Being physically disconnected from their team can lead to a range of obstacles for leaders to overcome. In order to provide the support and guidance their reportees require, a manager needs to be in a good place themselves.
Here are our top 5 tips to help leaders manage their teams from afar:
Maintain your morning ritual
OWL Lab’s 2019 State of Remote Work Report found that 78% of respondents consider not having to commute as a major benefit of working from home. Knowing that they’re going to be saving time on travelling can often lead to people spending more time in bed – why wake up early if you don’t need to?
However, rolling out of bed and immediately starting work is never a good idea. You’ll likely still be tired and unable to focus properly. It’s important for managers to maintain some semblance of their morning routine – have a shower, make a coffee, dress properly for work – give yourself the time needed to feel ready for the day and work at your optimal capacity.
This will ensure that you’re alert and feel capable of supporting your people, even if they have a question first thing in the morning.
Define your workspace
Where possible, it’s important to have a designated workspace when working remotely.
As family and home life combine with work, this isn’t always easy, but outlining to family members/housemates what your designated workspace is and the times you’ll be using it can help to create some semblance of order and a space where you feel comfortable having confidential conversations with your team.
Make ‘care calls’
Being split across multiple locations with no means of physical interaction with each other, it’s perfectly normal for employees to feel isolated. Try to develop an awareness of how each team member copes with remote working, as prolonged isolation can quickly lead to feelings of loneliness.
To help combat these precursors to poor mental health, consider making regular ‘care calls’ to each member of your team. These are calls with no apparent motive, where you focus on how each individual is feeling, as opposed to what they’re working on, developing trust and showing that you care about more than just their work output.
Offering this support structure will ensure employees remain motivated and engaged for work, whilst ensuring they feel able to share any concerns or problems that may arise.
Allow more autonomy
In a remote working situation, knowing what each delegate is working on at all times is impossible. This can sometimes cause feeling of loss of control, perhaps creating a desire to try and micro-manage your reportees from afar.
In doing this, employees will perceive a lack of trust from you, reducing their morale and confidence levels. Try to provide your team with a greater level of flexibility. Allow them to organise their own work, manage their own time and workload, without worrying about strict working hours. If a 3pm walk will benefit their mental and physical health, actively encourage this rather than leaving people feeling that they are chained to their desks.
Having this increased freedom will make for a more harmonious and fruitful work relationship. FlexJob’s Annual Survey found that 72% of employees cite fewer interruptions from colleagues as a reason for increased productivity when working remotely.
Practise active listening
Finally, it’s crucial to take the time to listen to your team members. Team calls are great, but not when a manager is just talking at their delegates and not utilising active listening techniques.
Acknowledge what team members are saying and sharing so they feel like you understand what they’re going through. Use paraphrasing sentences like ”if I understand you well” and “did I hear you correctly?” during discussions, to show that you are listening. Show sympathy and empathy to employees if they’re struggling for any reason. And ask them to summarise their understanding after a team briefing to avoid any confusion.
Utilising these active listening techniques will demonstrate that you’re there to support and help them and not just dictate instructions and work.
It’s undeniably easier to do certain things, like develop trust, manage conflict and maintain morale when working in the same physical location. However, with the correct management, virtual teams can still be just as, if not more effective.