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How To Master Managing Remote Teams

The remote working revolution is rapidly expanding and working from locations other than the office is said to attract more job seekers than ever before. With enhanced technology at your service, managing even larger teams from afar remotely has never been easier.

We have decided to ask experts who have been managing remote teams to share their experience and give advice on how to become the master of remote team management. They work in various industries and are responsible for different tasks within diverse teams. They all have learned the do’s and don’ts of remote team management with first-hand experience.

Goals, objectives, priorities

Establish clear goals and make sure that everybody understands them. Discussing objectives and priorities are of the utmost importance. Your team needs to know what expectations they have to meet and what business-level goals they need to achieve.

“One of the biggest challenges I face when working with remote teams is the disparity between a client’s expectations and the remote team’s understanding of the requirements. The most important thing I’ve learnt when working with remote teams is to ensure the brief is as detailed as possible. Include contextual examples such as screenshots, recordings, customer use cases where possible and definitely acceptance criteria. Removing as much ambiguity as possible from the brief improves efficiency by lowering the number of revisions needed.” – says Ashley Ellis, Head of e-Commerce at Assured Pharmacy.

It is also important that all the team members are aware of quality expectations, deadlines and that there are agreed levels of autonomy. Managing a remote team successfully is all about focusing on what matters, looking at the bigger picture instead of subtasks according to Liz Sebag-Montefiore, one of the co-founders and directors at 10Eighty HR consultancy.

She also mentions that acknowledging the individuals’ motivations, skills, competencies and approach is pivotal in order to understand where and how they fit in their local working environment.

 

Trust your team

Fortunately, more and more employers realize that not sitting together in an office 5 days a week doesn’t mean not getting things done. On the contrary, people provided with the opportunity of working flexible hours and from a remote location are often more productive and loyal to a company.

“For some leaders, letting go of direct control may be an uncomfortable process in itself, but micromanaging should be avoided at all costs. A manager of mine once said, “Better to make the wrong decision than to not make one at all.” Sometimes- making room for an error will alleviate the stress and pressures of leadership” – says Graham Bird, the Director of Where We Work.

Nowadays, trust is indeed something to dread, not only in remote teams but in general. Graham Bird suggests that managing a remote workforce can be overwhelming and the stress of not having complete control over everybody can be hard to adopt. He says that trust should ideally begin at the stage of hiring the new employee but can also be built up over time and communication plays a great role in this.

“An independent and trustworthy team member will mean you can be confident in their abilities to manage their own time, enabling you to measure by performance as opposed to presence.” – he says.

 

Catch up regularly

To make sure that everybody is on track and not blocked by anything, host regular meetings. Daily stand-ups and weekly talks and reports can help team members to get an idea of what’s going on in different areas of the business, share their success and raise issues.

“I work with a team of medical writers who all work to different hours and workloads so the biggest challenge I face is keeping in contact with the team as working remotely removes the ability to have a typical 9 am Monday meeting.” – says Kyle Sowden, Head of Content at Assured Pharmacy.

This is something that all of the experts agree on. Fortunately, with enhanced technology, not being present in the same workspace is not a problem at all. Scheduling calls, hosting video chats and screen sharing is as easy as pie.

Simon Wright, Managing Director of Greenwich Design states that as a manager it is important to prepare thoroughly beforehand, as this will improve upon the efficiency of the call.

“Set a clear agenda so that everyone is aware of what’s expected on the call. If you want people to review materials, share them well ahead of the meeting so no one is struggling to download something on the call.”

He suggests nominating a chairman to drive the flow of the call, so people don’t get off topic and stay focused on the agenda. Writing down action points and following up on them is also pivotal.

“make sure someone takes detailed minutes during the call with agreed action points, next steps, and assigned responsibilities. Some people are more bullish in a virtual meeting than face to face; others may be the other way round so it’s important to ensure that everything that’s agreed is clearly documented, and everyone knows what they are accountable for.”

Give responsibility

There’s no better way to achieve higher level goals and build trust at the same time than giving responsibilities to each team member. After discovering the strengths of employees, you need to find a position for them in which they can be the most efficient. Involve your remote team in big projects, provide them with exciting and challenging tasks, keep them engaged and motivated.

Jodie Pilgrim, the Head of Overseas Recruitment at Party Hard Travel mentions that this practice has proven to be very successful with their remote teams in 7 different European resorts.

We want our staff to grow in areas which can help enhance their future careers. We give each staff member a task leader area such as marketing or event management to be in charge of and ask them to delegate across the team. As we have small teams in each resort, they become the experts there. We give the teams a lot of responsibility and control in that resort. This allows reps to feel confident and capable in their remote roles.

 

Help them switch off

Not having a traditional office space to come in every day can mean losing the concept of the working and non-working environment. Of course, this is more likely in case of working from home than in a remote working environment away from management.

This can upset the work-life balance, and cause employees to overwork, which can be the source of stress and depression. As the manager of a remote team, you need to pay special attention to the symptoms.

“A manager should do their best to create a working culture that perceives ‘overworking’ negatively and the ‘always on’ attitude should be prohibited from the top down. Why? Because more and more businesses are waking up to the fact that less is more.” – says Graham Bird.

The 4-day working week has been a great success in New-Zealand and it’s being rolled out in more countries. In Sweden, employers are experimenting with 6-hour work days as opposed to eight. The 9 to 5 is dead and many realize that leaving more time for employees to recharge has a positive effect on productivity.

“As a manager, implementing rules for homeworkers such as introducing a cut-off time, that restricts when calls, emails and messages are sent, will mean that as a leader, they too have to adhere to these rules.”

Jodie Pilgram adds that a manager not only has to help with letting steam off but as they put team members in charge, managers should also reward them for their hard work.  

“We also have regular, scheduled team days to get everyone together as a reward for their work. These can be anything from a beach day with fun water sports, to an end of season party in Ibiza on us. Things like this just serve as a reminder that although teams are working remotely, that they’re part of something much, much bigger”

For somebody who’s new to leading remote teams, it may be challenging to pick up on the warning signs of exhaustion or see the efforts of their team realistically, with the tips for remote working above and the right tools at hand, mastering team management should not be rocket science anymore.

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Anna, whose middle name is Hashtag, is an enthusiastic Digital Marketing Executive. She drinks her coffee with cream and Instagram, retweets (almost) every fun fact about koalas and never misses an interesting Facebook webinar about exciting new features.
Her aim is to collect and share the utmost interesting content. And she's also the one, who jumps up and down if we have a new follower on social media.

Anna Kocsis

Digital Marketing Executive, 10to8 Appointment Scheduling Software

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