Effectively Leading Your Remote Team

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When Stay-at-Home Orders became the norm this Spring, we published Shine brightly while working from home! highlighting initial tips for successfully working in an at-home environment. Since we had already been collectively working remotely for much of the last seven years, our Team is well-acquainted with the challenges of long-distance management and communication. For those of you newly joining us in the remote work environment, we therefore understand how daunting it can be. However, with the right strategies you, like us, will hopefully find that at-home work increases your happiness, improves your work-life balance and focus, and reduces your stress. To hopefully enjoy these benefits (and more!) yourself, read on for additional tips for optimizing your remote productivity and success. 

Host Regular Online Meetings

Although there are times that messages, emails, and phone conferences suffice, one of the best ways that employees, managers, and colleagues maintain and further their relationships is through online meetings. This said, just like in-person meetings, there is an art to ensuring these gatherings are beneficial to your Team. Before you start sending the calendar invites, consider the following best practices:

Have an Agenda: Just like in-person meetings, your colleagues dread meeting remotely just for the sake of meeting. To use their time (and yours) wisely, identify meeting topics and publish the agenda in advance. Knowing what will be discussed gives your Team buy-in that the meeting is necessary and allows them to prepare their input and bring any materials they want to reference or share with the group.

Meet at a Consistent Time: Knowing when meetings will occur allows your colleagues to block-off the time on their calendars, maximizing meeting attendance. It may also reduce the free flow of periodic questions that can disrupt a manager’s day while giving employees assurance of a set time when questions regarding assigned tasks can be asked and answered.

Secure the Meeting and Shared Documents: While video and web conferencing are awesome tools, they can also leave an organization vulnerable to attack by unwanted third-parties if the meeting is not properly secured and related documents not securely shared. It is therefore important to use secure remote content collaboration, learn more here. Such collaboration will protect your meeting environment and the circulation of related materials.

Meaningfully Connect with Your Team: Although there are many benefits to working from home, remote work can also leave employees feeling isolated and alone. It is therefore important to employ your social and emotional intelligence skills when leading remote meetings. Beyond discussing the tasks at hand, consider asking your Team to share something about their day, a high or low experienced while completing a project, what they miss the most (and least!) about working from the office, the best (or worst!) thing they’ve watched while at home (can anyone say Tiger King?!), et cetera. Incorporating this human connection into the meeting diminishes the distance between Team members and strengthens their interpersonal relationships, increasing their commitment to their roles and loyalty to the company.

Add a Human Touch: A congratulatory card, birthday wish or recognition of an important milestone is always a great way to show authentic appreciation for your Team and build morale. Like the other ideas herein, knowing that you went the extra mile to send a surprise like a handwritten note to their home will mean even more, bringing extra joy, positivity, and momentum to your Team.

Update Your Policies & Procedures

While many of your existing policies and procedures may still work, it’s likely that others need revision once your Team transitions to working from home remotely. For example, how does your Team report if they are unable to work, track hours, communicate progress completing projects, protect data, secure company information, and more. Reviewing your policies and procedures and making necessary changes to accommodate remote work from the outset will provide the parameters and clarity needed to set your Team up for success from the beginning.  

Outline Projects & Tasks Clearly

As a manager, I like to joke that you get what you ask for. In all sincerity, oftentimes when a project is returned completed differently than envisioned, I need look no further than my own directions, or lack thereof, to determine what went wrong. Team members cannot execute your vision unless they understand it. They also cannot work productively if they do not know what to do or by when to do it, instead floundering between ideas, trying to decide what will make you happy. To avoid this situation:

Provide clear direction: Clearly state the assignment to be completed; what resources should be used, e.g., specific design software, a particular document template, etc.; who to consult for additional direction, if needed; the project deadline; the amount of time to be spent; and the budget.

Organize & Centralize Collaboration: While the Spread Your Sunshine Team sometimes exchanges directions via phone conference, text message or email correspondence, we have found that the most effective way to collaborate is via cloud- or app-based Task Lists. This allows the manager to update and reprioritize tasks and the employee to provide progress reports in real time. This way, written instructions are not lost, everyone on the Team knows the status of each project at all times, tasks are not forgotten, and another Team member knows the status of a project and what should be done next if the Team member who started the task cannot complete it.

Empower Your Employees: While a manager’s clear direction is a cornerstone of a successful project, so is an employee’s critical thinking. If the manager is involved in a project every step of the way, not only is no time saved by delegation of the project, worse, the time (and money!) spent is doubled due to both the manager and employee working on it. To avoid this situation, try:

      1. Suggesting the employee work independently, trying to identify solutions to issues that may arise before returning to the manager for help.
      2. Reminding the employee that critical feedback is a part of professional growth. The project submitted does not need to be perfect, it needs to be the employee’s best effort to complete the task at hand.
      3. Considering whether the employee should submit multiple versions of the project so that the manager has options from which to choose.

      Provide Proper Equipment 

      Just like policies and procedures may not transfer from the workplace to the home office, your employees may not have the at-home equipment needed to perform their jobs effectively. This lesson was learned the hard way at Spread Your Sunshine when an employee slaved over a graphic design project for hours, yet by day’s end, was not finished. The problem? She needed the second monitor she was used to having at the office in addition to her small at-home laptop screen. The monitor was immediately ordered.

      Although many people improvise with personal equipment while working remotely, providing your remote team with the right equipment will positively impact performance. To achieve high productivity from the start, at the beginning of an employee’s remote work, review the tools needed to successfully complete their job and determine what items the company should supply to ensure the employee’s success.

      Hopefully these ideas are helpful to you and set-up you and your Team for successful remote work together. If YOU have additional tips that will help the SYS community, please share them by emailing SYS Founder Melanie Griffin at melanie@spreadyoursunshine.com or messaging Spread Your Sunshine on Facebook or Instagram. We love hearing from you and your support and collaboration makes us strongest together.

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