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10 team management skills for remote workers

By: Emily Finlay

Remote work is now a normal part of life. As more businesses shift to or offer work-from-home options, knowing and possessing high-value team management skills is the key to success.

Managing multiple employees is a challenge in itself, but remote teams offer their own unique challenges. You are not only responsible for the work produced, but the emotional well-being and morale of your remote workers. If you haven’t yet worked with a distanced team, you may struggle to keep up with your new demands.

Effective team management skills can help you focus your management efforts. Adjusting your skills to fit this new set-up will help both you and your employees. You can avoid the losses in productivity and engagement that often come with remote transitions. With the remote team management skills included below, you can keep your team happy and successful in any situation.

Team management skills: best practices

The following list outlines 10 must-have team management best practices for anyone currently managing a remote workforce. As you’ll see, these require typical team management skills, but are pivoted to a remote work environment.

1. Create a workplace atmosphere

In the office, your employees can reach everyone else on the team in just moments for a quick chat or question. Even though your team is located remotely, treat them as if you’re all still in the same building. Check in with everyone often to show that you have an ‘open door’ for anything they need. Provide remote collaboration tools that keep everyone connected, for both work and small talk. If you’re worried about chitchat taking up your communication channels, offer a separate feed for personal conversations.

2. Focus on interpersonal communication

One of the greatest remote team management challenges is keeping everyone connected. Unlike on-site work, communication doesn’t happen organically. Instead, create a strategy that ensures clear sharing and understanding.

Hold a full team meeting at the start or middle of each day to catch up and share important information. Set guidelines for needs throughout the day. Schedule regular report-ins and one-on-ones to maintain individual success. And, as mentioned above, provide the communication tools needed to streamline easy connections.

3. Share expectations

Remote work is new to you, but it’s also unknown to your team. Ease stress and anxiety by clearly communicating your expectations. Let employees know what you expect from all aspects of work, including:

  • Dress code
  • Schedules
  • Home work spaces
  • Deliverables
  • Meetings
  • Communication
  • Participation in events

For some of these needs, you can create a set of rules that outline what you and the company require of employees. For others, consider creating examples that show what you’re looking for. This will keep everyone on the same page, making sure you get the results you expect to see.

4. Remain flexible

As 2020  taught us, you have to expect the unexpected. Your team relies on you to guide them through these changes, so do what you can to prepare for any additional needs. Most importantly, keep a positive attitude through any transition. You can be honest about your frustrations or worries, but remain steadfast as you search for solutions.

Adaptability also applies to the suggestions you receive from your team. Encourage feedback on your processes to find the options that work best for everyone. Accommodate individual needs to produce the greatest results. Keep an open mind about everything you do to keep your team satisfied through any transition.

5. Engage intentionally

Team building is critical to any professional group. Though it may look different with a virtual team, you should still take the time to actively work on your team relationships. This might include starting every meeting with an ice breaker or an opportunity to share a positive event. It can also include activities outside of work.

At the end of the week, for example, you can host team-wide activities that promote social interaction. Employees can take turns teaching classes on their hobbies or cooking their favorite meal. If it’s been a particularly stressful week, you can ‘close the office’ half an hour early to enjoy at-home happy hour.

No matter what you choose to do, focus on building connections with your team members. Ask about life events or family. See if there are any specific issues that are causing stress. Let your team know that you care about them personally and are invested in their well-being.

6. Prioritize goal-based evaluations

The lack of physical oversight is a struggle for many remote team managers. To make up for it, some choose to use software that tracks employee activity on a minute-by-minute basis. All too often, however, this strategy backfires. Employees feel violated and overly stressed by this invasive tool, leading some to find loopholes that enable even less productivity.

It also doesn’t take the unique circumstances of remote work into account. Many new remote workers are also parents who have to care for their children. Others are sharing a small space with other workers or students who have their own needs. In the midst of this chaos, some employees can’t consistently work within typical office hours.

Rather than focusing on activity, measure success by results. Help your employees set goals that meet your productivity requirements, such as completing a certain activity in a set timeframe. Other than requiring meeting attendance, you can let team members create schedules that work within their limitations. As long as you still receive quality, on-time work, trade micromanaging for goal-based leadership.

7. Recognize achievements

Good communication includes acknowledging the great work your team is doing. Show your team how much you appreciate them by setting time aside for regular celebrations. These acknowledgements keep your team from feeling isolated and unseen.

Recognize big achievements, such as finishing big projects or winning new clients. For greater engagement and workplace satisfaction, call attention to smaller wins, such as hitting goals and getting positive customer feedback. Along with celebrating results within your team, give your employees company-wide recognition. Include the milestone in the company newsletter or the next big company meeting. Send a small treat, like a dessert or gift card, to the achiever.

These rewards make employees feel great and encourage them to continue giving their best efforts. With a company-wide incentive program, for instance, employees can compete to win a variety of great prizes. This fun competition increases productivity while ensuring everyone has fun along the way.

8. Invest in your team

Once your team is settled into your new set-up, don’t lose sight of the professional goals you and your employees hold. You may not have seminars and conferences to attend, but you can still encourage growth among your team.

If an employee has hopes of a promotion, for example, find resources that will help them develop the skills and knowledge they need. For those who need certifications, stay on top of testing updates and new requirements to keep them on track.

Investing in these personal goals, especially during a drastic transition to working from home, shows employees that you care about them personally. By aligning your goals with theirs, you can encourage engagement with their jobs and teams. Your employees will be happier, increasing your own satisfaction.

9. Use the right tools

Today, there’s a tool for every virtual team need. Set your team up for success by researching and acquiring resources that will keep you connected and productive. Tools that are essential for every remote team include:

  • Communication tools, including video, audio, and/or web conferencing software
  • Project management tools
  • Collaboration tools
  • Strong internet connections
  • Mobile devices, such as computers, laptops, or tablets

Eliminate potential problems by giving workers access to these resources from day one. Standardizing the tools they use will make troubleshooting simpler and avoid incompatibility issues. Your team won’t need to worry about their resources, keeping them productive and connected at all times.

10. Care for your own needs

You’re a team leader, but you will still deal with your own challenges as you work remotely. With the added communication and management needs brought by remote work, managing your own needs is critical for your team’s success.

Start by prioritizing your organization. Create strategies that will help you stay on top of project timelines, meetings, and individual check-ins. Make a distraction-free workspace that will allow you to focus and be available when you’re needed. When things don’t go as planned, you’ll have the space you need to adapt quickly and efficiently.

Next, determine your personal capacity. If you struggle to keep up with all of your demands, delegate the tasks you can. Determine who is the best fit for each assignment and let them take over. Use your new margin to focus on top-priority decisions and problems. You will be able to be more present for your team’s needs, helping them work through projects and problems with ease.

Remote team management is a struggle for everyone involved. No matter the circumstances, your virtual team will require new team management skills than those used in a typical office setting. Although there isn’t a rule book for virtual team management, the best practices outlined above can help you find the processes that work best for you. As you grow, learn, and adapt alongside your team, these strategies will set the foundation for your success moving forward.

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