Mistakes to Avoid When Managing Remote Teams
Slowly but surely, businesses around the globe are waking to the benefits of hiring remotely. Working with a talent that suits your company’s needs to a T, saving on administrative overhead, increased productivity…the benefits of having a remote team are proving lucrative for businesses.
Still, the definitive rulebook on managing remote teams has yet to hit the shelves. As with many other business developments, the rules of remote work thus far have been a direct result of live-and-learn experimentations.
Which of these rules apply to your company typically depends on your work model. Is your business fully or partially remote? How big is your remote team? Are they telecommuters? What sort of projects does your company undertake? And so on.
Whether you’re still figuring the ins and outs of managing a remote workforce or your company is an early adopter that has gone fully remote, it’ll pay to be aware of the differences and limitations that govern your remote team.
In that light, here are some mistakes you should avoid when managing your distributed teams and what to do instead:
Mistake 1: Considering your remote team as REMOTE
What is the first thing that enters your mind when you think of the word “remote”? Distant? Far off? Aloof?
That is exactly how some managers view their distributed teams – as a far-off entity that is faceless and distant, a work crew that gets assigned tasks and completes them as directed.
Such an approach is fraught with the dangers of alienating employees and limiting their contributions to your company’s development.
So the first mistake to avoid in managing your remote team is an adjustment of mindset. Remove the psychological barriers that are created by geographic ones.
Thinking of your remote team as an integral part of your company also provides your team members the added impetus to think and contribute beyond their prescribed roles.
Instead of pushing your remote team away, create a virtual environment where they feel safe to share, take charge, and grow along with your company.
Mistake 2: Improvising rules to manage your distributed team
It might be easy to think that remote employees don’t fall within the purview of general company rules. And that you can invent rules based on situations as they arise. This can end up being a costly mistake.
From hiring to managing the work on a project, your remote team (just like your in-office one) needs to follow policies and regulations.
Even if you don’t have all the rules set to lead your remote team yet, you should craft a structure in which it functions. Everything from HR policies (as it differs for remote employees) to rules of communications to the way you’ll give feedback – create a guide for your team to follow.
Set clear expectations from the start to ensure that not only your remote team members know the rules of conduct, but you have a yardstick against which to evaluate their performances.
Mistake 3: Disregarding the need for flexibility in your global team
As important as structure is in properly managing remote teams, so is flexibility. A rigorously structured remote team can not only be difficult to manage, it can be limiting in terms of productivity.
But flexibility in a remote team extends to more than work schedule or functionality. It should take into consideration the learning curves of new hires, find a working rhythm that allows your distributed team to mesh with your in-office team, and encourage differences of opinions and approaches that stem from a culturally and an intellectually diverse team.
If hiring remote employees is an experimental process for your company, then it becomes even more pertinent to make room for flexibility. Every single rule that works for your in-office team may not apply or work with your remote team. And an element of trial-and-error will remain if you want to reap the benefits of working with remote employees.
Mistake 4: Restricting communication with your remote employees
Communication is the lifeblood of a successful remote team. As such confining the methods or platforms of communication is stilting your team’s ability to work in accord.
Therefore encourage communication and keep the relevant channels open at all times. Formal and informal. (Yes, the latter is indispensable in transforming remote employees from worker drones to instrumental team players.)
At the same time, keep the quality of communication in mind. Adding extra layers of communication for its own sake can be as debilitating as a lack of it.
Establish the rules of communications that work best for your business and expect your remote team to follow them. But certainly, add an element of levity, encourage different points of view, and mandate participation from all of your employees.
Mistake 5: Depending on the wrong technologies to execute remote work
Technology is the golden thread that ties remote work together. Successful remote work often depends on leveraging the right technologies.
Adapting to new technology might be one of the biggest changes your company has to undergo in order to accommodate your remote team into your existing business model. For instance, with your in-office team, you may feel comfortable using merely emails or face-to-face talks or an internal communication system. But none of those would prove sufficient with a remote team. You’ll have to think about using some kind of messaging solution to keep the conversation going.
When you carefully decide on one, you’ll also need to bring your in-office team onboard. That is to say, the rest of your team will have to communicate the same way your remote team does if you’re going to achieve transparency and a fluid workflow amongst all your employees. It wouldn’t be sufficient simply for a project lead or a business owner to communicate with remote employees, the entire team needs to interact.
From video chat to shared virtual workspaces to project management tools, the technology that enables remote work is incessant. That means you need to prudently choose which ones work best for you and train your in-office and distributed teams on how to use them.
The benefits of having a remote team are too great to shirk away from a few teething problems. If you’re experimenting with or thinking about a remote team, keep in mind the above mistakes to avoid. You may not have a handy copy of the remote team rulebook, but you certainly know the principles of good management which can set you on a sure footing even in a remote work environment.