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Thursday, October 21, 2021

5 Tips for Managing a Team Remotely

Has your team started working remotely, or is your team still transitioning into a remote working model? Building and maintaining a healthy working environment at home is challenging, and your company is not exempted from the struggles that come with the transition. 

Many businesses favor co-located. The benefits of a co-located team include a close, dynamic working environment that encourages collaboration. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many teams to work from home, with mixed results.

The sooner you accept that you might have to manage your team remotely, the faster you can put a remote working migration strategy into place. As a manager, you must ensure that the transition to remote work is as painless as possible. Here are some tips you should consider as you try to make sense of the new normal.

Invest in cloud-based remote working tools

If you’re already using online collaboration tools, your team has the tools needed to transition to remote work. However, if you still rely on site-based collaboration and ticketing tools that require multiple layers of encryption to access, your first few weeks working as a remote team will be tough. 

Even if your team members live within a few kilometers of your workplace, it’s not safe to assume that they will have the same internet browsing speed or quality. Some people will be able to respond to tickets right away, while others might have slower internet connections. 

Instead of insisting on legacy tools, switch to cloud-based tools such as Google Suite or Office 365 for worksheets and documents, Slack for chat and collaboration, Trello for project management, Zoom for video conferencing, and a work scheduling tool like Zoomshift.

Cloud-based remote working tools are easier to load than legacy tools and don’t require special installations that take up valuable storage space on employee laptops. They tend to cost less too. 

Many of the largest companies in the world have made the switch to cloud-based solutions. For example, IBM phased out its proprietary Sametime messaging tool in favor of Slack at the start of the year and has been using Box for file sharing for a few years now. It is never too late for your organization to get on the bandwagon, especially now that the situation calls for wider cloud adoption.

Communicate clearly and frequently

When working with a remote team, it’s quite easy to overlook the value of communication, especially if you’re involved in the development side of things yourself. However, as a team leader, you need to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Overcommunication is one of the most effective communication strategies you could use for a remote team.

Whenever you fail to communicate something, your team members will often make assumptions regarding the work that needs to be completed. For example, if there is a requested change in one of the projects your team has been working on, but it wasn’t communicated properly, your team will either get the change request wrong or fail to implement it altogether.

remote work
Image Source- Buffer

Overcommunication helps your team avoid these kinds of scenarios. Every organization, no matter the size, needs someone in charge of managing team communication. People tend to forget things, especially if they have a lot on their plate at work or home, and in the absence of information, they will hypothesize a solution that fills the information gap. 

Another factor that influences information retention is the clarity of your messaging. I am all for clear and detailed messaging. When sharing information, ensure relevant information reaches those who need it. Don’t send long group messages that people might end up ignoring. You don’t end up providing redundant information to people who don’t need it. Keep the language simple and use software like Grammarly to weed out any unnecessary mistakes. This article walks you through how to get a Grammarly discount if you want to save money.

Get your team together regularly

Part of the hesitation that comes from remote work stems from the lack of personal interaction between team members. There is something about working in the same space that encourages collaboration, especially if your team is comfortable enough to ask questions and share answers on the spot. 

Collaboration for a remote team can be a lot harder. Things can get lost in translation, especially if your team members don’t speak the same native tongue. This can also be a challenge for staff onboarding and documentation. However, using a technical translation service can make things quicker and less stressful for you.

Having regular video or voice meetings, whether it’s a daily scrum meeting or weekly conference calls to discuss work-related and non-work issues, will help rebuild that sense of collaboration in your team. Hearing your team’s voices and seeing their faces will encourage them to speak up, especially if you insert structure into your meeting by ensuring that everyone has a turn to speak.

Using Slack or another collaboration tool will help document your conversations. You can also record your meetings and make them available for viewing offline by uploading them on a shared folder or cloud drive. 

Document everything your team does

When your team gets a ton of work, technical documentation is often the first thing they neglect. This often happens as deadlines draw closer and closer. However, the pandemic has shown us that we cannot be too sure if resources assigned to a specific project will be available a week from now, especially if they are located in an area with a high incidence of COVID-19.

If these resources don’t document everything they do, the people taking over their work in case they become absent will need to spend hours figuring out what’s going on with the project. If they don’t understand anything, they could end up reverting to the previously saved version of the solution and try to rebuild everything from the ground up, wasting valuable time and system resources.

technical documents
Image Source- Wikimedia

Using suitable tools for tracking your progress. If you’re writing technical documentation for a product, for example, you can turn on the markup and change tracking functions on relevant software. This will let your team identify who made specific changes, and when. 

Keep iterating and learning from your iterations

One key aspect of agile methodology that is very applicable to remote work is iteration. Very few organizations get their remote working arrangement right the first time. People who are not used to working at home tend to commit mistakes, especially when it comes to separating their work and non-work priorities. 

For example, someone who has children might be dismayed to find out that their kids rush into the room when they are in a Zoom call with the rest of the team. This can be a distraction. There’s also the matter of getting your team familiar with remote collaboration tools, and the reminders and notifications they’re bound to miss.

Instead of blowing your top over these mistakes, try to approach them with empathy. The world is on edge right now because of economic instability and the alarming public health situation. A few little mistakes don’t seem like much when viewed against this backdrop.

The whole point is to keep iterating and improving on previous iterations. If you discover something that doesn’t work, try something else in the next iteration or park it until you find a solution that works. Your leadership style should likewise be open to continuous improvement.

Continuous process and product improvement depend heavily on your will to continuously improve yourself, both by polishing existing skills or adding new ones. 

This is a good time to encourage your team to use their time wisely and acquire new skills that could help them do their jobs more efficiently, fix previously unsolved problems with existing projects, or take on new kinds of assignments. Your team has the opportunity to be stronger individually and as a group than ever before. 

Your team’s time to shine

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a challenge to organizations to adopt policies that encourage working remotely. While your team might have had two or three remote workers in the past, moving your entire team from one site to a full-fledged remote working setup is much more complicated. 

However, just because it’s more complicated at the start doesn’t mean it has to be challenging. It does require a shift in thinking and practice, starting with the tools your team uses, as well as the frequency of email (or collaboration tool) updates and meetings. 

To shine as a top-performing team, your organization needs to ensure redundancy through proper documentation of changes and procedures. Otherwise, you may end up wasting time trying to figure out what to do next. A thriving team also applies Agile principles to itself, including the concept of process iterations and continuous learning and improvement. 

Managing a team of remote workers doesn’t mean you’ll lose control of quality and timeliness. With the right strategy and tools, you can make remote work a feasible option for your company.

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Kiara Dawson
Kiara Dawson comes from an Engineering background, with a specialization in Information Technology. She has a keen interest and expertise in Web Development, Data Analytics, and Research. She trusts in the process of growth through knowledge and hard work.

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