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Guide for First Time Remote Teams & Remote Managers

The world has been turned upside-down by Covid-19, there's no denying, but then again, we've all learned, with every passing day, how to lean into the upsides of the pandemic. There are some great things about remote work (ie.pants are now optionalπŸ‘–), but being thrown into a distributed team from one day to the next has clearly caused some issues too. If you as a remote manager or your team is still struggling with remote work, know that it's completely normal - in fact most teams are trying to wade their way through this chaos. Newly remote teams typically struggle with:

πŸ’ͺ Motivation: People feel disconnected from the purpose of their work. They feel that the work that they're doing may not be important, or that no-one even knows what they've done.
πŸ‘€ Visibility: If people feel that nobody is really aware of the work they're doing, then why do anything at all? Your work needs to be visible to your team mates to feel a sense of accomplishment and get constructive feedback.
πŸ™‹ Accountability: Employees previously just had to come into the office. It was assumed they were doing work just because they were there. When working remotely you don't get credit just for showing up and this creates an opportunity for people now to be held more accountable for their work.
πŸ’¬ Communication: Communicating remotely requires a lot more conscious effort, so typically managers use their communication bandwidth to find out what work is happening. This misses all of the personal and social communication that happens in an office, which actually helps bind teams together and creates trust needed for everyone to be happy and effective in their jobs.

To deal with these challenges and the lack of process for dealing with remote working, even the most well-meaning managers tend to overcompensate with too many "check-ins" and micromanagement.

Remote Managers - Now is the time to trust (not micromanage)

A core responsibility of good leaders and remote managers is checking in with your employees, but when you start to do it multiple times a day, asking where they are in their daily tasks, this is counterproductive. It's disruptive. No-one wants that manager who is now virtually looking over their shoulder now that they can't physically do it in the office.

Now is the time to put some trust into your employees, colleagues and teammates...but we still need some structure, process, routine and certainty that everyone is heading in the right direction.

How can help you overcome these challenges

Having tackled remote work - and having first-hand experience in challenges that come along when working remotely, we're supporters of tools that help you and your team get accustomed to working remote and better manage your remote work team.

1. Simple daily check-ins

Many of these tools send a reminder to you and your team each morning with 3 simple questions: "What do you plan on working on today?", "How did you go with what you planned yesterday?", and "How are you feeling?".

The simple act of making your daily plan public for your team to see and knowing that you need to give a progress update has numerous benefits:

  • Transparency across the team: Everyone knows what their colleagues and managers are doing and questions and feedback can be directed at the person responsible.
  • Accountability: Making your daily task goals public along with a progress update, automatically builds accountability into your team. No-one wants to be that team member who is constantly not achieving what they set out to.
  • ‍Building trust: Managers and team leaders set the objectives, but most async tools allows everyone the freedom to set their own task goals for the day, rather than leaving employees feeling micromanaged.
  • ‍Recognition: Remote work can leave people feeling that their work goes un-noticed. Instead, it's important to find a way to make everyone's work visible,.

2. Align check-ins to team objectives

Associate a small task with a higher level goal or objective. Create Goals for your team (or assign them to an individual) and makes it easy to identify when your team is focused on objectives or working on small tasks that may not be important.

3. Birdseye view of what everyone is working on

Remote managers often have to request status updates individually numerous times a day, and employees have limited visibility into their teammates work. Skips the endless status updates or painful remote team status meetings.

4. No need to leave the tools you use

Connect your existing tools through integrations with MS Teams, Slack and your favourite calendar and project management tools can update your team, quickly see tasks assigned to you elsewhere; or receive notifications without leaving the tools you already use.

5. Build team culture... even from a distance

Working remotely makes it more difficult to foster solid working relationships and removes visibility of any teammates that might be struggling.

When deciding which async tool remote managers should use, make sure it allows you to:

- Collect the daily mood of every member or your team so you can follow up with anyone who might be struggling.

- Fosters team building and helps your team bond, even when you can't be face-to-face.

In the meantime, enjoy WFH.