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Managing a Remote Team, Improving Communicationon 5 February 2016Posted by Sam Abrahams
Remote teams have clear and varied benefits, but any way of working or leading will come with its own kind of challenges. In the case of remote teamwork, those challenges stem from the fact of people not being able to work side by side.
Gone is the body language from our communication that will help us express or interpret doubt, confidence or excitement; gone are those small inconsequential chats in the kitchen or hallway that help develop relationships and occasionally reveal otherwise hidden nuggets of information; and gone is the opportunity to observe at close quarters how a team copes with a challenge or arrives at a solution.
Nevertheless, there is much that can be done to ensure a fluid, efficient operation, and that your leadership of a remote team is in no way hindered by the distinctions of a virtual office.
1. Core hours
There is a great and essential value to having people from the same team being able to ask a question, fact-check, or voice their concerns or ideas at any given time, and naturally this could be compromised by a remote team.
One option, therefore, is to set some core hours where every team member has to be either working and/or available to communicate with. Alternatively, and if team members are local to the office, make regular visits to the office part of the routine, which can be achieved either with scheduling in those visits, or by encouraging them with social events or workshops.
2. Define your responsiveness
Also, establish a few guidelines (OK, rules) that make clear what is expected in terms of response times to written queries and to return a call. Lead by example and help develop a culture of swift and effective collaboration.
3. Clearly define expectations
Building trust between team members and the leadership team is important in any kind of project, and placing down clear expectations of both individuals and teams not only helps people recognise exactly where they stand, but also gives them the opportunity to meet those expectations. The cycle of setting and meeting targets – and of making record of those instances – is excellent for growing trust, and is something that can be reflected on in one-to-one meetings.
4. The proof is in the pudding
All too often we judge behaviour and not output. Rather than checking up on whether people are online working or online on their Facebook, have your expectations set and agreed on, and manage people according to their responsiveness and quality of work.
5. Email is not enough
While the immediacy of email has been incredibly valuable to modern business practices, it is not the only way to communicate, and may even be the root cause of many a communication or productivity breakdown.
Long email chains are inefficient, often seclude key individuals from the conversation, or do the opposite and include people in conversations that just end up wasting their time. Instead, take advantage of an online workspace that will thread conversations, and make topics easy to find and visible to the whole team.
Also, when faced with an issue the temptation may be to send an email and wait sitting on your hands until you receive a response. But instead make a free conference call, which will often put a quick end to an issue that otherwise might have required dozens of emails to resolve.
Remote teams have so many benefits, to both individual workers and whole businesses alike, and as long as managers are sensitive to their inherent characteristics, those remote teams will be able to help them properly achieve their potential.
Managing remote teams can be challenging. Check out these expert recommendations to ensure you’re using the right remote team working tools for the job.
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