How to Effectively Lead Remote Teams
Many professionals have been forced to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The challenges of remote work are dramatically compounded if employee needs are unmet. For example, they can become anxious due to lack of socialization, fearful that they're out of the loop, or worse, feel forgotten.
It's up to team leads to set their teams up for success, especially those who might be working remotely for the first time. Here are five keys to effectively leading remote teams.
1. Empower and Trust Your Team
If your team does phenomenal work at the office, there is no reason to believe that will change based on their location. If their needs are met, the quality of their work shouldn't be impacted — and there is no extra layer of management required.
Trust that your team members know how to manage their time efficiently and do their jobs despite disruptions to their normal work environment. If any employees are struggling with the transition, make sure they know they can talk to you. You must be open to their feedback and committed to helping them succeed.
2. Set Clear Expectations
Your team members should understand what they are doing, why they are doing it, how they will do it, and when it should be done. If any of that information is not clear, it is your responsibility to address issues and provide clarity.
We all need to understand the context of our work and the purpose of it. Without this knowledge, work can be a struggle and leave an employee feeling lost. Or worse, potentially result in subpar work. This is especially important when peoples' normal routines get shaken up, like during this pandemic.
3. Communicate with Intention
Remote employees need to be comfortable with the communication channels their organization uses. Make it easy for them to access those channels and get the training they need to use those tools and platforms successfully. Eliminate any barriers that could make it difficult for team members to communicate while working from home. Finally, keep those lines of communication consistent across your team and organization.
Teams need the right balance of communication. Too much information overwhelms and creates overload for any employee, potentially causing stress. Too little information can leave team members feeling confused and forgotten, and even worse, result in disengagement.
Prioritize the information you share by:
- Presenting work requirements: Immediate work needs and project updates
- Keeping them up on the news: Company announcements and surrounding context
- Upcoming initiatives and events
Schedule regular meetings that have intention behind them. Ensure cameras are on and everyone has a voice. With remote teams, being engaged in the conversation is important. Leave room for banter and formalities. Remote work is lonely and these meetings offer a chance to socialize and be heard. Pay attention to those who don't speak up in remote meetings and check in on them privately.
4. Provide Your Team with the Right Resources
There is a glorified view of remotely working in a coffee shop or outdoors in the sun. But the reality is you can only do so much work in those types of environments. What most of us need is a place where we can really think and that reflects the office setup that we are accustomed to.
Working remotely looks different from working in the office. Walking in the office, we all have the same setup for the most part with the same equipment and the same atmosphere. Working remote creates variables for each individual, especially in sudden circumstances like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remote employees need a physical space where they can work. They need the right equipment: desks, chairs, monitors, computers, mice, etc. They require appropriate internet connectivity — VPN is not optional. Make sure your team members are comfortable and have the tools and resources they need to perform their jobs remotely.
5. Just Ask
Finally, if you're wondering how someone on your team is doing, ask them. Trust your gut. By the same measure, if they reply they are fine, trust them. Things are quieter with remote work. It's up to both leads and their team members to adjust and speak up when needed.
Due to the suddenness of the COVID-19 pandemic, many teams have gone completely remote for the first time. As a manager or team lead, there's a lot you can do to make that transition smoother. Just remember that strong communication skills can help you navigate through the challenges and set your team up for success.