The pandemics is retreating slowly. Though this should mean businesses returning back to offices and normal routines, many observations and surveys claim, that remote teams have become the new normal. Summertime is especially valued in the Northern Europe, and now millions of employees are expecting to take advantage of working from home or any vacation spot. Can organizations continue supporting remote teamwork culture and remain competitive? Focusing on accomplishment and keeping up team energy are the key challenges for remote team managers.
1. Focus on output not process.
It is more complicated to manage team behavior when working remotely. People are staying with their families or at home, juggling work and personal issues at the time. One cannot expect everyone to be as engaged as back in the office. Therefore, it is important to minimize number and length of processes, simplify them, and enable employees to work efficiently on the most important tasks and to complete them.
2. Emphasize objectives, not responsibilities
Structured role definitions during a disruption might become the cause of slowdown and loss of motivation. On the contrary, to utilize opportunities, organizations have to get even faster. Clarify company objectives and focus on accomplishment. Employees, who feel their job is contributing to the company’s objectives, stay motivated and feel more secure about their job.
3. Manage priorities
Fast changing business climate requires agility and prompt adoption. While objectives on what to achieve might remain somewhat stable, the actions on how to reach them might change in weeks or days. Given that teams work remotely, communication of priorities becomes a challenge for managers. Shared task management boards simplify priority management and communication. Top-down, bottom-up or collaborative priority management can be done in a minute without any meetings, instead, communicated through notifications.
4. Shorter iterations
Strengthening focus on output is easier when tasks take shorter time. Marking tasks “completed” becomes the major factor of employee recognition, when “staying late in the office” or “being a hardworking team member” cannot be noticed. Feeling of completion also reduces stress and uncertainty in the remote environment. Divide projects into smaller sprints and simplify complex tasks. E.g. instead of “deliver documentation” split into “collect info”, “make the documentation structure”, “build content”, “review”.
5. Update status more often
Working from home saves hours of time when interruptions are easier to handle. However, it misses that team energy and feeling of dynamics. Sharing a new idea or boasting on a completed task does not come natural in distance. Team shared task management boards come into another role here. Keep your shared task board open, post your new ideas straight into the backlog and mark completed tasks once they are done, especially the dependent ones. More frequent status updates also allow project managers to receive earlier signals of struggle and identify potential resources.
6. Stay socially close
In the office, we are used to feel the emotions of our colleagues. We would usually ask how she or he is doing not waiting for a regular meeting in case we recognize a change in their energy, dedication or language. As a remote team manager, you have to listen more carefully and observe your employees to notice any signs of indifference or distress. Define routine of social interaction via video calls to maintain touchpoints with everyone in the team. Establish a „social“ chat channel to share on non-work related items.
7. Calibrate processes
Minimizing processes to focus on output should not result in letting their control out of hand. They need to be systematically revised in order to adopt to the changing environment. Retrospectives is a simple method to collect feedback and agree on changes at work routines. Once a month proposals from team members are collected into 4 backlog columns – “start doing“, “do more”, “stop doing”, “do less”. Then the team discusses and agrees which of the proposals will be implemented before the next retrospective meetings. The agreed tasks are moved to column “planned” and assigned to a responsible person.
An agile remote team management obviously requires a tool to be accepted and used by every team member on a daily basis, just like email inbox once was. The typical criteria for collaboration tools acceptance by employees are – functional, visual and easy to use. If remote teamwork and adoption of a selected tool struggles, we strongly recommend to sign up for Teamhood, for which “Easy” and “Visual” are the core values recognized globally by thousands of professionals.