The rise of remote work has been accompanied by its share of problems. Many of those problems stem from one of four key mistakes made when attempting to manage teams of remote workers. These mistakes, albeit common, can be avoided. If you are responsible for managing a remote team, here are some key areas on which you should focus where workplace breakdowns frequently occur.
By KEVIN DEVOTO
1. Relying on In-Office Leadership Techniques
Working remotely has an entirely different dynamic from the in-office workplace experience. Unlike the traditional workplace, remote work does not operate around the same standard of predefined schedules. As more people transition into working from home, they are finding that a more flexible schedule often benefits their overall work output under that environment rather than sticking to the traditional 9-to-5 work schedule.
A common mistake when managing these remote teams is the expectation that traditional work hour logged or traditional availability is directly proportionate to the team accomplishing their goals. Trying to micromanage remote employees schedules often has unintended and adverse effects on their work performance, since they are no longer working in the same structured environment as the in-office workplace. Traditional scheduling only works effectively because it is built around a very rigid locationally-based framework.
One of the ways to avoid this pitfall in management is to recognize that monitoring output rather than the specific hours logged is far more effective at producing positive results. Much like maintaining proper network security, effectively managing a remote team requires you to invest in growing the necessary skills for motivating productivity among a group of people with different availabilities.
2. Feedback Failure
Failures in communication are often the culprit in many workplace conflicts; however, remote work has exacerbated this issue. Without being on location with fellow coworkers, misunderstandings and assumptions occur far more easily. Miscommunications in emails, breakdowns in collaboration, and a general lack of feedback from both team members and management can cause productivity to come to a screeching halt.
It is important for team managers to ensure clear and consistent communications. As a manager, you need to prioritize keeping lines of communication open with all team members and maintaining regular group meetings. Even though you may not be meeting in person, you can organize group meetings by planning for regular video conferences or group calls.
You must also make sure to provide honest and constructive feedback to all team members. Encourage your team to interact with one another and directly with you. This will help to foster an environment that nurtures success and encourages teamwork.
3. Team Misalignment
A team is only as effective as its weakest link. If the attitudes and skillsets of a given team are not properly aligned, then you cannot expect to optimize their output. A team has to be able to trust one another to fulfil their responsibilities. That responsibility extends to management also trusting each team member to pull their own weight. If a team is imbalanced, though, with contradictory interpretations of personal responsibilities and a breakdown in collaboration, then the team’s output will suffer trememdnously.
As a remote manager, part of your responsibility is to clearly define individual team members’ responsibilities. This problem comes, in part, from a failure to communicate. You must make sure every member of your team has clearly defined objectives and that those objectives are complementary. It is a good idea to enroll your entire team in a training program to help get everyone on the same page.
4. Lack of Trust
One problem that already exists in the in-person workplace that has translated over into the remote workplace is micromanagement. Without the buffer of in-person interaction, the tendency to micromanage can run rampant. Trust is essential for making remote work effective, and management dictating every aspect of the workload conveys a severe lack of trust. This suppresses individuality, motivates stagnation, and eliminates collaborative teamwork.
The key to avoiding micromanagment is establishing good interpersonal relationships with every team member. Get to know each team member’s values, personalities, and skill sets. This will give you a better idea of how to best direct their focus and observe their work without getting in the way of productivity. Encourage your team members to own their given tasks, taking responsibility for success or failure, and to approach challenges using their skills rather than a predefined method that caters to your personal preferences. Doing this will build trust, simplify your workload, and foster initiative.
These mistakes may be commonplace when managing a remote team, but they are not unavoidable. Get the most out of your remote team by taking these suggestions seriously, and avoiding unnecessarily damaging your team’s efficiency and cohesion. Rather than falling into these common pitfalls, you can build a remote workforce that will rise to every challenge and achieve exponentially higher rates of output.