How to Effectively Manage Your Team Remotely

This is a guest post from Will Cotter (see bio below) – thanks Will…!

Before the pandemic, remote work felt like something reserved for specific industries or employees. Not everyone could work from home, nor could they be a digital nomad. However, over the last few years, that’s changed dramatically. With these changing times, management styles have needed to change, too. Unfortunately, team management from a distance hasn’t been the easiest skill to pick up. Don’t worry, we’re here to change that.

If you’re looking for ways to improve management of your team remotely, keep reading. We’re going over how to manage your employees as they continue to work from home. And this isn’t just an academic idea – my name is Will Cotter, and I’m a local business owner of HappyCleans. I’ve adapted to this change and now I manages my employees virtually. Here’s what I’ve learned…

Understanding the Influence of the Pandemic

As COVID-19 continued to spread throughout the country in 2020, more and more companies began to send employees home. For many, the change was abrupt, and working from home was entirely new. Plenty of managers were used to managing their teams in-person. This made management even more difficult than it was before.

Much to the surprise of many, though, employee performance actually improved in the home setting. So much so that employees and employers alike wanted to keep their employees at home. What did that mean for managers, though? It meant adopting new skills to manage teams from afar.

Adapting to the Work from Home Model

For any manager, adaptability should have always been a tool in the toolbox. Work from home is just making managers use that tool a little bit differently. Management techniques that are used in the workplace can be used just as easily when working remotely, it’s just about how you implement them. Below we’ve outlined effective management practices that you were probably using in the workplace but adapted them for a work from home lifestyle.

Practice 1: Trust Your Employees

Believe it or not, most adults that work are going to do their work. It’s all about their intrinsic motivation. As a manager, it’s important to trust them to do their work, no matter where they’re located. Many companies saw an uptick in productivity when their employees began working from home. Taking breaks can also increase productivity.

Most people believed that working from home would be detrimental, but it has actually proved to work to the advantage of most companies. Trust your employees, even if you can’t be there to manage them in person.

Practice 2: Use the Right Tech

When you’re working in an office you can rely on phone calls and emails. When those fall through, you can always walk over to a person’s desk. Working from home presents a unique challenge here – you can’t always see your team members face to face. This takes a big chunk out of effective communication. Body language and facial expression are a big part of communication, after all.

Thankfully we aren’t living in the stone age anymore. Everyone has a webcam or a cell phone camera. As such, you need to rely more on software like Zoom to allow you to talk to your team “face to face.” Don’t take the human element out of communication just because you aren’t in the same physical space. This will help you and your team.

Now, workflow management programs also play a crucial part in using the right tech. Programs like Slack are going to allow you to effectively communicate with your entire team using chat rooms, direct messaging, and file sharing. Slack can help you keep things flowing the way that they should be.

Practice 3: Communicate Appropriately

Being far from your employees is nerve wracking to say the least. You may feel the need to communicate constantly. Believe it or not, this is actually counterproductive. Communicating frequently is good but communicating constantly is going to hinder your employees.

For starters, you need to set up regular, recurring communication. A great way to do this is to set up a morning meeting with your remote workers, just to say hello and make any announcements. This makes everyone feel like they’re still part of a team, and that you’re leading that team.

Additionally, set up recurring one-on-ones. This will let you carve out time for your employees on a regular basis and can help you stay on the same page. Try for weekly or bi-weekly meetings, depending on the size of your team.

Practice 4: Make Things Clear

One of the best parts about working in a physical space together is the way that clarifications can be made at just about any time. Your team can ask you a question quickly, then get right back to work. Now, you should try to keep that same open-door policy while working remotely, but realistically electronic communication is slower. As such, you need to create clear guidelines the first time. If you don’t, you run the risk of stagnating communication, and as a result, work.

Practice 5: Stay Involved

If something is out of sight, then the old saying goes that it’s also out of mind. As a manager, you can’t afford to allow this to happen. It is crucial that you stay involved and invested in your employees, especially in a work from home setting. Staying involved may mean several things, though. To stay involved and invested, make sure you’re taking the time to do the following things with your team:

  • Communicate to the whole team, forcing them to stay involved with one another as well as you.
  • Celebrate successes. Sure, you can’t throw an office party anymore, but that doesn’t mean that wins should go unnoticed.
  • Plan virtual team building activities. There are a ton of online games and icebreakers that you can do with your team.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to staying involved, but it’s a good place to start!

Work From Home is Here to Stay

At this point, it doesn’t look like remote work will be ending any time soon. Even with the pandemic beginning to lessen, working from home has presented a plethora of advantages to employees and employers. As a manager, it’s up to you to stay with the times. Keep innovating and adapting to manage your remote team as effectively as possible.

William Cotter is a small business owner. His passions include small business, the environment, and healthy living.

Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach