Trends in Technology
Leading Remote Teams | The remote work model has brought smiles to the faces of millions of workers worldwide as they were able to achieve a better work-life balance due to the several benefits it offered. For instance, it allowed them to make more time for other activities due to the time saved on commute. Plus, many companies have reported a sharp increase in productivity due to improved employee health and fewer distractions.
However, the nuances of remote team management are an entirely different story. While remote employees enjoy working from home or anywhere, leaders and managers are faced with a gauntlet of complexities to navigate and streamline operations.
In this post, we’ll share the five main challenges of remote team management or leadership and how to overcome them.
The 5 Key Challenges of Remote Team Leadership
Communication has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge the work-from-anywhere model has presented. The workforce has rapidly shifted from a synchronous (real-time) model to an asynchronous (near-real-time) model.
As a result, leaders and managers have struggled with several aspects of the transition. They have faced challenges regarding choosing the right channels, creating a balanced routine, conveying the right nuance, and replicating face-to-face interactions in online video calls.
2. Tracking Work and Productivity
Managers and team leaders had more visibility when teams were working from the office. They could keep an eagle eye on operations and monitor employee productivity. However, in a remote environment, it’s difficult to track work and what employees are doing during their work schedule, especially if they’re working flexible shifts.
3. Time Zone Management
One of the biggest advantages of working remotely is that teams can work from anywhere around the world as long as they have a stable internet connection and proper equipment for the job. As a result, organizations now hire employees from different cities, states, and countries.
The biggest challenge this presents is managing teams across different time zones and finding a time that works well for everyone when scheduling virtual meetings and assigning tasks that require collaboration.
Decisions in the workplace typically revolved around the “tell and sell” model. Decisions were made by management and then sold to employees. This model worked well for Boomers and traditional workers. However, modern Millennial and Gen Z workforces demand to know the “What”, “Why,” and “How” so they can buy into the decision.
By understanding the trade-offs between different decisions, teams can and have shown to function more independently, especially in sales and other operations that demand quick thinking and decision-making. However, in a remote environment, it’s difficult to involve employees in decision-making or delegate the process due to the asynchronous and informal nature of communication.
Thus, many leaders and managers are faced with a predicament – to delegate decision-making and increase autonomy, or go back to the “tell and sell”, “shoot first, ask questions later” model. Either way, they have to carefully assess the risk and try to find the right balance to maintain both employee and customer satisfaction.
The loud uproars of the COVID-19 pandemic overshadowed another epidemic building in silence – mental health issues due to the isolation of remote work. Professionals aren’t exactly known for talking about their personal struggles with their team or managers.
However, no manager or leader is stranger to the struggles of working remotely, such as time management, conflicts due to miscommunication, technology woes, fear of missing out (FOMO), etc. As a team leader, it’s your job to ensure employees are motivated.
While you can’t act as their therapist, what you can do is create the conditions that can improve their dedication and commitment.
For instance, if they’re struggling with technology, you can create a self-paced eLearning program. If they feel like they’re being micro-managed, you can offer more autonomy. If they feel they have no idea where they’re going in their careers, give them meaningful goals or incentives.
3 Ways to Overcome the Challenges of Leading Remote Teams
1. Coordinating Schedules
The first thing you need to do to improve remote team leadership is to create a centralized communication schedule for coordination. Whether your team resides in the same city or works for multiple locations across multiple time zones, you can take advantage of this situation and design a schedule that maximizes availability, especially in terms of support.
Moreover, you need to find a suitable time where all shifts coincide. This time should be best for conducting meetings, training, planning, and other activities that require collaboration. Moreover, you should respect your remote teams’ off-times. For example, you can’t ping them in the middle of the night in their time zone for a quick question just because it’s still business hours in your location.
To make scheduling easier and more efficient, you can create helpful resources for self-learning or troubleshooting. This way, you don’t have to hold multiple meetings to brief, instruct, or help stuck employees and maintain a consistent workflow.
You can also use collaboration tools, such as task management apps, instant messaging apps, and visualization software, such as Skype, Google Cloud, Wrike, and inVision.
2. Consistent Communication
Once you’ve developed a communication schedule, you need to create a communication strategy that covers the style, channels, medium, and tools/software. This strategy will help improve your productivity and operational efficiency.
For instance, if your operations rely on real-time communication, you need to avoid using emails and stick to instant chat apps, such as WhatsApp, Slack, Flowdock, Rocket, etc. In other words, you need to choose tools according to the level of urgency. You also need to measure the effectiveness of each channel. For instance, messages lack nuance and empathy and are highly prone to misinterpretation.
In this case, virtual meetings or calls would be ideal for providing full context and empathy and minimizing any confusion. Lastly, you need to set clear communication rules and expectations, so you don’t leave your team guessing how and when to reach out to you.
3. Balancing Accountability and Managing Productivity
Once you’ve established a working schedule and communication strategy, the next thing you need to do is manage your team’s productivity and balance accountability. While there has been a significant rise in productivity with the introduction of remote work, it’s mainly been due to the lack of commute and flexible work schedules.
However, working remotely has made employees succumb to distraction and prioritize non-work-related activities. So, leaders need a way to balance oversight and scrutiny without micromanaging each employee. Great employees work better with additional autonomy. Therefore, constantly asking them about progress or their whereabouts demonstrates a lack of trust and irritates them.
Instead, what you should be doing instead is defining deadlines and deliverables, and communicating overall project goals rather than breaking them down into chunks. More importantly, you need to leverage key performance indicators and share them with employees to boost accountability and ensure they stay on track without the need for pesky intrusions.
So, there you have it – 5 ways to overcome the challenges of leading remote teams in the new normal. Remote team management is undoubtedly a serious challenge for leaders, managers, and organizations as a whole. You can take your leadership, team productivity, and operational efficiency to the next level by overcoming these challenges.
For more information on remote team leadership, trending management practices, and business technologies in the new normal, visit Percento Technologies today. percento.us/expert-services/managed-it-services