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How to build a more effective remote team.

Photo of Daniel Perez
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Regardless of whether your team had some form of remote work before the pandemic began, it’s safe to say your remote team management skills have probably risen dramatically these past few years. It’s safe to say that the hybrid / remote workplace is here to stay. In fact, our recent Talent Insights survey revealed that 98% of talent want to work remotely at least some of the time and a whopping 43% want to work remotely all of the time. That means you need to find ways to effectively manage your team in a remote work environment.

Successfully managing a team and prioritizing their workloads in a remote situation requires a shift in tactics, one that could actually produce better work. Here are a few ideas you can start to implement today.

98% of talent want to work remotely at least some of the time. 2021 Talent Insights

Establish a new communication pattern.

Communication is a vital component of a remote / hybrid work life. Formulating a meeting schedule is a great way to maintain relationships, structure time, and hold everyone accountable while pushing a project forward. In addition to your one-on-ones, hold weekly team meetings where you can discuss project milestones as well as obstacles that still remain. This is also a great opportunity to brief team members on any new changes to the project.

As part of your meetings, always allow team members some time to connect. This helps foster collaboration and let people simply be around one another again as humans, improving everyone’s motivation and morale.

Identify your team’s new capacity.

In many instances when managing a remote team, the capacity of individual remote employees will mirror what was expected of them in the office. In some cases it will not. Particularly if you have team members juggling work from home and caregiving.

To identify your team’s total as well as individual capacity, start by chronicling all projects your team is currently responsible for. This should include the total scope and estimated due dates. Then break each of these projects down into a series of smaller workstreams or individual tasks. These may all be assigned to one or multiple team members, depending on the size of the project and the capacity of those on your team. Finally, balance capacity issues and team member time by scheduling these individual tasks and workflows. Your priority system could be based on capacity, due dates, or another metric that works for you and your team.

You could use a spreadsheet for capturing this information, but there is project management software out there, built for teams like yours. Whatever tool you use, you can get a bird’s-eye view of your team’s capacity and adjust workloads as needed when new capacity problems or opportunities arise.

Create effective schedules.

Now that you’ve evaluated your team’s capacity, you’ll need to develop new strategies to accommodate different schedules, leverage productivity, and avoid missing deadlines.

Start by working with your team to manage schedules and availability in order to support due dates that are beyond business hours. People are still struggling to accommodate family life in new ways, and the traditional 9-to-5 is not always going to be feasible. Employees can then use their email chat status to update fellow team members on when they will be available and programs such as Slack can support communication and let everyone know when someone is out to lunch, on vacation, or simply taking time to destress. In his book, "Creative Culture: Human-Centered Interaction, Design, & Inspiration,” thought leader Justin Dauer advises—now that work has crossed over into people’s personal lives—it’s vital that managers let staff know that it’s okay to take time for self-care.

All of this will allow you to work with your employees on a new set of expectations that adapts to their schedule and helps them to be productive. If that means taking longer breaks midday and checking tasks later, work to accommodate that and ensure those adjustments are communicated to all.

Monitor your workflows.

Next, to support efficient workflows given these fluctuating timelines, ensure you have overflow backups for any task that you can, especially tasks that only require review. If there is a project being held up by someone’s untraditional schedule, try to secure another resource that can tackle those tasks to keep work flowing. Project management software solutions can help make these and other bottlenecks more obvious while identifying risks and inefficiencies that exist in your workflows.

By attaining total visibility into your project, you’ll be able to spot delays before they become a major problem, as well as identify the causes.

Managing your risk.

Managing risk as a manager is about seeing problems before they happen. It’s great when everything is going well, but it’s those times especially when you should be thinking about what could have gone wrong and making a plan or process to prevent it. Do you have staff with weak spots? Do you have a bottleneck in your process that is just waiting to be clogged? Are there backups for each member of your team?

Now is the time to solve these issues and ensure that the potential problem is gone before it has a chance to hamper your workflow.

Always reward good work.

Finally, let’s end on a positive note. While your staff may not be with you in the office, their work ethic hasn’t faltered. You’ll still see plenty of examples of their great work throughout the course of a project. Don’t ignore these opportunities to celebrate.

Recognizing individual employees’ good work during your weekly meetings or holding a team virtual happy hour to celebrate the completion of a large project can help everyone on your team feel better about their role and the work they are doing. Or reward them by running one of the many remote team games that have cropped up over the last few years. These will show them that you’re paying attention and that, while they may be working hybrid/remote, they don’t need to feel isolated.

If you’re looking for more insights on how to manage remote team members and teams effectively, be sure to check out our recent Digitalks webinar with Justin Dauer, author of Creative Culture, who shows how a human-centered design (HCD) approach can create an employee experience that delivers connection and fulfillment regardless of location.

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