4 tips for effectively managing remote teams

Written by 
Dan Gates


May 2021

Remote working and hybrid teams have been on the horizon for a few years now. However, recent events have led to this transition occurring faster than anyone could have imagined. Many leaders who honed their skills on an on-site team have been pushed into an unfamiliar role during a time of unprecedented turbulence.

How COVID has created the remote working climate

As we edge closer towards normality, 52% of adults in the UK remain working from home, and 86% of adults now want to work remotely at least one day a week. COVID hasn’t just shifted our attitudes about working from home, it’s shifted where workers are – with people flooding out of cities now that commuting is much less of a factor. It’s changing urban centres and causing companies like Facebook, Amazon, and others to adopt remote-friendly office designs, with businesses realising the potential for restructuring, saving on operational costs, and increasing engagement.

The last year has pushed most of us into a remote work environment whether we like it or not. But the combination of innovative technologies, as well as benefits for businesses and employees, is set to make remote working a permanent fixture.

Challenges of managing a remote working team

Of course, not everyone is finding this new normal to work in their favour. Managers and team leaders are in an especially challenging position where their established techniques and goals may not translate with the geographical difference. Here are just a few of the challenges that managers of remote teams often face:

  • Cultivating the kind of interpersonal relationships that enhance performance and productivity, with workers feeling united as part of a team.

  • Keeping workers engaged with a long-term vision and representing company values in their day-to-day responsibilities.

  • Encouraging employees’ individual progression, whether they’re focused on climbing up the ladder, honing their skills or becoming subject matter experts.

  • Providing employees with the support they need in the face of personal and professional challenges (e.g. workplace stress), which is crucial to employees feeling valued.


How to transition into a remote manager

As with all aspects of our new normal, it’s all about adaptability, agility, and staying open-minded. By following these tips, you can take your existing managerial skills into a remote or hybrid environment, meeting your own goals as a leader whilst also creating an engaging and positive workplace culture.

1. Invest in the right tech

There has been a boom in innovative remote working technology, while existing solutions have been upgraded and expanded to support remote workers. Take the time to source programs that enhance communication and collaboration. You want to be able to track tasks and productivity, as well as customize your platform to suit your team’s unique needs and requirements.

Standout examples of remote working technology include video conferencing applications such as Zoom, GSuite for collaborative working and cloud-based storage, project management tools (Trello or Asana, for example) or instant messaging platforms such as Slack. Finally, a dedicated platform for peers to interact and socialise, such as Totem, can help maintain morale amongst teams no matter where they may be located.

2. Establish new boundaries 

Moving from an on-site to a remote office means that certain practices and procedures may no longer be feasible. Working together to set expectations and clear boundaries help to maintain productivity, keeps communication clear, and reduces confusion. It's important that this extends to remote working etiquette and best practices. Teams need to mutually agree on matters such as the best times they can be contacted, what issues require an email or a call and how to escalate things that require immediate attention.

3. Communicate more often, more openly

When teams work remotely, they often realise the value in those everyday conversations. It may feel like too much at first, but frequent informal check-ins are essential for keeping everyone on track and staying on top of what’s going on. Schedule a morning coffee meet-up, use video chat to get that face-to-face interaction, and be sure to check in regularly on progress for those long-term projects.

While regular communication is crucial, it's also important to balance this with high-focus periods where team members can concentrate on a task for an uninterrupted period of hours. To achieve this, some companies have introduced "Zoom-free Fridays" while others work on grouping meetings together into larger blocks of time on specific days to free up other days for focussed work.

4. Show flexibility

Flexibility is all about creating the right environment for a team to thrive – leaders need to create a culture of support, empowerment, accountability, and value. Everyone’s remote working environment is different; some have families with small children, others live alone, some are working with more resources than others, and many may have to work in shared workspaces. Managers need to understand each team member’s unique environment to help them have the resources they need to be productive, the support to bring out their best performance, and the flexibility to help employees maintain a positive work-life balance.

Totem is dedicated to providing powerful solutions that bring teams together wherever they are. Our team engagement app is designed to support managers and their remote teams in making the new normal productive and rewarding. Discover how culture management software can help you maintain a positive and engaging workplace culture - request a demo of the Totem platform today or get started for free here.

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