The softer-side of managing remote teams

So, your company gave you a laptop and sent you home to work. You’ve searched the company archives and found plenty of manuals and policies describing how to access systems, codes of ethics, and dress codes but there’s precious little on how to manage a virtual team. You’ve turned to Google, found an article or two and managed to get your team connected for your very first virtual team meeting. Now you’re staring at the faces on your laptop screen, realising that there’s a whole human side to this that you never even considered. Here are 3 tips to help you navigate the softer side of remote team management:

Different strokes for different folks

Remote working is not for everyone. Some love it. Others don’t. There are the quiet, powerful machines that like to work in the background to get things done and the social divas who are always in virtual meetings, using party applications to socialise and sending memes on the company WhatsApp chats. Recognise that we are each unique and embrace the differences. One management technique cannot be applied to all. Now’s the time to learn new things about your employees and colleagues and meet them where they are. This may mean that you’ll have to get creative, step out of your comfort zone and try some new ways of communicating. It may mean that you’ll have to spend extra time in video conferences with some team members and less with others who prefer to prefer more formal channels, such as email, for communicating. It’s a good idea to set up some standardized means and modes of communicating to maintain structure, but don’t eliminate the personal channels and touches.

Watercooler opportunities

Face-to-face meetings are off the cards, and probably will be for a while. Thankfully, technology has provided us with a myriad of alternatives to the usual boardroom meeting. There’s an amazing range of Microsoft products such as MS Teams, SharePoint and Planner that enables us to meet with and collaborate with partners and colleagues in various locations. But there’s more to being a well-functioning team than just spreadsheets and meetings. Human beings are social at heart and need to feel connected to others. Recognise the need for informal, social connections and create virtual Watercooler opportunities and spaces for your team members to engage with one another and to share personal moments and stories. There is a range of technologies available to achieve this from WhatsApp and Video chats to Facebook, but don’t underestimate the power of an ordinary phone-call either. At the heart of it all, employees just want to know that they are not alone and that you care about them.

Mind the dog

There’s a pretty good chance that your employee has a family and a life outside of work. Sometimes, you’ll catch a glimpse of this when the dog barks in an MS Teams meeting or a child steps into the camera frame. This can be a source of great anxiety and embarrassment for your employees who have worked hard to create and maintain a professional image at the workplace. Be understanding and let them know that they’re not alone. Show compassion, genuine concern and interest in their personal lives and don’t be afraid to share your own stories. Trust and open, honest communication is the key here. Work with one another on schedules that accommodate the business needs as well as individual needs and constraints as far as possible.

Above all, remember that whether you’re managing an office full of people or a virtual team, the importance of good communication is universal and key to creating an effective team.

By Caroline Greyling

Caroline Greyling is the CFO and a founding member of Agora Tec. She is widely skilled in many areas of business, especially finance and human resources and is passionate about the telecommunications and tech industries.

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