How Can You Manage a Remote Team?
Even before the ongoing pandemic, companies were already starting to understand the cost-cutting efficiency and potential of remote management. After all, what’s the best way to avoid having to pay the exorbitant rent demanded for office space in Los Angeles, New York, London, Berlin, and other centers of commerce? To stop renting space and work entirely online, of course.
Granted, grand offices aren’t going away anytime soon (though their place in a post-pandemic world remains to be seen). Even so, for the present, remote management is the way to go.
1. Set Expectations
One of the biggest traps people fall into when working online is to become a bit too bohemian about deadlines. Without the confines of physical space and in-person presence of employees keeping one another motivated and on-schedule, it can be easy to slip into a lackadaisical lack of direction until suddenly it’s a wonder if anything gets done!
That’s why setting expectations is arguably even more important for remote working. Make sure that you set target dates for projects to be completed, and make sure that everyone on the team is on the same page – or Google Drive. The latter can help you share files and schedules among different employees, thereby helping you stay organized, which itself is a prerequisite for setting and maintaining expectations.
2. Hold Regular Meetings
You may not be able to meet in the same space, but that doesn’t mean meetings can’t and shouldn’t still happen. They are essential for sharing ideas about how to best set and meet expectations which, as mentioned above, is critical for business success, remote or otherwise. As such, you’ll want to make use of online video platforms such as Zoom and Skype to hold regular video conference calls.
3. Other Forms of Communication Are Key
Just because you can hop on Zoom for a quick chat or hour-long conference call doesn’t mean that other forms of communication are dead. On the contrary, text-based forms of communication are more popular than ever, especially among Millennial workers. They often view a text as more low-pressure (and thus polite) than a call, and the same goes for a video chat versus an email or conversation via chat.
Group chats can be terrible or wonderful depending on how you manage them. A badly-managed group chat can be annoying, lead to people getting lots of notifications even when they’re not participating, can force people to be more vocal than they might wish to be, or even boil over into outright hostility. By contrast, a well-managed group chat can be constructive, productive, inclusive, account for who wants and needs to receive notifications, and maintain proper decorum, as described below.
The art of the business email isn’t dead, either. Sending out a formal email or CC-ing others in an email chain is still one of the most effective ways to convey information remotely, and can be perceived as more “formal” than a group chat.
4. Balancing Your Tone
One of the trickiest things to manage when overseeing a team remotely is your tone as well as that of your workers.
On the one hand, it can be way too easy while working in your pajamas to lose all work decorum and be way too informal with your colleagues, with potentially disastrous consequences. On the other hand, trying to maintain an authoritarian grip on a remote team just isn’t fun, isn’t going to succeed, and if anything will lead workers to search for other online jobs.
As with so much of life, striking a middle ground is key here. Some informality and levity is fine and can even help build a sense of camaraderie among your team, which in turn can make them more dedicated to one another and thus work harder. Just make sure that the end result of all that chat is indeed hard work and not just idle chatter.
5. Accounting for Geo-Political Differences
Even before the pandemic, the increasing popularity of online work has meant that a greater number of companies enjoy geo-political diversity among their teammates. You may be based in Miami with teammates in Manchester, Munich, Moscow, and Mumbai.
Of course, while this allows you to pluck from the best talent pools out there regardless of region, those regional differences don’t just vanish. For example, in this example alone there are five different time zones – how are you going to schedule work meetings accounting for such wildly different schedules? In states such as China and Russia, censorship laws can sometimes restrict Internet access, and while a VPN can solve many of these issues, they’re still something to consider. What’s more, as with any job, you’ll need to balance the potentially-different social views of a diverse team in a respectful way.
Doing all of this can make remote team management a lot easier and more rewarding.