It’s no secret that working remotely is here to stay. The effects of the pandemic have caused a significant shift towards fully-remote and semi-remote work. According to a recent study, roughly 40% of full-time employees in the U.S. work fully or partially remotely. In comparison, fewer than 6% of Americans worked from home in 2019. This new reality in the working world has created new challenges for managers and employees alike.
Here at Go Fish Digital, we have a variety of employees who work in different zip codes, states, and in some cases, countries. As a project manager, it’s my job to ensure that no matter where a team member works, they feel heard, valued, and appreciated. It requires a fresh approach to team management and an emphasis on communication when in-office collaboration is missing. In this article, we’ll explore 8 key tips and strategies for managing remote teams effectively.
Key Tips for Nurturing Remote Teams
1. Communication is Key
In a remote work environment, effective communication is the cornerstone of success. Regular check-ins, team meetings, and one-on-one discussions can bridge the gap created by physical distance. When working with a team of remote individuals, it’s inevitable that your communication will rely on tools like video conferencing, instant messaging and written communication. The sooner a team (and manager) can perfect this new reality, the better.
2. Encourage a Healthy Work-Life Balance
The line between work and personal life is often blurred when a person is working from home. Without a daily commute, it can be easy for remote team members to fall into unhealthy habits, like working late hours, ignoring vacation time, or failing to establish boundaries between work and personal life. As a manager, be sure to encourage a healthy work-life balance amongst your team members. This can look like:
- Lead by Example: Demonstrate a healthy work-life balance yourself. Avoid sending work-related emails or messages to your team during non-working hours, and take your vacation days as needed.
- Encourage Breaks: Long calls and hectic work sprints can be mentally exhausting, especially for remote team members. When needed, encourage your employees to take short breaks during the day and discourage working through lunch.
- Give the Right Feedback: Instead of celebrating team members for working long hours or clocking overtime, check in with them and see where you can provide support on bandwidth and time management.
3. The Get-To-Know-You’s Dont Stop at Onboarding
Without an office setting, it can be easy to fall into talking only about work with your team members and failing to get to know them on a personal level. To avoid this, don’t let the “get-to-know-you’s” stop at onboarding.
Encourage casual chats, virtual water cooler moments, and themed Slack channels for light-hearted conversations between your team members. (At Go Fish, our “Anything But Work” Slack channel is a personal favorite.) Creating opportunities for personal interactions between team members can help to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation that some remote workers may experience. It helps to grow the overall camaraderie of your project team as well.
4. Give a Big Welcome to New Remote Workers
Speaking of onboarding, it’s important to give new remote team members extra attention when they just start or are new to your team. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd when you’re not in the same physical space. Schedule virtual coffee chats, regular check-ins, and even virtual team-building activities to help new members integrate smoothly. Taking the time to learn about their lives and interests demonstrates your commitment to their success.
5. Master the Art of Time Zones
If you have team members who work remotely, it’s likely that they may live or work in a different time zone than you. Here are a few tips on how to best handle this challenge:
- Keep Track of What Time Zone Each Team Member is In: This may seem like a no-brainer, but nothing can be more frustrating for remote team members than repeatedly having to remind their manager of their time zone. Even small details like knowing when to greet with “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” on calls can go a long way!
- Take Advantage of the Time When Everyone’s Online: Identify overlapping working hours and leverage them for collaborative activities. It’s during these windows that real-time discussions, brainstorming sessions, and joint problem-solving can take place. Making the most of these shared hours fosters efficient communication and teamwork.
- Be Considerate: Holding meetings at odd hours or setting rigid deadlines based on one time zone can lead to burnout and frustration. Schedule meetings that work for everyone or record them for those who can’t attend live. Consider asynchronous communication for tasks that don’t require real-time interaction.
6. Provide Resources and Clear Obstacles
As a project manager, it’s important to equip your remote team members with the resources they need to excel. When team members work different hours, it’s vital to clear any obstacles that may hinder their productivity. Ensure they have the needed access to software, documents, etc. Providing the necessary resources for your team will keep everyone well-equipped to do their jobs effectively.
7. Say Thank You Often
In the hustle of remote work, expressing gratitude can easily be overlooked. When managing remote team members, say thank you and express gratitude often. Acknowledge individual and team achievements, celebrate milestones, and remember to show your appreciation, especially when things get busy. This small act will make sure that each team member knows they are valued, appreciated, and cared for.
8. Empathy is Your Secret Weapon
Lastly, remember that empathy goes a long way in building strong relationships with remote team members. It’s important to understand that everyone’s work-from-home experience is unique, and factors like home environment, family responsibilities, and personal well-being can impact their performance. As a project manager, empathy isn’t just a soft skill — it can be a powerful tool for team cohesion.
Remote work has become a lasting reality, and as a manager, it’s our responsibility to adapt and lead our teams effectively in this new landscape. By prioritizing communication, empathy, flexibility, and gratitude, we create an environment where remote team members can thrive. Embracing both the challenges and opportunities of remote work fosters a culture of collaboration, innovation, and shared success.
As we navigate the ever-evolving world of work, let’s remember that behind every screen is a talented individual with unique strengths and aspirations. By implementing these strategies, we can not only manage remote teams but also nurture them, ensuring that distance doesn’t diminish our ability to create exceptional work together.
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