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For more than three years since 2019, businesses have been facing the challenge of bridging the employer-employee and employee-employee disconnect. Hybrid and all-remote companies are becoming commonplace today making the working environment a critical issue for all the stakeholders: in-office team members, employees working remotely, job managers, executive officers, etc. In this article, we will look into the essence of remote team management and explore how to build a strong and supportive remote work culture.
What Are Remote Teams?
A remote team is a group of professionals working from various time zones, having diverse skills, and coming from different cultures who are working together on a common project.
Remote teams are just like regular teams of employees in any work space, except remote work spaces are entirely variable for each team member. One team member might be working from the company’s official office address that is printed on its business card, while a second team member is working remotely from their own home’s dining room table. A third team member might be working remotely from their local library. One of the most important distinctions to make between a remote team and a traditional team is how many different time zones are involved. Even though 2:00 P.M. in New York is exactly the same time as 3:00 A.M. in Tokyo, one is clearly not within standard working hours! If multiple different time zones are involved within a single remote team, then managing each member of that team will be a completely different process than managing a more traditional work team.
Fortunately, there is dedicated project management software that can help you with managing your remote team. People have been engaging in remote work for years, so there are known challenges and tips to learn in approaching a work space with remote colleagues. Read on to learn about some common struggles in remote team management and some tips on how to deal with them.
What Is Remote Team Management?
Remote team management implies supervising a team of individuals who work outside of the office and might never meet in person. This rises unique challenges and calls upon specific knowledge and skills, such as, for example, online communication skills. Managing remote teams often requires investing time in streamlining processes, developing a sense of team spirit, and maintaining morale.
Companies are trying to adapt to the remote work challenges in different ways: by opening Head of Remote posts, hiring more onboarding buddies, embracing remote management software solutions, reviewing corporate values, etc. None of this takes the responsibility off a team leader.
How to Become a Great Remote Leader
It is undisputed that managing a team of co-located employees is much easier than managing a 100% remote team. With almost no barriers to communication, the manager can quicker and more effectively tackle issues and place trust in common goals. However, adjusting to managing remotely can prove tricky.
When speaking about managing diverse teams in big corporations, one of the important factors is building a team to support your ideas, vision, and passion. The first thing a newcomer manager needs to do is make sure that he and his employees are looking in the same direction. “Okay, but how?” You will ask. This would require a mix of communication effort, masterly built processes, and implementation of technology developed specifically for those leading a productive remote workforce.
Another important thing to remember is that working from home shouldn’t mean working remotely 24/7, and a good manager will not expect their employees to be accessible day and night. On the contrary, focusing on a healthy work-life balance in a team will be beneficial. What makes a good manager? Taking care of employees.
The Challenges of Remote Team Management
Every work space has its obstacles. One of the main obstacles of remote team management is communication, since you can’t just walk up to your fellow remote co-worker and say hi or hand them a piece of paper. Mastering remote business communication (and helping your co-workers do the same) will solve most of the problems encountered throughout a typical work week. These problems might include:
- Inclusion. A lack of proper communication can lead to remote team members feeling excluded despite being an active part of the company. Without daily interaction, a remote worker might feel isolated.
- Scheduling. An in-person worker and a remote worker might have different hours of availability throughout the same day that don’t necessarily align. This is especially common when multiple time zones are involved, so make sure to communicate scheduling times in a way that everyone involved will clearly understand. This should prevent availability from becoming a consistent struggle.
- Clarity. If the team is unsure of what exactly they should be doing, then both the quality and the quantity of their work might become affected. Communicating expectations, assignments and who will be doing what is very important.
- Incompatibility. It is quite possible that in a remote work setting, different team members will be using different devices, with different apps or software that aren’t necessarily compatible with each other. Communicating which specific tools, technology and applications are being used by each team member can help predict and prevent compatibility issues.
If everyone is communicating efficiently, then a lot of common problems will be naturally avoided. Make sure to incorporate the same helpful communication policies with both your remote team members and those who are working in-office. With everyone on the same page, remote communication and collaboration can be made a natural part of the work process. There will always be challenges in any work, regardless of whether it is remote or not. But with these specific challenges in mind you can prepare yourself and your in-person and remote colleagues to properly handle what the work week brings.
