ABOUT THE AUTHOR | Monique Lugo-López is the President and Chief Operating Officer at Álvarez-Díaz & Villalón.
Managing your team is especially challenging when doing so remotely.
For years, managers have been discussing how to effectively manage teams remotely. Current events resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, have forced us to abruptly transition to remote work. Procedures that had been put off for “later” and strategies that were being considered too cumbersome, now need to be quickly implemented. Today’s business survival depends on this implementation of effective tools that allow teams to continue to work remotely.
Embracing this new reality can be difficult and may present challenges including overcoming employee resistance, weak internet connections, lack of access to information, isolation and home distractions. We are all dealing with these new realities. Here are some guidelines to help you effectively manage a strong and productive remote team.
Start with your people
SHIFT THE MINDSET
Having a successful virtual office is not about technology; it’s about mindset. The process can be bumpy, but it has to come from the top. If you want this to be successful, you must believe it will. You need to buy into this new reality and focus on making it work. For every obstacle, there is likely an effective solution, but you have to be patient with yourself and your team. Understand that it’s a process that will take some resourcefulness. Shifting your mindset and encouraging your team to do the same is the first step. As a leader, you should develop clear structures, implement new processes and systems, adopt them and make them part of your company culture. This will give your team clarity and focus.
ENCOURAGE TRUST AND ACCOUNTABILITY
For this to work, trust is extremely important. Trust works both ways and needs to be nurtured within the company culture. As a manager, you need to trust that your team will work productively without direct supervision. Exemplify trust by being empathetic and understanding. Focus on results and output. We are all going through similar situations, we are all juggling multiple roles, and we are all stressed. Be flexible when managing your team remotely. There is a direct link between morale and productivity. Show that you care, trust and believe in them. Encourage them to get their work done and take ownership of their responsibilities.
Open lines of communication
ESTABLISH A WEEKLY TEAM CHECK-IN
Consistent communication is essential to managing employees remotely. Implement a weekly formal touch point meeting for the entire team. This is where they will report, collaborate and share. Aim to communicate through video conferencing to make team members feel more connected and engaged.
Frequently check in with individual team members and project teams through group or individual chats, message postings, audio calls or video conferences to talk about work progress, answer questions, and provide feedback.
Invest on infrastructure and technology
EVALUATE AND INVEST IN YOUR INFRASTRUCTURE
Your technology infrastructure needs to support the tools that will facilitate remote work. Assess and upgrade your server, network, cloud service, bandwidth, VPN licenses, etc., at all remote work locations. Upgrade the necessary systems to maximize your performance. Do not view infrastructure technology as a cost. Instead, recognize it is a business investment and part of the company strategy.
OFFER TECHNOLOGY SUPPORT
Make technology support available to every team member. Have a dedicated team member assigned exclusively to assisting in potential technology issues. Facilitating technology support will increase team morale by decreasing frustrations and tech issues that will inevitably arise. This will allow team members to focus on the work, instead of wasting productive time looking for solutions to technological problems.
Decide on a tool
CHOOSE A PLATFORM AND STICK TO IT
Choose a collaborative platform like Microsoft Teams, to have conversations, jointly work on projects, organize team tasks, upload and share files. When selecting the software, decide on a tool that allows for centralizing communication in one place and for easy integration and connection to other applications that your team is already familiar with. Show your team members the advantages that exist when everyone employs the same tool.
Circle back to your people
Create channels or forums in the collaboration tool, where your team can engage regularly. These spaces can be used to make announcements, answer questions, welcome suggestions, and share useful information. Establish processes so your team knows the best time to connect during the workday and for effective engagement. Post your availability status and encourage the team to do the same, so that everyone knows when others are available to engage.
Offer your support to your team and be encouraging. Make yourself available and listen. These are interesting and uncertain times. The emotional health of your team should be a priority. Let the team know that you care about them and that they are an important part of your organization.
Managing a remote team can be challenging, but the struggles can be diminished by leveraging your people’s resources through communication, collaboration, engagement, trust and support. Focus on the things you can control to efficiently manage a productive team and a thriving business. Best of luck! Stay safe and healthy!