The rise of the remote workforce has created a needed shift in how leaders support their employees. While remote and hybrid teams offer immense flexibility and convenience for both employees and employers, they also present unique challenges. Skilled leaders have to adopt a different leadership style that can help build a supportive environment and promote team collaboration. We will discuss some successful leadership strategies for managing remote teams and tackling the challenges that come with this new way of working.
How to Manage a Remote Team?
Remote work is here to stay, so it’s important for managers to get comfortable with it. Finding the right balance in managing a remote team is tricky; employees don’t want their managers to micromanage them, but they want them to be present and hands-on without being intrusive. We’ve identified important things to consider when managing remote teams, let’s dive in.
Everyone's Homelife Is Different
Leading a remote team isn’t just about managing their work. It’s also about understanding the external factors that may affect their work. For instance, some team members may have different time zones, busy family lives, care for their parents, or have other off-the-clock responsibilities. As a leader, it’s essential to build spaces that are supportive for all team members. This could mean setting flexible schedules, providing tools to facilitate communication across different time zones, dedicating time for on-the-clock wellness breaks, or even providing a budget for team members to create a designated workspace at home.
Acknowledge the Influence of External Factors
The outside world inevitably impacts our work environment. News, politics, and other external factors can significantly affect mood and productivity. A continuous stream of negative news can make it challenging to focus, leading to drops in morale and productivity. It’s important to remember that we are all on the same ride here on planet earth, and it’s okay to need time to process. Leaders should strive to create an empathetic environment where individuals feel understood, supported, and empowered to catch their breath when needed. This might involve offering team members the flexibility to take mental health days or extending deadlines if possible. Recognizing and respecting our human experiences can build trust and camaraderie within the team, helping individuals bounce back stronger and move faster together.
Encourage Use of Sick Leave
It is not uncommon for remote workers to continue working even when they’re not feeling well. This perception that they should “push through” illnesses can be detrimental to their health and overall productivity. As a leader, it’s critical to review your sick day policies to ensure they provide ample support for your remote workforce. Encourage your team members to take the time they need to recuperate when they’re unwell or to care for family members. Make it clear that their health is a priority and provide the resources to make that possible.
An open dialogue around health can ultimately enhance the productivity of your team and contribute to a more supportive, understanding remote work environment. We’ve seen success from companies that offer quarterly wellness days or stress management programs, including hybrid teams participating in virtual yoga and massage for onsite employees, all while sharing reminders about the importance of health. By doing this, these teams reinforce a culture that truly values health and well-being, creating space for team members to feel secure in taking a sick day when necessary.
Clear and effective communication is the cornerstone of successful leadership, particularly when managing remote teams. Renowned researcher and author, Brene Brown, succinctly captures this concept in the phrase, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” Leaders, often inundated with tasks, tend to communicate in brief, concise messages. This brevity has been shared as a source of workplace humor that the higher one climbs the corporate ladder, the shorter their emails become. Unfortunately, this often can lead to misunderstandings and errors.
It is crucial for leaders to take the necessary time to articulate ideas and feedback comprehensively. This practice not only fosters transparency but also minimizes the potential for confusion, fostering a smoother, more efficient workflow. It also reinforces respect and value for the people working to make the business a success daily. By investing time in clear and thorough communication, leaders can cultivate a stronger relationship with their team members, enhancing overall team cohesion and productivity.
Understand and Use Digital Body Language
In the absence of physical body language, which plays a significant role in in-person interactions, remote team leaders must understand and use digital body language. This term refers to the cues and signals we send in our digital communications, including tone of voice in an email, speed of response, channel of choice to communicate (ping, email, call, meeting, etc), and even the use of emojis.
As a leader, how you leverage these tools shapes the digital atmosphere of your team and sets the tone for interaction. Erica Dawson dives deep into this concept in Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection no Matter the Distance and it’s a great read (or listen) for both leaders and team members alike.
For instance, using bullet points and bold headers in a project brief can help your team quickly understand key takeaways while simultaneously showing respect for their time. Similarly, addressing team members by name in digital meetings can foster a sense of connection and engagement. Being mindful of your digital body language can help you build a strong, communicative, and engaged remote team.
Investing in Corporate Wellness
Promoting corporate wellness has never been more crucial. In a remote work set-up, the lines between professional and personal life can blur, often leading to elevated stress levels and burnout.
As a leader, investing in corporate wellness programs can drastically improve the overall health and productivity of your team. This doesn’t necessarily demand extravagant resources. Simple initiatives like hosting virtual yoga or meditation sessions, promoting digital detox hours, or encouraging regular breaks can go a long way in ensuring a positive work environment. These wellness programs not only signal to employees that their wellbeing is a priority, but it also fosters a culture of care and empathy. Ultimately, a mentally and physically healthy workforce is much more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive.