You’ve worked hard to put together the perfect team, but the newest member has opted to work from home. And now others are snapping up the company’s flexible working offer, leaving you as the manager staring at a half-empty office and managing a remote team.
This is a common problem in the modern workplace, but the secrets to encouraging collaborative working in a remote team still boil down to five simple concepts.
- Regular communication
- Shared routines
- Respecting boundaries
- Clear expectations
More than ever, employees want to choose when and how they work, and there are many reasons for employers to adopt flexible working too. But equally this comes with its managerial challenges, not the least of which is encouraging collaborative working in a remote team.
You may by worried that your close-knit team will be undone by this individual way of working, so we’ve put together the best actionable tips on how to manage a remote team.
Communication is key
We often take for granted how much information is picked up in an office through general conversation, whiteboards and non-verbal cues. So how can you replicate that easy back-and-forth between a team in an online situation?
The first step is to ensure that everyone, especially yourself as the manager, is easily reachable via computer or phone during work hours. Depending on your budget, you may even want to invest in work phones and laptops to ensure everyone is on a level playing field in terms of hardware capabilities.
From there you can explore the many options for group messaging and calls. The list is endless, but we recommend:
These services help create the open-plan office feeling, with whole-company group chats and video calls, down to smaller teams and one-to-ones. Encourage your team to be active in these chats, asking questions, sharing useful links, and celebrating each other’s wins. This virtual ‘water-cooler’ will keep the group tight even when they’re miles apart.
Build routines and respect boundaries
Clear and accessible lines of communication between all members of the team will help everyone’s work flow smoothly. However, when everyone is easily contactable, there’s a risk of blurring the lines between working hours and personal time. When managing remote teams, setting clear schedules of when people are expected to start and end their work day helps everyone stay coordinated, and feel respected.
Part of this scheduling should be designed to protect your time as a manager. To avoid being constantly bombarded with messages and phone calls from team members looking for guidance, block out regular times in the week to have one-to-one video calls.
Use shared online tools
Group chats are a great start, but shared virtual spaces go so much further than that. There’s intuitive, easy-to-use software for sharing calendars, project timelines, spreadsheets and more.
Teammates can plan for when their colleagues are on annual leave and help keep each other on target for deadlines, while you as a manager can efficiently monitor progress across all ongoing work. Some of the best shareable calendar and project management tools available include:
Onboard correctly to create a sense of engagement
For new starters, joining a remote team can be especially stressful. Without face-to-face interaction, new team members can feel they aren’t gelling with colleagues, and the much-needed collaborative environment will suffer.
Managers need to take great care when onboarding these staff to ensure they feel welcomed, understand what’s expected of them, how they can reach you with any questions, and when they will receive feedback. Read our comprehensive guide to onboarding staff remotely for a crash course in this integral part of managing remote teams.
Facilitate team learning
What better way to help your remote team see eye-to-eye than by giving them the chance to learn skills that are new to them all? Not only will the challenge bring them closer as a team, but the skills acquired will boost performance as well as future-proof the company with the latest tech and industry best-practice.
If you, as manager, have knowledge you can pass on, why not organise a video call workshop for the whole team? Or throw yourself into the classroom with them through online learning platforms, such as our partners New Skills Academy. Other platforms we recommend are:
Don’t forget the fun!
It may not be the first thing on your mind when considering how to manage a remote team, but the fun and social side of work can bridge the geographical divide between colleagues.
Encouraging remote team-mates to keep in touch through group chats or with a quick video call is the simplest way to ensure they don’t miss out on the social side of work. But if you want to take things a bit further, why not try some of these ideas:
- Bingo/trivia game on a Friday afternoon (keep an ongoing scoreboard to really get the team engaged!)
- Daily wellbeing email from someone in the team
- A virtual exercise/yoga class at lunchtime
- Virtual team away days – companies like Wildgoose host games where your team can compete against each other
Transitioning a strong team dynamic from the office space to online is no walk in the park, but when done with care and attention, it can be achieved successfully. With the above guidance, you can give your staff the autonomy to work in the way that they feel comfortable, while also maintaining the camaraderie and support base that a great team offers.
If you’re ready to add more exceptional members to your remote or in-office team, get in touch with our consultants today!