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Be an Effective Remote Manager


April 22, 2020  |  John Wiese


Under the new normal, managers are required to shift practices to place an emphasis on empathy and patience as their employees transition to remote working. Employers no longer insist that their teams adhere to rigid schedules and “flexwork” policies are on the rise. The “one size fits all” approach does not work when managing remote teams, as we start to understand that everyone’s workspace is different from one another. From homeschooling children while working the 9-5 job, to learning how to share space with roommates, everyone’s situation and needs are unique.

A recent survey by FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics revealed that the number of people working remotely grew by 159% between 2005 and 2017, and even still by 49% between 2012 and 2017. It’s no surprise that the at-home worker is here to stay. Coworking technologies and video conferencing tools are other major drivers behind remote working. As working from home is becoming a forced reality for organizations across the country, we must maintain strong lines of communication and continue to build company culture in healthy and innovative ways. Managers influence their team’s perception of the company, so it’s essential that they acknowledge how they interact with them. Remote management styles can either make or break productivity levels. Here are some tips for managing remote employees.

Strengthen lines of communication

Get into a cadence by having a daily check in with your team. Send a message to everyone first thing in the morning, and have a wrap up at the end of the day. Set firm stop times and create room for breaks. Working from home can be isolating so it is important that your employees feel seen and heard.

Remember to give your remote team a chance to tell you what projects they’re working on and share any roadblocks they’re experiencing. Try to gain an understanding of the various environments your teammates are working in. Use your team chat apps to create a space for employees not only to discuss their tasks and collaborate, but to express themselves authentically and openly. Open and honest communication is the foundation good teamwork is built on.

Facetime and teamwork matter when managing remotely

You’ll hear this over and over again from culture leaders: “Turn your webcam on!” Everyone understands that you’re working from home; you might be in your pajamas, perched in your comfy chair, or sprawled out on your living room floor. Try to put aside pretenses and come to the understanding that we might not look our best on these days and not everyone has an in-home office. But getting some virtual facetime is extremely important when connecting with employees and maintaining strong lines of communication.

Start a new collaborative project with your team. With such easy access to online collaborative tools, we can work together when we are apart. If your team members typically work independent of each other, try to start a collaborative endeavor that gets people working together towards the same goal. Teamwork can shrink the gap remote work creates.

There may be an adjustment period for something like this, but that is okay. For the first time, your team can’t gather around the water cooler and catch up with each other. Good managers will find ways to bring your team together and start that water-cooler conversation.

Remember, we’re all human

Staying productive at home can be a daunting task. There are a lot more distractions at home so first-time remote workers may need an adjustment period. Provide your team with some leeway, but also set some attainable goals. By setting smaller goals that all lead up to one ultimate achievement, you can keep your team productive and also provide them with a much needed sense of accomplishment.

Remember to practice empathy. These are trying times, and everyone’s experience is different. Regardless of yours or your loved ones’ vulnerability levels, there are others around you, such as co-workers and their loved ones, who are in a vulnerable position. Be empathetic: put yourself in others’ shoes and consider how their perspective might differ from yours. Be mindful of each other, and don’t make assumptions. The coronavirus threatens all humans, and confinement threatens sanity.

This global pandemic is an opportunity for managers to step up and be the leader that their team needs right now. We are all in uncharted waters, so the only thing that is going to keep your organization afloat is maintaining healthy relationships with your team, and ensuring that all employees feel seen and heard.

If you found this helpful, download our Tip Sheet, How to Effectively Manage Your Remote Team: Adapting to the New Norm.


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