Selena Jodha
November 1, 2021

How to effectively manage a remote team

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, almost 70% of full-time workers in the U.S worked from home. While some companies are transitioning back to in-office work, others are trying to maintain hybrid and fully remote schedules. But remote work presents its own set of unique challenges:

  • Team members may experience at-home distractions.
  • Technological issues can interfere with virtual meetings.
  • Everyone has different communication styles. 
  • Team members have a harder time connecting with coworkers since they aren’t interacting face-to-face.
  • Some people feel alone and may be less engaged.

These challenges make it harder for team leaders to manage effectively and make sure every member feels valued and supported. 

For those of you who want to build better connections with your team while boosting engagement, productivity, and members’ sense of belonging at your company, take a look at these 7 tips. 

Schedule regular check-ins.

Check-ins allow you to provide team members with project timelines, task priorities, and company updates. They also give you a chance to ask how they’re feeling about their current workload and chat about non-work-related items. 

You can have these 1:1s via video, and schedule them weekly or biweekly. As a manager, it’s important to never cancel 1:1s, but instead reschedule them if necessary and explain why they’re rescheduled. You want to make sure your team members feel they are a priority. 

Be empathetic.

The people on your team have complex lives outside of work. Some may be taking care of children or other family members, dealing with financial issues, or struggling with their physical or mental health. Sometimes, they may not engage much or will request extra time off. As a manager, listen to their concerns. 

If you notice a team member disengaging or pulling away from work, schedule a 1:1 and ask the following questions:

  • Do you have the resources or tools you need to do your job effectively?
  • How confident are you in your ability to do your tasks?
  • What can I do to better support you in your role?

Once they give feedback, act on it. You don’t want your team to feel like their feedback is going into a black hole. 

Establish rules of communication.

Setting efficient communication boundaries will help you avoid micromanaging, which we’ll touch upon later. As a manager, you should survey your team on how frequently you’ll communicate, means of communication, and what times of day are best for check-ins. Then, set expectations immediately. Asking everyone about their preferred work style can make them feel a part of the team, leading to more engagement. 

Avoid micromanaging.

A micromanager may ask for constant updates or will request to approve every aspect of a project before it moves on to the next phase. Micromanaging often stems from poor communication and lack of structure, and can cause your team to fall behind. 

To avoid micromanaging, recognize that having your hands in every phase of every project can get in the way of your team’s success. Use online tools like Asana, Trello, or Notion, where team members can communicate with each other and update everyone on their progress. That way, you know where to go to check in on project updates and can adhere to clear due dates. 

And most importantly, trust your team members. Your company hired them for a reason, so give them the opportunity to perform.

Encourage remote social interactions.

Virtual events like coffee chats, happy hours, lunches, or silent work sessions can be great for team building. At first, these events might feel forced and a little inauthentic – it takes time for your team members to get comfortable with each other. Don’t let this discourage you from keeping these workshops ongoing. Over time, your team will recognize that interpersonal engagement is an important company value and you don’t want anyone to feel isolated. 

Take a look at Museum Hack’s list of 37 virtual team-building activities for inspiration

Remove obstacles and provide resources.

Prepare your team for obstacles they may face remotely, such as physical and emotional isolation, distractions at home pulling them in multiple directions, or children engaged in home-schooling. Since every member may have a different home environment, focus on finding solutions together.  

Provide resources for new equipment, better WiFi, and other office supplies, and train your team on new software before immediately implementing it into your workflow. 

When it comes to life events that are out of anyone’s control, – like crying children – set up an easy communication channel where employees feel comfortable updating you on behind-the-scenes issues that may pull them from work for a few moments. 

Celebrate success.

When a team member does good work, give them a shoutout. Send weekly internal emails where you highlight company wins, or create a Slack channel where you applaud people for their hard work. During team meetings, start off with performance awards and switch up the winners. Creating a culture that celebrates your people will give them a sense of belonging and boost engagement. 

A remote environment can be a confusing space to navigate when you’re working with different people who have very different work preferences. It is not, however, impossible to gain control of. The key to effectively managing a remote team is to set clear expectations, communicate regularly, and provide your members with resources and words of affirmation so they can produce their best work. 

Selena Jodha (she/her) is a Literatures of Modernity M.A candidate at Ryerson University and graduate from the BA English program at Ryerson University. Selena’s work and volunteer opportunities focus on academic counseling, publishing, and tutoring and education.

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