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Managing a Remote Team

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If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is how important Transparent Communication is to maintaining a strong relationship with our Team Members.  People want to know what’s going on and how it impacts their role.  If remote or hybrid work (hybrid being defined as ~ 3 days in office) may be a possibility, attempt to communicate this as early as possible to your team so that they can start to make necessary adjustments.  Waiting until the last second to make this call can leave people feeling frustrated and like they have to play catch up, versus feeling prepared (emotionally, mentally, and physically) that this was a possibility.  Whether someone loves or hates remote work, it is important that they understand if/when this could happen so that they can at least feel a sense of control over the situation.   To neglect this preparation could cause your talent to start to look elsewhere, which is a concern for 68% of respondents to a Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc. survey.  


As a Manager, managing a team remotely can feel like a challenge.  Your Team Members are no longer in your face, so it can be easy to let things fall through the cracks.  From engagement, to monitoring tasks, it is important that we check-in without micro-managing by conducting employee assessments more frequently to get feedback in real-time.  

Each Manager manages their team a little bit differently, but we typically see three main types of Manager-Team Member communications: quick check-ins, coaching conversations, and developmental/progress assessments.  The cadence of each of these touchpoints and how we hold them can help to strengthen relationships, even if they aren’t in person.   


These quick, in-the-moment check-ins can be anything from an engagement pulse-check to a quick catch-up on what’s going on in the Team Member’s day.  These are typically a bit more impromptu and informal.  In person, these may have been your water-cooler chats or a quick pop-in to someone’s desk, but now it could look like a 10-minute block on your calendar or a message asking to chat.   

One way we can increase these types of touchpoints is by hosting open “Office Hours” where your team can call you throughout the day.  If you don’t already share your calendar with your Team, now may be the time to start so that they can see when you’re available for a catch-up.   

In these touchpoints, be sure to check-in on how the Team Member is doing.  Model the behavior by sharing how your day is going and where your stress levels are at.  Being transparent and open about how you’re doing can help to make your Team Member feel more comfortable coming to you when they may need some help or additional support.   


When we’re not in person, it can be less obvious what your Team Members are doing throughout the day.  Be sure to schedule time to review their work and exchange feedback.  Your team wants feedback, and with fewer opportunities during the day to directly observe their work, setting aside time to go over their output can help your team to feel more competent and confident in what they are doing.   

One way that we can do this, is by creating checkpoints.  Whether your work is based on longer projects or clearly defined tasks, create checkpoints so that you’ll know when it’s time to check-in with this team member.  We can also do this on a time-based schedule, so we set-aside time every other day or on a weekly basis to meet with our team members 1:1 to go over their work and identify what is going well and what is worth improving.  Having these check-ins blocked will help to ensure that we are helping our team grow continuously and can also strengthen our relationships with our Team Members by showing that we are invested in their development.   


When we’re working remotely, our days can start to bleed together as we’re in the same environment each moment.  All of a sudden, a week, a month, a quarter has gone by and we can’t even remember what we’ve accomplished.  As a Manager, it is important that we take the time to step back and measure what has been achieved using employee performance tracking tools.   

When possible, bring your team together to celebrate.  Maybe this is a weekly call where everyone gets to share one thing that they are proud of from this past week.  Maybe this is a monthly 1:1 call where the team member shares updates on their goals and how they are progressing.  No matter what this touchpoint looks like, be sure to celebrate growth and bring in measurements or statistics when you can.   

If someone is not progressing in the way that they can, it is important that we step in and find out what is standing in the way of their success.  In a remote setting, it is less obvious if someone is struggling.  Scheduling time to check-in and identify barriers and provide additional guidance and support can make the difference in a Team Member’s experience and developmental journey.  We don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks!  


One of the biggest issues we found in remote work was a lack of balance between work and personal life.  When one’s office is in their home, it can be easy to bring work home.  As a Manager, there are a few ways you can help to strengthen the balance.  


Do you work a typical 9-5, or are your hours a bit more sporadic?  When we’re working remotely, there is less pressure to work during a specific set of hours and instead we’re seeing more of this mindset where as long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter when someone is actually working.  The main point is that it is clear when you plan to be online.  As previously mentioned, if you don’t already share your calendar with your team, now may be a good time to start.  If you are not going to be online, make that clear to your team.  Setting a standard of how to communicate availability will help to clear up some scheduling issues with your team and will help them to plan ahead.  

Additionally, modeling this flexible schedule shows your team that they too can be flexible with the right communication.  This is definitely going to be important as perceived low flexibility is a major driver for people to consider a new job outside of their current company (Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc.)


Once you’re done with work for the day, leave it behind.  It can be easy to want to check your email one last time or spend “just five more minutes” on that project you were working on.  This can actually hurt our engagement and productivity in the long run.  When we aren’t completely unplugged, it can feel like we are working longer than we actually are, draining our energy and ability to come back to work the next day recharged and refocused.  As a Manager, it is especially important that we unplug and go offline because it sends a message to our team that they too shouldn’t be on their computers all day every day.  One piece of feedback that we’ve heard time and time again is that employees feel like they are working more than they were in the office, and there is some truth to that.  If just one superior is online after hours, other people may feel compelled to hop back online as well.  If you do need to get back online after hours, consider changing your status to Away.  


Similarly to being intentional with stepping away from work, it is important that we’re taking our recovery seriously.  Our bodies and brains need rest, so after a long work week, we should take the time to recover and do what we need to do to feel recharged.  If that is going for a hike, or spending additional time with family, or even just lounging for a while on the couch, we should do it.  As a Manager, one way that you can encourage intentional recovery within your team is by simply asking what each Team Member is doing over the weekend to recharge.  Set an example by disclosing your recovery plans as well.   

As a Manager, you’re the first line of defense against burnout.  Setting strong boundaries and being an example of how to communicate and build balance can help your team to feel comfortable coming to you when they’re feeling overwhelmed.  Staying flexible and open can help keep engagement and motivation high.

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Now that we’ve covered some ideas for how you can effectively manager your remote team, how will you know that it is actually working?  Sometimes, people aren’t comfortable sharing their true thoughts in person, so even though we have regular check-ins, we aren’t getting the full picture.  With Truvelop, we can use the Survey feature to measure engagement levels with ease.  Having regular pulse checks are so important in terms of finding out what initiatives are working and what is still contributing to high stress.  With nearly 82% of respondents to a Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, Inc. survey indicating that they’ve received employee pushback about going back in person, it’s important that we understand where exactly the hesitancy stems from.  Once you have the results, Managers can meet with their teams prepared to tackle any challenges.  Together, Managers and Team Members can game plan a path forward.  This shows that the Manager is invested in the Team Members’ wellbeing and is dedicated to optimizing their experience.   

Updated on October 30, 2023
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