Gemma Lloyd, Co-CEO and founder of workplace equality champions Work180, which is a completely remote business, offers her advice on how businesses can effectively manage remote teams.
1. Use video, not phone
While you may not be in the same office as your employees, you can still replicate that face-to-face connection by using video conferencing technologies such as Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Video helps you pick up on nonverbal cues, enabling better interaction, and helps you build stronger rapport than an ordinary phone call.
2. Respect your employees’ work hours
Flexible working gives your team the ability to work more flexible hours, and everyone will approach this differently. Some do their best work in the morning, others in the late evening. And then there might be different time zones to factor in.
As a manager of remote employees, you need to understand and respect these different work schedules.
Be aware of the hours your team are working and ensure you’re holding team meetings or workshops at times that work for everyone.
3. Establish personal connections
Without the natural office interaction, you need to make an effort to build trust, camaraderie and familiarity with your direct reports and extended colleagues.
Reserve some time during each meeting for a casual conversation so that you’re interacting with your team members on a personal level.
4. Encourage open communication
It’s important to check-in with your remote workers regularly and make sure they have an avenue to be heard.
It can be harder to pick up on cues when the team is working remotely, so you need to facilitate open lines of communications.
5. Use the tools and experiment
Conducting ideation and sketching sessions will be challenging because it typically happens in a room with whiteboards, plenty of sticky notes and people bouncing ideas around.
It is possible to recreate these sessions with online collaboration tools, and there are heaps of tools out there, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. You just need to find the ones that work for your particular team.
6. Trust your team
Finally, a successful remote manager-employee relationship is built on trust, and managing by performance not presenteeism.
It is important to trust your people to do the work based on the expectations you’ve set. After all, simply seeing someone sitting at their desk is no measure of their effectiveness.
Many business owners actually believe the future of work is remote and that a significant proportion of people will work away from the office full-time.
Unfortunately, the escalating Covid-19 crisis has meant that business owners have had remote working thrust upon them without any opportunity to prepare and implement remote working practices for their staff in an orderly fashion.
This is an unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation, and managers are having to rise to the challenge and find a way to lead and influence people they won’t be having regular face-to-face contact with.
It’s not an insurmountable challenge, it just requires a different way of thinking and doing things.
Gemma Lloyd is co-CEO and founder of workplace equality champions Work180.