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Remote work has increased gradually over the last few decades as technology has made more jobs possible. This slow trend turned into a sudden necessity during Covid, when businesses shuttered, and many workplaces moved their employees online. Since the pandemic, life has slowly returned to normal, but many people and companies chose to continue working remotely due to its overwhelming benefits: no commute, more savings, and better work-life balance.
Like any workplace, a remote team that’s poorly managed will underperform and cause conflict. Ineffective remote managing can cause problems like confusion, burnout, and resentment. Leading a remote team is clearly challenging, but a few changes can make a huge impact.
Managing remote employees has a lot of the same difficulties as an in-person team, but remote work comes with some unique challenges. Understanding these obstacles is the first step in overcoming them and managing a remote team that’s smooth and effective.
It’s much easier to solve problems when you’re working with your team in person, because you can address any problems that arise together, and get quick answers from upper management. When you manage a remote team, there might be an issue with employees accessing the information they need.
For example, a virtual team that is struggling to solve a client satisfaction issue might have to wait for authorization from upper management to give the client what they need. In the office, they can easily ask the right person, but in a virtual team project, they might have to wait for an email response, which delays the resolution.
Although ineffective communication is a problem anywhere, there is less of a barrier to communication when you are working with your team in person. In contrast, managing remotely can be hard because there is so little face time. If you need to speak to a colleague, they’re no longer just down the hall, and you may need to schedule a time to talk online. Even quick conversations can therefore become long ordeals when leading virtual teams.
What’s more, communicating when you manage a remote team is difficult because it’s much easier to misunderstand the tone of emails or instant messages. For instance, writing ‘Send it in by the end of the day,’ in an email can sound much sharper than in person. When you’re managing remote workers, you need to be more aware of your communication style and how you are received by colleagues.
A major drawback to managing virtual teams is that colleagues don’t get the social aspect of their job. Everyone needs positive social interaction for their mental well-being and working remotely removes that healthy in-person connection. Many of your colleagues might be sitting in a makeshift office in their bedroom, having not left the house in days. That sort of environment can take a toll on anyone! When you manage a remote team, it helps to be aware that your colleagues might be struggling from a lack of in-person contact.
Another challenge of managing remotely is that it’s more difficult to observe your employees’ performance. It’s much easier to check in with employees and see their progress in person than when you’re managing a team remotely. Although there are remote team tools to help with project management, it is nonetheless an extra step that isn’t as necessary in person.
Although there will be diversions in any workplace, remote workers are bound to encounter more distractions, making managing remote employees an extra challenge. Your colleagues may be dealing with children or pets, home deliveries or renovations, or have music or television playing. When you manage a remote team and find people struggling to finish certain projects, keep in mind that distractions might be playing a role.
Anyone can excel at managing remote workers! It’s important to keep polishing your management style, because successfully managing a virtual team will help support your employees and increase productivity and efficiency. Developing the following qualities is a great way to take your remote managing skills to the next level.
The best way to lead virtual teams is by developing trust with your employees. Remote managing makes this tough since there is little direct contact. One way to create trusting bonds while managing remote workers is to be honest and open in your communication.
Another way to facilitate trust while leading virtual teams is to ask employees what kind of support they need and do your best to deliver. For example, if one of your remote employees is struggling with a project, ask them what you can do to help, and direct your energy toward a solution.
Managing a remote team is much easier when you show empathy toward your workers. Think about the problems they’re facing, repeat their concerns, and work on active listening.
An easy way to develop empathy while you’re managing remote employees is to ask questions to further your understanding. For example, if a colleague is struggling with an interpersonal issue at work, you can ask them what they’ve tried, what their preferred resolution is, and what they need from you.
Managing remote workers, or any workers, is tough for people who lack self-awareness. The best managers are open to new ideas, know themselves well, and enjoy learning from others. One tip for leading virtual teams is to develop self-awareness by seeking feedback from your employees regularly.
When you’re managing remote employees, it’s easier for things to fall through the cracks. With your team working remotely in different places, it can be hard to keep tasks in order and follow deadlines. To successfully manage a remote team, you need attention to detail.
There are many software tools to manage remote employees available. There are programs to schedule deadlines, assign tasks, and track progress. These remote team tools can take some of the stress off your plate and keep things organized.
Another quality to work on when you’re leading remotely is flexibility. Every good manager should try to be less rigid and accept when things don’t go as planned. It’s normal for setbacks to happen, and that is especially true when managing people remotely; deadlines can get missed and progress can be sporadic.
Managing remote employees is inherently more difficult than managing people in person, but it’s not impossible. There are some easy things to do to improve your team’s efficiency and morale. Try the following tips for managing remote teams.
Managing people remotely is much easier when you set clear guidelines for communication. Let your colleagues know which platforms to communicate on and what’s not acceptable.
For example, when you manage a remote team that involves a lot of virtual team projects, establish how often they should check in, and make sure everyone knows what kind of speech won’t be tolerated.
The first step in overcoming the challenges of managing remotely is to figure out what exactly they are. If you know what obstacles to expect, then you can prepare solutions and tools to manage remote employees.
A simple way to identify the challenges to managing your virtual team is to make a list of things that can go wrong or create problems for you, and come up with one or two solutions.
When you’re leading remote teams, it’s important to be clear when you delegate tasks. Make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re assigned to do.
Software programs are a great remote team management tool for delegating. You can use management software like Asana and Todoist to assign tasks to your team remotely.
Setting clear expectations is a great way to keep your team on task. They can’t meet their goals if they don’t know what they are! It also helps you to manage the virtual team by tracking their performance. If you have clear goals and deadlines for your remote team, you can see where people are falling behind and make adjustments.
One way you can set expectations when you manage a remote team is to highlight goals and expectations at regular team meetings.
Luckily for remote companies, there are a number of remote team management tools that can simplify your job and facilitate greater success at work. From project management software like Monday.com and Google Tables, to communication platforms like Slack, there is an app for almost anything.
Think about what you need your remote team management tools to accomplish and do a little research to find the right software to meet your needs.
Getting feedback from your employees is a great way to build self-awareness while leading your virtual team. Remember that any critique you get will only serve to make you a stronger manager, and try not to take anything too personally.
Apart from telling your remote team that they can approach you with feedback at any time, you can also set aside time during meetings for your colleagues’ honest opinions and constructive criticism.
Managing remote workers is tough because your colleagues might be struggling with working at home. Keeping this in mind will help you to be more compassionate in your interactions with coworkers.
The best practice for managing remote teams includes providing emotional support. Let your coworkers know that they can approach you with any issue and offer a sympathetic ear.
Regardless of how effective your remote team is, they will likely still be missing the social connection that in-person work provides. You can elevate your remote managing by looking for opportunities for physical meetings.
This could be a once-weekly meeting in the office, or an unofficial lunch or dinner once a month. Giving your colleagues the option to meet you and their coworkers in person can make them feel more fulfilled and in control.
🔑 Key Takeaways
Managing virtual teams comes with all sorts of unique challenges, but there are simple ways to improve your remote managing style. Communication is one of the most important things you can do to lead a virtual team: establish goals, delegate clearly, set guidelines, and be open to feedback.
Luckily, as more workplaces embrace remote working, there are more applications available to support and manage remote teams, so take advantage of project management software. Being aware of the limitations of remote work can help you achieve greater success as a remote manager and propel your team to meet its goals.
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--- Originally written by Tiffany Quinn ---