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How to lead a team remotely

With remote working looking to be central to the new era of work after the lockdown lifts, here are a few simple ways that you can overcome critical challenges and continue to support your team from afar.

As more companies acknowledge the benefits of a more flexible workforce, more than two-fifths (44%) of organisations are planning to change their flexible working policies as a result of the pandemic. The long-term impact of this could be even more substantial, with 19% of employers expecting to eventually reduce their office space.

With this in mind, employers need to take immediate steps to improve the way they are managing virtual teams and overcoming the key challenges facing employers today.

Key challenges when leading remote workers

The COVID-19 outbreak has been a significant catalyst for remote work, with around 49% of UK employees working from home towards the end of April 2020. During the past few months, businesses have had to find ways to overcome key challenges while operating remotely. These include:      

Communication

Strong communication skills are paramount to leading a team virtually. If you are managing several people in different cities or even different countries, communication can become complicated – especially when you’re working across multiple time zones. Information sharing tends to happen at a slower rate, and this can affect productivity levels.

Communicating via text-based platforms can also limit the tone and meaning of a conversation, without non-verbal cues like body language or tone of voice. When managing remote workers, using the right video collaboration software can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of communication.

If you like many employers, have started to rely on Microsoft Teams to support your team’s digital collaboration, check out our free training toolkit, which includes a manager’s guide to Microsoft Teams and much more to help your workers improve their remote working capabilities.

Project management

When employees are in the office, it’s much easier to check-in, monitor projects and oversee the bigger picture. Remote work can make this slightly more complicated, but there are tools to help.

Take advantage of the tools available to support remote project management, and schedule daily online catch-ups to stay updated on everyone’s progress. It’s also important to encourage employees to reach out with any project queries and recent achievements they want to highlight.

See our remote professional excellence courses to help your remote workers improve their productivity and effectiveness.

Talent development and management

When building a remote team, managers may find themselves leading a mix of new and seasoned workers at varying levels of experience. Part of learning how to lead a team remotely is learning how to develop talent and challenge team members to grow from a distance.

Now more than ever, it’s essential to put a robust training system in place, so that inexperienced employees can learn and grow efficiently in a virtual environment. The benefits of effective online training will be felt throughout your team as member share their tips and tricks.

IT support and services

Across the world, inadequate technology and infrastructure are some of the biggest barriers to leading a remote team efficiently. Despite some areas across the UK being hubs of tech innovation, less than 15% of firms provide any kind of tech training to employees, with some areas having inadequate internet access for home working.  

As a manager, it is vital to be aware that not all employees have reliable or speedy Internet access. Approach these challenges with patience and understanding, to support your team members as best you can.

How to lead your team virtually

Follow these best practice guidelines to build good leadership skills and get your remote team operating successfully:

1. Go beyond instant messaging

When in doubt, opt for a phone call or video conference instead of a text-based chat. Instant messaging is quick and easy, but it lacks a lot of the nuances of face-to-face communication. Without body language and tone of voice to rely on, it’s easy for misunderstandings to happen, causing tension between team members.

Use the tools at your disposal to find the most effective and transparent ways of communicating with your remote workers.

2. Organise whole team catch-ups

It’s essential to connect with your whole team regularly, to promote a culture of unity and support. This is especially important for individuals who may be missing regular social interaction with their colleagues or feeling more isolated.

Try putting informal, end-of-week calls in place, allowing team members to catch up and reflect on their week via video chat. This provides a good opportunity to connect with colleagues and start winding down after the working week.

3. Build a culture of trust

Effective remote working requires the right kind of company culture. Part of this involves building trust between team members and leaders. Taking courses to improve leadership skills will give you the tools you need to establish this trust and encourage your team members to deliver on their targets.

4. Encourage your team to be autonomous

The culture of trust and autonomy go hand in handEncourage your remote workers to take the initiative but keep you informed. This will make it easier for you to keep track of multiple projects in a remote environment.

Encouraging autonomy in the workplace also gives employees more confidence to make creative contributions to the team, helping to drive innovation.

5. Ask your team for regular feedback on their experience

Always be willing to learn and grow from experience, especially if you and your team are new to remote working. Ask for regular feedback on team cohesion, communication, project management and technology infrastructure. This will show you where you need to make adjustments and improvements.

Take your remote management techniques to the next level, and help your team improve their remote working capabilities while also managing their wellbeing with the latest industry-leading courses.

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