While we had sort of break from the Corona virus during the summer, in many places the numbers have begun rising again. Which means businesses are once again turning to working remotely. Some had a good practice run during the first Covid-19 wave, some have never returned to the offices, but as we continue with the practices of remote teamwork, most are looking for the best ways to keep performance and spirits high.
To get you through these challenging times, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about remote teams and came up with 5 extremely easy ways to improve your remote teams performance.
Remote Teams – FAQ
While some businesses already had remote team members before the global pandemic, managing the whole team remotely is a new experience for most. To help you out with this task, here are some of the most asked questions and their answers.
What is the first thing to do?
Once the decision to start working remotely is made, it is easy to get overwhelmed with everything that has to be done. There will be a need for new meeting structure, work processes, deadlines and everything else that was already set up. However, your first priority is making sure your team has everything they need to keep working and stay in touch.
Think about computers, tables, chairs so your team members can set up comfortable workspaces in their homes. Ensure there are tools in place to communicate, share information and delegate tasks so that the work can actually continue without major interruptions. Once you have the infrastructure sorted, the rest will come later.
How to ease your team into remote work?
When switching to remote, your team will also need to have a switch in their mindset. Most will be working from home where there are many distractions and where they are used to relaxing instead of performing. To make sure your team has a smooth transition, encourage them to keep up their rituals that help them get into the working mindset.
If they are used to chatting to a colleague in the morning, encourage them to continue this through a messaging system or a video call. Maybe they always listen to podcasts during the morning commute, so encourage them to instead go outside and take a walk. if you have a standing meeting every day, make sure to keep it up via video conference call. Most importantly, be supportive and understand that this transition will take longer for some.
What should leaders do when leading remote teams?
While you may be used to leading a team in your office, when we talk about remote team your focus has to switch. Most managers are used to a leadership style where the main focus is on delivering goals. But having to deal with a lot of uncertainties and interruptions in the work process, this approach will bring a lot of unnecessary stress to your team.
While the team will still reach for the goals and work to grow revenue, they have to know that even if those goals are not met, their jobs are not at risk. Alleviating additional stress from an already difficult situation. Instead, focus on clear communication and provide access to yourself whenever a team member needs it. To keep remote team effective and moving forward it is extremely important your team always knows what is going on and where the company is trying to go in the near future.
How many meetings should we hold?
For remote teams to work it is crucial to strike a good balance with meetings. There are no exact numbers on how many meetings each team should be having, but there are certainly concepts of having too many or too little of them. Meetings are a good way for teams to keep in touch and share important information as well as replace the human contact that is lost by not coming to the office. On the other hand if team members have a meeting for every question, they may end up spending all their time in video calls instead of working.
So, to find your balance, review the meetings you are used to having in an office setting and see if all of them are worth keeping. If some of your team members are used to coming to you and asking questions one-on-one, consider setting up a weekly personal meeting with them. And if you work in a team that is not used to having meetings at all, create a weekly video call to get updates from everyone and check in on how they are doing.
What tools should we use?
Setting up the right tools for your team will certainly improve their remote work experience, but how can you know which tools are the right ones? Well the best place to start is the tools your team already uses daily. Make sure they are all set up and ready to go on everyone’s personal computers. Next up, think about how will your team be communicating during this time. Using a unified system for communication like Slack or Microsoft Teams will help your team members reach one another more easily.
Lastly, consider how the projects, tasks and assignments will be managed. A project management tool like Teamhood can be of great value as you can visualize everything that needs to be done on a Kanban board. Which allows your team members to know what has to be done, who has to do it and you can check the progress without any progress meeting needed.
How to ensure employee mental health?
When talking about remote teams, another big concern is employee mental health. For those not used to working from home, the sudden loss of human contact and informal communication with the colleagues can be though. They may start feeling lonely and less motivated to keep up with their tasks as morale drops.
To alleviate this stress, encourage your team members to communicate not only about work stuff, but share their news, discuss interesting topics and have random talks like they do in the office. Help them communicate by organizing an online pub quiz, a gaming tournament or a workout. This may seem silly, but such small efforts will boost morale and help your team members feel less isolated an lonely in their homes.
How to improve productivity?
Lastly, in discussing remote teams most are concerned about productivity. Without being in an office setting where you can see and motivate your team members, you may feel they will be less productive. In fact, studies show that working remotely in most cases result in higher productivity levels. As employees have a better work life balance and can focus on work when they feel they can do it the best.
Having said that, there are still some ways on your end to make sure the team has everything they need to stay productive in a remote environment. You should set up standardized practices and make information easily accessible. More on this in the next section.
5 Ways to Improve Performance for Remote Teams
As mentioned above, in most cases you should not worry yourself with dropping productivity rates as the team goes remote. However, there are some practices to help ease this transition and ensure everything goes on without a hitch. Here are 5 sure ways to assist your team.
1 – Recurring Team retrospectives
It is important to remember that your team members are all individuals. What is working for some, may not be good for others and thus it is important to find a process that suits everyone, not just you. With direct communication eliminated it becomes harder to notice if someone is struggling, but you can facilitate information sharing by implementing recurring team retrospectives. Gather your team once every two weeks or once a month and discuss what has been working in the process and what should be improved.
This will allow you to ask and hear what in your process should be updated and change your routines accordingly. Thus, creating a process in which everyone can perform effectively.
2 – Centralized Backlog for Work Items
To keep track of everything that is planned and gather new ideas, consider creating a centralized backlog for work items. With remote teams it is easy to get lost and forget things you discussed in one meeting or another. Having one place to keep track of all plans and ideas eliminates such a risk.
Every time your team members have a new idea on what should be done, they can add it to the main backlog. Then during the planning session it will be decided if he idea should be taken on or not. Moreover, this way it is easy to evaluate all the tasks in one place and decide which of them are the most important and should be completed first.
3 – Daily Catchup Meetings
Make sure the information keeps flowing by setting a daily catch-up meeting. This does not have to be anything big or take long, but is simply a time for all team members to shortly present what they are working on at the moment.
This helps you as a manager know what is going on in the team and more importantly allows other team members to know what their colleagues are doing. Which can spark new ideas and collaboration between team members.
4 – Recurring Planning Once a Month
I’ve mentioned above that in a remote team environment there is less emphasis on completing goals. However, this does not mean they should be forgotten altogether. Instead of strictly tracking personal goals, set goals for the whole team and use a recurring planning session to do so.
Gather the team once a month, review the backlog and collectively decide what can be done in the coming month. This will allow your team members feel more in control and more responsible to one another to actually achieve the set goals.
5 – Pull system for tasks
Lastly, consider giving more control to your team. Once you decide what has to be achieved in the coming months, let them decide which tasks they will be completing. Instead of assigning tasks to each team member, allow them to pick their assignments.
This way your remote team members will feel they are in control of the process and will have more responsibility to work on and complete the tasks they chose. Thus, boosting performance and morale at the same time. Read more about how using Agile practices can improve your projects.
Working remotely is the new business reality which is necessary now and may actually stay as the preferred mode of working in the future. It offers various advantages like work-life balance, reduced stress levels an others. However, learning to manage remote teams can be a challenge. Thus, if it is your first time dealing with remote teamwork, make sure your focus is on enabling the team to do their best work no matter the circumstances.