7 Challenges Remote Work Managers Face and How to Overcome Them
Set boundaries remotely. Of course, setting boundaries at work is easier when you are working from the office. After you leave, nobody expects you to answer phone calls or check messages in Teams. However, it is a whole different ball game when you are working remotely. Not only do your seniors expect immediate answers but your team members too. And if you want to have a healthy work-life balance, you need to set boundaries, or, in other words, tell and show others how you want to be treated.
Tackle emotional support issues timely. Great remote managers provide emotional support whenever it is needed. Make sure that your direct reports can trust you to reassure them whenever they need it.
Invest time and effort in building trust. Building and maintaining trust in virtual teams is not easy. Trust-building tips for managing remote teams include:
- Regularly articulate the team’s purpose, goals, and priorities
- Determine the role and responsibilities of every team member
- Clearly declare company values
- Take advantage of real-time tools and technology to keep everyone up to speed and on the same page.
And remember, trust is built by maintaining transparency.
Set core working hours. Of course, the flexible work schedule is extremely popular today, however, you still need time when everyone on your team is available for a meeting or an urgent task. Flexible and remote work systems are super great and make employees happy. But it is also important not to lose team cohesion and a sense of community.
Establish effective channels for communication and task management. There is nothing better than face-to-face communication, however, when needed to replace it, make sure you have got the right software: a feature-rich task tracker, a collaborative team workspace, efficient document-sharing tools, a messaging app with video chats, etc.
Hold employees accountable. Building an effective remote team involves making all its members accept the responsibility for their actions and choices that lead to the result, whether it is good or bad. However, while creating a culture of accountability within a team, it is important not to squash the team morale or start micromanaging.
Give your employees a chance to share their thoughts. Listening to your employees and their ideas will allow you to build a healthy and effective climate within a team. When the staff sees that their thoughts, ideas, and feelings matter, they are more willing to collaborate and build collective knowledge.
The First Steps in Managing Remote Teams
Communication is key to managing remote teams, but where does one begin? Don’t fret about which steps to take first, just make sure you are communicating well with your team. The order in which you take these steps isn’t as important as making sure to complete all the steps. Here are some suggested first few steps you can take in enhancing your communication.
Finding the right remote work tools for your team
Having the right remote tools at your disposal makes everything easier for everyone involved. FusrBase is a great tool that will blend smoothly into any remote work you have to do.
Try FuseBase to make your remote team management a breeze
Figuring out cultural and time zone differences
Different cultures have different rhythms for how they go about a month, a week or even a day. If you’re managing remote workers from different cultures, you’ll need to work with their cultures as well. Different time zones will call for different meeting times, possibly in the morning for one person and in the evening for another. Ask your remote colleagues what time zones they are working in and write them down!
Scheduling individual meetings
Having one-on-one meetings with each team member is important for keeping track of progress, productivity and individual questions that each person may have. Making a weekly schedule for each in-person and remote team member is one way you can make sure these individual meetings happen on a regular basis.
Working “together” while completely physically separate can be a bit complicated, but it is the simplest problem to solve! There are so many ways to collaborate with others remotely, and finding ways that work with your group is as simple as asking and offering suggestions. Discuss with your team how you can collaborate together early on, and make it part of the work process.
Making sure everyone is doing what they should be doing is perhaps the most difficult task in remote team management. Having an effective and established communication policy can help identify accountability issues, because if something is not being communicated properly, it should stand out.
The main goal is managing your remote teams effectively, so it doesn’t matter what order you do these things in, as long as you end up successfully developing an effective communication routine with your colleagues. That way you can have a consistent management system to work with, and everyone will have access to the information they need to work well with each other. Having the right remote work tools will allow your technology to do some of the work for you, so you can focus on your main tasks instead of troubleshooting technical issues.
Some additional things to consider:
- Identifying and planning for cultural and time zone differences will help keep everyone on track and contributing on a regular pace
- Having consistent one-on-one meetings with your remote colleagues is essential to effective communication and upkeep, and might also contribute to accountability
- Collaboration allows everyone to add their own touch to a project and encourages cooperation among co-workers as they learn how to work with each others’ strengths and weaknesses
- Monitoring accountability is vital to providing quality work within work deadlines, and reduces the likelihood of integrity issues and potential lawsuits
Taking these first steps will make managing your remote workers much less stressful in the long run, with all the information you need made available on a consistent schedule and all the contributions of your partners available at your fingertips, especially if everyone is using the same remote work tools.
