Going to be leading your first remote team? Then you’re in for a wild ride!
Fortunately, we’ve got some great tips on leading remote teams to make things easier for you.
Set Out Expectations Clearly
You can’t expect to get things done, if people don’t know what they’re doing.
That means clearly explaining objectives and giving people the room to clarify, then after a conversation, put those expectations in writing and send them to the individual
Then they have something to refer to throughout the process.
Implement Remote Project Management Systems
You don’t want to try and carry every detail of the project in your head and you don’t want your team on the line every time they are unclear on the details.
That means using project management tools that support online working.
Popular tools include Asana, Trello, LiquidPlanner, Zoho Projects, MS Teams, Jira, etc.
Feel free to experiment but decide on your preferred tools and stick to them once your team starts working remotely.
Look For Collaboration Tools
Sure, you can use Skype to collaborate but it’s not the ideal package, particularly, if you’re trying to keep all communication and collaboration in the same place.
- Zoom – the most popular, by far, online meeting and conferencing software
- Zapier – for automating tasks that need doing regularly
- Miro – for a whiteboarding tool
- Canva – for image design and social media marketing collateral
Protect People From Information Overload
If you want people to stay focused then don’t overload them with information.
You need to control the information flow so that it’s enough to get the job done, but not so much that it starts to overwhelm people.
Use one tool for each kind of task (CRM, messenger, etc.) and then try to be economical when it comes to using it.
If you do think people are becoming stressed, refer them to our wellbeing tips for remote workers or our article on how not to burn out while working remotely.
Ensure Your People Have The Right Tools To Do The Job
You also need to make sure that your team has the right hardware and the right software to do their jobs.
This can include providing headsets, wrist wrests, office chairs, etc. as well as laptops and software.
Emphasize The Need For Visual Content
Most of your communication with a remote team is done online. It can really pay dividends to remember that this is a visual medium.
Make content as aesthetically pleasing as possible and people will read it and interact with it more (use Canva to give it a facelift).
Make Sure New Employees Are Mentored
The first weeks of work in an office are hard but, at least, there’s always someone around to ask for help.
Working online, you need to recreate that onboarding atmosphere and assigning a mentor can really help with this.
The mentor might want to read our pros and cons of remote working list, to be better prepared to support the new starter.
Let people play to their strengths, wherever possible, sure, you need some overlap in working hours so that everyone can be sure they have time to talk each day, but otherwise?
Let people pick their own schedules and then use something like Calendly to communicate them.
Focus On Remote Working Experience
When recruiting your first remote working team, you can make your life much easier by picking team members who’ve already worked remotely.
They can then help you determine best practices for the team and you’re more likely to have picked someone who will produce while working from home too.
Be Open With Your Team
If you want a team to work well together, it begins with trust and trust begins with you. Be open about yourself and your life as a whole.
Share stories or pictures of your hobbies, home office, pets, etc. and seek to be friendly (though not overly friendly) with your staff.
The company should be saving money when everyone’s working remotely. Take some of that money and use it to create incentives (talk to your team about what motivates them).
Extra vacations, extra cash, training opportunities, etc. can be great ways to get a team to focus on getting things done even when they’re not at a desk in an office.
Think Outcomes, Not Inputs
You can’t run a remote working office like a real office. Watching people’s time spent working like a hawk will drive you crazy. Don’t micromanage.
Instead, focus on outcomes. Set objectives with each person, each week and if they’re carried out – you’re winning. If they’re not, take appropriate action.
Use 360-Degree Evaluations
These kinds of evaluation for appraisal are less “top-down” because they invite input from all the groups of people that someone works with online.
This makes the evaluation less threatening and more likely to be acted upon, it also gives you a bit of freedom from having to be the sole judge, jury (and occasionally, executioner) over any individual’s work.
Use Video For Meetings
Nothing beats face-to-face communication but it’s all too easy to end up relying on Slack and email as your only forms of communication within a team.
Over time? This tends to erode trust and the bonds between people. You’ve got Zoom or other options for video meetings, use them.
Re-emphasize Corporate Culture
In most businesses, there’s a lovely induction period where they talk about the corporate culture and how to work with it.
And then, it gets forgotten, unless the manager makes an effort to reinforce that culture.
This is even more important when working online, you should look to make people aware of what the corporate culture is regularly and how to “sense check” their work against it.
Learn To Use Emojis
Yes, we know, if you’re of a certain generation, using an emoji on Slack or email makes you feel like a bumbling teenager looking for a first date.
Get over it. When people can’t see your face, you need to clarify your messaging and emojis are a great way to ensure that a friendly message is seen as friendly, for example.
Enable Private Chats
Employees should be able to create informal chat rooms in your communications software and invite others to them.
This, basically, is a way to replace the loss of the watercooler chat. It’s not perfect, mind you, and people won’t chat as much as they did in the office, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Oh, and don’t spy on private chats, or they’re not private.
Encourage People To Switch Off At The End Of The Day
This is simple. A lot of remote workers end up burning out because they can’t separate work and home.
Make it easy for them. Tell them you expect them to log out, switch off their phones and not to answer email after their shifts end. The end.
Play Some Virtual Games As A Team
We’ve got some cool virtual games you can play here, and if you have a weekly online get together, they’re a great way of keeping the team engaged and happy.
Try To Hold At Least One Retreat
There’s still no substitute for face-to-face. You ought to hold at least one, and ideally more than one, retreat each year where the team can get together and really talk face-to-face.
You can also work on strategy, process, etc. at the same time. It’s not a vacation.
Final Thoughts On Leading Remote Teams
There’s no denying that leading remote teams is a challenge. However, it won’t be as challenging if you implement the tips above.
We know you can do it, as long as you put your mind to it and adapt to the virtual working environment.