breath before diving into spreadsheets. Be funny. Ask questions. Share your life. Share emojis. It may feel silly, but it makes you human and conveys emotion.
5. Be Realistic and Flexible
Remote working is flexible working. When working with a remote team be aware of their circumstances. What time zones are they in? When do they typically like to do their “deep work” without interruptions? Are they currently managing kids at home or other things? Understanding what they need to be successful and what their roadblocks are will help you have realistic expectations and keep the team moving.
As employers see the benefits that remote working brings to employees and the company’s bottom line, this style of work will become more and more common. We have the tools and software in place to make it work in a really powerful way, all that needs to be done is a little upfront planning and a clear and simple process. Who knows the morning commute may end up taking you 4 minutes from your coffee pot to your desk.