Essential Virtual Leadership Goals: How to Manage Remote Teams

Essential Virtual Leadership Goals: How to Manage Remote Teams

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Introduction

In the past decade, there has been a surge in the popularity of remote work. With technological advances making it easier to connect with colleagues online and telecommute, more people are opting to work from home. A 2021 study by Global Workplace Analytics found that 70% of all surveyed full-time workers in the U.S. have worked remotely. Many owed the initial experience to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic certainly has had a hand in accelerating the trend. In the past, working from home was seen as a privilege for those with specific jobs. Since the pandemic lockdowns forced a majority of offices and workplaces to reconsider their stance on telecommuting, remote work has become the new normal for many workers across the globe. Indeed, more than just a new normal, it’s becoming a commonplace demand. In the same study by Global Workforce Analytics, one in four workers said they would quit their current roles if they were not allowed to work remotely. Additionally, 38% said they were willing to take a 5% reduction in pay to telecommute part of their hours.

In these changing times, you must understand remote work, what it entails, and how you can continue leading your teams — virtually — in an effective manner.

Remote Work

Most people think of remote work as employees logging in to their office email and Slack from their sofa, but it’s so much more.

A recent study from Gallup found that 45% of workers say they spent at least some time working remotely in September 2021, which is way up from 4% in 2012. That number is expected to grow as technology improves and businesses become more flexible.

So what exactly is remote work? It’s simply doing your job duties outside of an office setting. So, working from home, a coffee shop, or even coworking spaces designed for digital nomads. As long as you have a laptop and internet connection, you can pretty much work from anywhere in the world.

The benefits of remote work are plentiful:

  • No commute equates to less money spent on gas and fewer emissions harming the environment
  • There is Increased flexibility when it comes to hours and location
  • Workers gain the ability to design their own office space
  • It’s possible to take mini-vacations throughout the year (working remotely while traveling)
  • Studies have shown that employees who telecommute are more productive than those who don’t!
  • Remote workers are certainly happier and more content than their office-only counterparts.

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Remote Work Management

The three essential pillars of successful asynchronous work management are clear and concise communication, maintaining a sense of company culture, and establishing trust.

Communication

First, regular and open communication is critical to the success of any remote team. Before instituting a remote work policy, managers should lay out clear expectations for how often employees need to check in, what kind of information needs to be shared, and what the process is for asking questions or seeking clarification. Managers should also create opportunities for informal check-ins to get a pulse on how their team is doing professionally and personally.

Company Culture

Second, it’s crucial to ensure that your company culture translates well to a remote environment. This means clearly defining your values as an organization and then making sure that everyone on the team feels like they are living up to those values – no matter where they are physically located. One way to do this is by setting up regular video calls or chat sessions so that everyone has a chance to connect socially as well as professionally. Additionally, you can encourage employees to decorate their home office space to reflect your company culture (e.g., if you have a fun workplace atmosphere, allow employees to put up personal decorations or photographs).

Trust

Third, it’s important to trust your team members and give them the freedom to work independently. Micromanaging will only make everyone more stressed out and less productive. Moreover, it’s much harder to do when you can’t physically see what someone is doing at their desk all day long! Suppose you set clear expectations upfront and provide regular feedback (either through one-on-one check-ins or group video calls). In that case, your team should be able to figure out ways to work effectively without needing constant supervision.

Pro Tip: Tools

As an additional tip, you need systems in place to help employees stay organized and on track with their work. This might include using project management tools like Asana or Trello, setting up regular calendar reminders for deadlines and meetings, or sending out daily/weekly email updates summarizing what everyone on the team should be working on. Additionally, it’s important to give employees some flexibility in how they structure their days. Remote workers shouldn’t feel like they have to stick to a nine-to-five schedule just because that’s what the rest of the world is doing.

Challenges of Managing Remote Employees

There are three primary challenges to managing remote teams — and two of them are also the pillars of effective remote work management — isolation, communication, and trust.

Isolation

Isolation can be a problem for team members who work remotely because they lack the day-to-day social interaction essential for building relationships and trust. Additionally, working remotely can be lonely and isolating. Isolation is commonly a consequence of not being able to establish a sense of company culture — and it’s a task that’s unfortunately easy to fail. Few companies have enough experience trying to build a company culture with team members sitting miles and miles apart.

Communication

Communication is also more difficult when team members are not in the same location. Building rapport and trust with teammates can be challenging if you never see them in person. Additionally, miscommunications are more likely to happen when people cannot speak face-to-face, and most conversations are carried out via chat.

Trust

Trust is another issue that can crop up when managing remote teams. It can be difficult for managers to build trust with employees they never see in person. Additionally, managers may have trouble trusting that employees are working when they're not in the office.

It’s not that managers simply can’t take their team members’ word at face value; it’s just that without the usual natural feedback they get in an office-based setting, they’re left unsure, and many offices don’t have active metrics that show meaningful work progress.

Remote Work Management Best Practices

The priority for any effective remote work strategy is to avoid the pitfalls of its primary challenges, or at the very least, proactively address them if they’re becoming persistent issues.

There are various things companies can do to help their employees who work remotely feel less isolated. Encouraging regular social interaction is one path. This can be done by planning company-wide events, such as holiday parties or summer picnics, or scheduling regular check-ins between team members. Additionally, giving remote employees opportunities to attend conferences or networking events related to their field can help them feel more connected to their industry and less isolated from their colleagues.

To make communication more efficient, hold regular team-building activities and social events so that everyone has a chance to interact with each other in person, if possible. This will help build relationships and trust between remote team members. Additionally, be sure to overcommunicate when working on projects, and use video conferencing whenever possible to avoid miscommunications. Standardize policies and procedures to support this effort so everyone’s on the same page.

When it comes to developing trust with employees, the most important thing managers can do is keep the lines of communication open at all times. Encourage employees to reach out if they have questions or concerns, and make sure everyone knows that their input is valued. Additionally, establishing regular one-on-one check-ins (at least once a week) will allow managers to get to know their team members personally and understand how they work best.

Additionally, several tools and technologies can help managers keep tabs on employee productivity when working remotely. For example, time-tracking software can be used to see which apps and websites employees spend the most time on during work hours. Managers can also use project management tools like Asana or Trello to create transparency around deadlines and assigned tasks.

Leading Virtual Teams with Skuad

The right HR management partner can help you become more effective at virtual leadership and managing remote workers. Skuad enables organizations to hire their preferred talent efficiently. Skuad can also help you create policies and procedures related to virtual work arrangements that meet your and your employees' needs.

Last but not least, if you're looking for an effortless way to comply with local employment laws no matter where in the world you want to build teams next, look no further than Skuad. Skuad's in-depth knowledge of local employment laws makes running remote HR and payroll practically stress-free. Request a demo from Skuad today to see for yourself.

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