Wednesday, February 28, 2024

How does leading a team remotely differ from managing in-office?

Millennial businesswoman addressing colleagues at a corporate business meeting. Group of business colleagues meeting in the boardroom.

Over the past decade, remote work has become more commonplace – a move fast-forwarded in 2020 when it became the norm due to the global pandemic. Remote work can be great for employees, but it can also present unique challenges for managers.

Leading a remote team requires different skills and techniques to manage a group of people who work closely together in the same office space. This post will explore how leading remotely differs from managing in-office teams and discuss essential tips for managing remote teams effectively.

Communication is key

The biggest challenge for remote managers is communication. When working remotely, it’s easy to rely on email or instant messaging, but these can feel impersonal and lead to misunderstandings. Instead, remote managers must make an effort to communicate effectively and frequently. 

This can be achieved through regular video calls, weekly check-ins, and team updates. Be sure to ask people how they’re feeling and whether there’s any tweaks that can be made to improve their remote work experience.

The more you communicate, the clearer the expectations, and the more your team feels supported. It’s also essential to create clear communication guidelines to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding communication protocols and expectations – but more on that later. 

Trust your team

 
In a remote setting, trust needs to exist between the manager and their team. It’s essential to trust that your team is working to the best of their ability and are meeting deadlines. And they also need to trust you to set up the right conditions for them to do their best job. 
 
Micromanaging, whether it happens in an office or remotely, will only damage your relationship with your team and lead to a lack of motivation. Instead, provide your team with the resources they need and ensure they have clear objectives to work towards. After all, remote working has also meant employees have a greater choice of where to work than ever before, so you don’t want to lose your best talent by watching over them. 
 

Foster a sense of community

One of the best things about working in an office is the sense of community and collaboration. You can catch up while making a cup of tea or organise spontaneous meetings. For remote workers, this sense of team can be lost or harder to cultivate. So it’s essential you make an effort to foster team spirit within your remote employees. 
 
Encourage your team to connect and build relationships through virtual team-building activities and social interactions. Simply starting your meetings with an ice breaker can help. Thinking of small ways you can let your team get to know one another better will lead to a more positive working environment and ensure your team feels supported and engaged.

Be flexible

Remote team members may have different working hours due to time zone differences or have other commitments – like childcare – that require flexibility. One of the benefits of remote work is being able to work from anywhere and have a better work-life balance. As a remote manager, there’s a fine line to tread. On one hand, it’s essential to be flexible with your team and their working arrangements. 
 
But you also need to ensure there’s ample opportunity for collaboration too. So you need to ensure that your team has the time and support they need to work effectively, but also understand that everyone has different home situations and demands. This could mean adjusting schedules for team meetings or being open to flexible hours.
 

Use technology to your advantage

Technology can be really beneficial when you’re managing a remote team. There are various tools and software available that can enhance collaboration, communication, and project management. These include video conferencing software, time management software, and instant messaging apps. But it’s not about just making sure your team has access to these tools, you need to provide guidance on how to use them and set clear expectations.
 
For example, it’s easy to slip into an ‘always-on’ culture if you have no guidelines around when people need to respond to instant messages. Not only will this impact their work-life balance and job satisfaction, but it’s also incredibly unproductive as it takes a long time to refocus after an interruption. It’s much better to establish some rules so that employees know what’s expected of them. That way, they can manage their time in a way that suits them best. 
 
Managing a remote team requires different skills and techniques than managing in-office teams. It can be challenging, but by embracing the differences and adapting your management style, you can create a successful remote team.
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Athena Addison

Athena Addison

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