5 Tips for Managing an All-Remote Team for the First Time

March 20, 2020 Carmenchu Mendiola

5 Tips for Managing an All-Remote Team for the First Time

Working remotely was a leading labor trend until reality came in, took it over, and turned conditional into absolute.

The luxury, the perk, the nice-to-have is now the norm. For many of us, this is the first time we’ve managed an entirely remote team. Having leapt from the cliff this week to start building my airplane on the way down, here are the tips I have to offer so far.

Have tools for your team in place

Granted, this one may be a bit too late if you’ve already left the comforts of the office. But you want to make sure you and your team have the tools needed for remote work and collaboration. Poll the team and make sure everyone has a reliable internet connection, computer and any other hardware needed for the job. This could mean ensuring your organization has work laptops, wi-fi hotspots, etc. ready to loan. 

With that in place, you’ll also want to get everyone on the same page using web-based tools. If you aren’t already using Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools from the cloud in the office, welcome to your future. My team and I are using Google Docs for content collaboration, Zoom for virtual meetings and check-ins, Slack for communication across the entire organization and Asana for project management. 

Manage yourself first

There’ll be plenty more oriented toward the team, but first, this one’s for you. Work — from actual day-to-day tasks to the social perks — is about to reset. The most comparable situation is as if you’ve started a new job. You need to get your workstation set up, learn where everything is and who to contact when you need something, and establish an acceptable routine. You’ll also want to set boundaries for when you will and will not be available. 

Your availability goes for your team as well as for your two-legged and four-legged “co-workers.” And don’t worry if they make a cameo appearance in a video conference call—your team, partners, and prospects understand the circumstances. We’re all going through this together.

Working from home may have been forced upon us, but this is an opportunity to prepare for the near future. Remote work, remote teams will only increase as the working world evolves.

Manage your team

You’ve made sure they have the tools to work remotely and are aware of how and when they can reach you. Now, help them make the most of their remote work environment. Make sure they too have a workstation and a schedule that ensures they can be productive. Resist the urge to micromanage. They are already working from home, don’t constantly insert their boss into their home too. 

The focus has to shift to getting projects and tasks done with minimal interference from the out-of-office environment. That may mean folks aren’t working the regular set of hours you typically see them in the office. You hired them to do the job, trust they can do it without stringent adherence to the 9-to-5 mindset. This is especially true for your employees who are now juggling telework and no daycare or school for their children. They, for example, will need a flexible or staggered schedule with their partner to ensure everyone is taken care of along with everything

Communicate with your team and they amongst each other

The opportunity to pop by someone’s desk or to catch up on a project or task in the hall may be lost, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep that face-to-face feeling going despite the physical distance. Arrange to speak with everyone on a daily basis, at least for the initial period of work from home. Working remotely can feel isolating. People are social creatures, and they need to know there are others in this with them. Regular video or phone chats will keep that connection and you can ensure no one is falling into loneliness or worse, depression. 

Slack is a great tool for not only one-to-one communication but also team- or organization-wide. We’ve set up coffee/tea breaks through Slack, opened a social distancing channel for colleagues to share tips or activities for this period and needed camaraderie around the watercooler channel. Also, encourage team members to use collaboration tools that will keep them talking to one another. This has the added benefit of an email or text being misinterpreted. 

Set reasonable expectations for your team

Yes, the team is working from home. No, that does not mean they will be able to do everything faster. There will still be distractions. It’s likely team members will also have their own two- and four-legged co-workers that need attention, occasionally, RIGHT NOW! During those regular, daily check-ins, talk through schedules, what is most pressing and if they’ll be unavailable for an extended time to handle other priorities. It will be important for managers to institute some flexibility into the remote work paradigm. 

Most importantly, communicate that it is okay for your team to switch off. Since work is being done at home without set hours, the pull may be there for some to keep working and working and working. Let everyone know that work-life balance should still be maintained. Work is a guest in their home, let them know it is okay to ask it to leave at the end of the workday.

Working from home may have been forced upon us, but this is an opportunity to prepare for the near future. Remote work, remote teams will only increase as the working world evolves. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (with its automation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, Internet of Things, mobile devices with enhanced processing and storage, and more) will accelerate the workforce changes we have been experiencing, turning a drip into a deluge. 

Get your practice in now. The full test for remote work is incoming. 

About the Author

Carmenchu Mendiola

Carmenchu Mendiola, M.A., is Chief Marketing Officer at the Washington Center. She has more than 20 years of experience in corporate identity, brand management, marketing, and sales. She’s responsible for leading all marketing initiatives for TWC’s 15+ programs that help students transition from college to career.

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