A remote team is nothing like your normal office setup, but as a remote team manger, I’m sure you are already aware of that fact by now. Offices are slowly accepting the possibilities that soon they are going to be obsolete in both purpose and relevance, as they give way to the now common virtual offices. It’s a bold new frontier that’s proving to be effective in getting things done.
A good number of managers have had to rewrite all the things they learned in management school where they were trained on managing and leading teams that they could actually see. Even though there are similarities in both kinds of teams, remote teams have their own special needs that, as the team manager, you have to take into account. Here are five of those needs that you would be better off fulfilling for your remote team today:
1. Provide access and enable collaboration
A remote team member would want you to have a system in place whereby he or she can collaborate with you and the rest of the team online, on matters that relate to the project or the assignment. People prefer a system that they can login at any moment and find real-time information and updates concerning what has been done, what’s being done and what needs to be done on their part.
You see, a majority of the time, individual remote team members would be residing in different time zones. While it is possible to organize a conference meeting with everyone at the same time, it is not always practical when one half of your team is preparing to go to bed while the other is just waking up. The team would prefer to work in a schedule that fits their region, but still be able to keep up with everyone else.
The management systems that facilitate such collaborations also come in handy for you as the team manager. Imagine a situation whereby you have to call everyone in your team just to share some new developments. You will find that on average, you might have to spend between 5 and 10 mins with each person just explaining the issue. That’s a lot of talk time if your team is sizable, not to mention the variables with each conversation.
2. Facilitate inclusion
That’s right, your team would much rather feel like part of the company and not just a remote element that does the legwork. You should make an effort to try and include your remote team in not only getting the job done, but also in some of the decision making.
Do not underestimate what your remote team is capable of bringing on board. Give them ample opportunities to express ideas and you might just find the next big thing. Provide your remote team with the company’s brand and let them feel free to associate with the company wherever they are.
Everyone loves recognition, and the remote team is no exception. They would really appreciate it if you would not forget to mention their individual contributions to a project that gets completed successfully.
3. Enable File and Calendar Sharing
Most projects involve a lot of resources that need to be shared by everyone in the team to ensure that all are on the same page. There has to be a standard way of sharing those resources other than the usual; sending, uploading and downloading files. You can’t have people working on two or more versions of the same file simply because there is bound to be conflicts in what is updated here, altered there and deleted elsewhere.
With real-time file and calendar sharing, no single task will run the risk of being duplicated or contain differing inputs from different team members who didn’t realize another team member was working on that particular task. It’s really a time saver, not to mention how easy it makes scheduling tasks among the team.
4. Assign specific tasks to specific individuals
Sometimes team managers are tempted to throw out a task to everyone with the idea that it will be done faster or more effectively. The downside to this is that everyone in the team hopes that the next person will do it better, and so fails to give it their all.
You need to establish ownership of a particular project or task which is what the team would much rather prefer. Assign the tasks openly so that everyone knows who is working on what. Let that particular person be the one to go to for any questions regarding that task.
Put in place measures to ensure that everyone has ownership of at least some aspect of the whole project where possible. It not only gets the job done efficiently, but also makes the team feel important and thus remain motivated.
5. Trust and Believe in your team
I would like to hope that you are not one of those managers who call their remote teams every other minute asking whether they are working or not. It can be frustrating not knowing for a fact whether indeed your remote team is doing what they say they are doing, and quite understandable. But for the sake of everyone involved, you have to show a level of trust.
If there is one thing that can get your remote team working diligently with little or no supervision, then it has to be trust on your side. Try not to pry on every detail unless it is absolutely necessary. Of cause you have to be on top of everything, and you should ensure that deadlines are kept. However, find ways in which you can do that without coming off as having no trust in your team. There is actually software designed for remote teams to track and verify the hours worked which you can put in place if you feel the need.
It’s a bold new world with little or no borders. It is certainly the way of the future that offices will cease to be confines and instead become only notions in the mind. According to Sir Richard Branson, technology moving forward is going to make physical offices obsolete in about 30 years. So be prepared now and embrace your remote team and all their needs.
Image: Becky Lai