How to effectively manage remote teams

empowering, shifting

A recent Australian survey found that 67 per cent of employed respondents were sometimes or always working from home, compared with 42 per cent pre-pandemic.

It’s undeniable that the pandemic has permanently changed our outlook on work, balance and what is possible. For some, the creature comforts of working from home with a decent sleep in and loungewear was welcomed, while others struggled to manage their full-time job with the added full-time job of home-schooling.

With the pandemic at levels we’re now learning to live with, many employees and offices are in the position to now strike a balance and find what works for them. More employees are opting for partial work-from-home (WFH) with no view to return to the office in a full-time capacity. Some businesses have done away with their office entirely.

Work-from-home isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. For managers and staff alike, remote working has its benefits and challenges.

For leadership, the first step in managing remotely is understanding the factors that will affect this way of working. For parents, and unfortunately still mostly mothers there can be the expectation to perform multiple roles at once; for new staff, there may be a need for greater hours spent training remotely; technology and reception issues depending on where people work may also be an issue – everyone’s situation is different.

The biggest piece of advice I have for managers who may be new to this way of working is to trust and empower staff. This goes for those in the office too. Empowering your employees to take full ownership of their role and responsibilities without being micro-managed and ensuring they’re confident on when, where and how to seek support when needed is the best way to ensure your team will thrive.

By setting clear expectations and processes early on and being willing to adapt to when, where and how people work best – focusing on outcomes over hours spent at a screen – work will flow better for all involved.

Here are some other quick tips that I have learnt as co-founder of Luxico that will help effectively manage from afar:

  1. Set clear processes to provide easy road maps for staff to follow without the need for external direction.
  2. Utilise technology (Slack etc) but stick to a single channel as the primary communication tool. Having staff frantically checking five different platforms to see if they’ve missed anything is a recipe for stress and highly inefficient.
  3. Ask any quick questions via instant messaging like slack for agile responses, saving emails for anything more formal.
  4. Empower your staff (don’t micromanage from afar) – clear expectations and scheduled check-ins
  5. Be willing to adapt meeting lengths and regularity, as what worked in the office may not work from home.
  6. Encourage some casual communication or team socialisation activities from afar. Remote means sometimes missing the small comforts of a morning catch up over coffee or shared lunch break. Bringing in opportunities for human connection can make a big difference in someone’s day and increase their positivity towards the business.
  7. Make sure systems are in place for anything like remote tech support or training and upskilling opportunities
  8. Be human! Check in and make sure this new way of working is continuing to work for everyone

If you’re experiencing challenges with remote staff, look first at the workload and processes in place. Do they have the support and empowerment to complete their tasks in a reasonable time frame? Are there external factors at play in their work-from-home environment and are there simple workarounds to be considered?

In any case, flexibility in this day and age is a welcome change and is here to stay.