As it becomes more common for companies to operate virtually, we are learning more about the challenges of managing a remote team and how it impacts our employees. But, even if working from home is new to your organization, remote workforces are not a new concept.

The sudden shift to remote work can cause complications to your daily activities and affect your performance. Your feedback loop’s efficiency can be severely compromised. The importance of having established processes and the need for technology acquisition thus becomes explicit. Our goal as managers is to remove as many barriers to forward momentum as possible. You need to find the means to keep your team motivated and engaged, and enable smooth execution of your business operations.

You can help your team members feel better connected and address any challenges as they arise while making the transition to a remote-work experience seamless. Here are some of the key strategies that you could apply to reduce stress, maintain effective communication channels, and increase the efficiency of your workflows.

1. Bridge the Distance with Frequent Communication

The usual stand-ups every morning provide predictability and structure, but they are just as essential for maintaining team engagement and motivation. Informal conversations can elicit valuable information that you might not otherwise hear. Casual calls don’t merit full meetings, but when they’re ignored, little issues could become looming problems and hinder your efficiency.

Be transparent about your availability and set boundaries. Invite others to do the same. By setting expectations and giving others space, you establish mutual trust, respect and appreciation. Instead of waiting for the next scheduled meeting, make yourself available for any direct questions they might have.

Be proactive and message or call your workers at least once a day, without a specific agenda. During your catch-up calls, put the focus on effective teamwork and collaboration, address any concerns they may have, and share with them the latest updates.

Foster a sense of communication, safety and fun to build social connections on your remote team. Share on X

This way, you’ll always have a finger on the pulse of your team, especially those team members who would be hesitant to reach out. Frequent feedback loops allow for prompt resolution of problems and enable a smooth and efficient flow of work.

2. Build a Culture of Trust and Accountability

The efficiency and well-being of your remote team depend heavily on how much you trust your workers to do their job, even when you can’t see them. A recent study from Gartner reports that 76% of the surveyed managers ranked “concerns about the productivity or engagement of their teams when remote” as a top problem.

Most product managers tend to get caught up in the futile practice of micromanagement. Although this, to an extent, might be a natural human flaw, excessively controlling your team members and blaming them for shortcomings, is never a solution.

The art of effective management

The performance of your team strongly depends on the time it takes to deliver results. To effectively manage your remote workers and achieve an optimal speed of delivery, you have to zero in on the performance of your workflow. 

Shift your focus from the people to the work that has to be finished. By honing in on getting things done, you demonstrate to your employees that you trust them to professionally manage their time and work as a team to deliver value to your customers and for your business. And when it comes to consistently delivering value, it all boils down to optimizing the overall flow efficiency, not individual efficiency.

Managers who promote a culture of trust and accountability are much more successful than those who try to utilize every minute. That’s precisely the sort of mindset that leaders need to inspire their teams and ultimately improve their performance.

3. Manage Your Remote Team Through the Lens of Kanban

While working remotely, many people are juggling work and family commitments in their own homes. It is essential to provide your distributed team with autonomy and give them the freedom to work at their own pace. To ensure that you don’t compromise the quality of work, and keep your delivery commitments, you have to focus on managing your workflows.

One of the most effective ways to achieve a robust and highly productive business operation is to pay close attention to the efficiency of your processes. To establish a stable flow of work, you need to maintain a pull system, balance demand against throughput and limit the amount of work in progress. These are practices of the Kanban Method.

Track measures of performance. Productivity metrics should focus on achievements and outcomes rather than work hours. Time spent online doesn’t necessarily translate into productive time. Measure the basic flow metrics – cycle times, throughput and work in progress, and optimize the predictability of your delivery process.

Managing a Remote Team - Manage the Flow of Work Instead of Workers

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Communicate what needs to be done and keep your attention there. By keeping your workflow performance high and delivery times down, you improve your customer satisfaction and sustain high levels of engagement and motivation.

4. Provide Encouragement and Emotional Support

The nuances of nonverbal communication are lost in remote work, even with the video turned on. Managers need to listen to employees’ concerns and empathize with their struggles.

Successful managers take a two-pronged approach, both acknowledging the “sense of isolation” that employees may be feeling while working remotely, but also encouraging self-initiative and acts of leadership in their teams. With this support, people are more likely to take up their work with a sense of responsibility and focus.

Often overlooked, a peaceful and healthy mind is key to avoiding struggles with working from home and self-isolation. Share on X

Listen to your team members and make it clear that they are being heard by taking actions accordingly. Quite simply, be understanding and supportive. There’s no better way of showing your team that their opinion matters.

Take a moment to provide positive feedback for a job well done. Expressing appreciation can help smooth out a lot of the discomforts in your remote team. On the other side of the coin, communicate timely corrective feedback. Small and frequent performance guidance avoids major corrections down the road and enables your remote employees to stay in sync despite distance and daily change.

Provide opportunities to share successes and safety nets for potential failures. The confines of social distancing mean that when teams continuously improve their performance, small victories should be acknowledged and celebrated.

Make an effort to emphasize the value of your employees and appreciate their work. Managing your remote team with that mindset will ultimately augment your efficiency levels.

It is a trying time, as we collectively navigate this new reality. First and foremost, we are all in this together, and Nave is here to help.

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