Remote Team Management Tips
Now that you have ideas for your first steps in mind, what should you do next? You don’t need to feel daunted by all the challenges of remote team management. Just follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to working effectively with remote teams in any job. Again, don’t feel like you need to do these in a specific order, just keep them in mind when you aren’t sure what you should do.
Invest in effective software
Investing your time now into learning and understanding useful management software will pay off quickly. If all of your colleagues are using the same software, such as FuseBase, then communicating work-related questions will be easier.
Prepare a solution list
If there are multiple potential problems you can anticipate yourself or one of your team members having in the near future, prepare the step-by-step solution to that problem beforehand and put it somewhere everyone, including remote workers, will be able to find it.
Communicate deadlines and working hours
Time can be spent efficiently if everyone knows when their deadlines are, and what hours of the day they can reach their colleagues. If not everyone is using the same time zone, make sure there is a point during your working hours that someone from another time zone will be able to contact you. You can consider having an open-door policy outside of working hours as well.
Have flexible, optional holidays
Some cultures have holidays that other cultures do not. Be prepared to have optional holidays so remote team members can choose to either take the day off on your holiday, or save it for their holiday whenever it may be.
Balance work and play
There’s a saying about all work and no play. Essentially, people become bored if they don’t have a balanced work life. As a leader, you can provide that balance to your co-workers by planning social activities or fun events for everyone to partake in. This way, your team members meet not only for work but for fun also. Remote teams can bond through digital activities like virtual escape rooms, group trivia and online bingo themed around things that happen during a work-related video call. Some events that could be planned throughout the year include a scheduled virtual campfire (where everyone roasts or microwaves some s’mores as if they were all by the same campfire), a “quarterly Christmas” where everyone exchanges a gift through the mail and opens them on video call once every season or a quarterly remote game of “Werewolf” or “Among Us” where the group will be working together to uncover the hidden roles of their fellow co-workers. Another good idea is introducing a remote work playlist that could create a general positive mood or atmosphere and bring together the team members working remotely. All in all, it is difficult to overestimate the importance of informal communication in all-remote and hybrid environments.
Remote teams don’t need to be any more difficult to work with than any other type of team. Prepare yourself with good communication and good software, and your remote work will flow naturally like an in-person office would. Focus on making your work easily communicated, both to and from you. With effective management software, it will be easy for your team members to communicate their work with you, and likewise the management of your remote co-workers will be easier if you are all using the same software. Working together will be easier in the long run with everyone communicating in the same way throughout the work process. And don’t forget the social activities! Remote team management is so much easier when everyone enjoys each others’ company, so include group bonding and collaboration activities in the work schedule, and put them on days that won’t interfere with project deadlines so everyone can relax and focus on bonding with their remote co-workers instead of worrying about how their time might be better spent.
The Benefits of FuseBase
There are many different options of software to pick from when searching for remotemanagement tools. Our recommendation is FuseBase, which excels at knowledge management. When using FuseBase for remote team management, here are a few useful features that you can use to benefit your entire team.
- Intuitive Documents. Keep all of your colleagues’ work in one easily navigated multi-user place. With everyone using the same platform, it will be easier to find the work your colleagues contributed. You can screenshot and annotate your documents while you are presenting them too!
- Built-in Structure. Assign different roles with different permissions to your colleagues within the platform. Organize each project with folders, sub-folders and tags so you don’t get mixed up. It is all on one page, so nothing will ever get lost!
- Convenient Chat. Send messages, leave comments and chat smoothly within FuseBase so you don’t need to be distracted switching between different apps to accomplish the same task.
- All White Label. Nothing looks more professional than having your work under your own brand name!
If you are in need of a platform that makes remote team management easier than ever, FuseBase is exactly what you should use. It is easy for everyone in your company to work with, and can enhance the inclusivity of your remote work no matter what it may be. Nimbus can also be used for business proposals, onboarding, product demos, customer support and video presentations. Managing remote teams can be just as easy as managing people who all work under the same roof, especially with software like FuseBase, connecting you and your colleagues together efficiently. You can get started with the extensive functionality of FuseBase for free — the solution comes with a free trial.
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