Managing a remote team and tips for enhancing communication flow, engagement, and productivity

Managing remote teams

The unprecedented outbreak of the novel coronavirus has taken everyone by shock. Believe it or not, not all businesses were ready for this. There are scores of businesses whose continuity has been severely impacted by the deadly virus. 

What is the lifeline of any business? Zig Ziglar, one of the world’s most popular motivational speakers, has very rightly said, “You don’t build a business. You build people, and then people build the business”.  

So, in essence, along with battling the challenges posed by COVID 19, businesses globally are also struggling to effectively manage a remote team. While the former can be managed by practicing social distancing and undertaking other precautionary measures, the latter too can be managed easily if done in the right way. 

Indeed, if teams are managed well, the business shall flourish.

In such a scenario, what should a team manager do to manage a remote team effectively? A manager must realize that any remote team will be successful, only if the following concern areas are addressed satisfactorily:

  1. How is the team communicating?
  2. What is the level of engagement in the team?
  3. What is the resultant productivity of the team?

Communication

Communication must be effective. But how is the effectiveness of communication measured? A manager must make sure that the answer to the following questions is affirmative to test the effectiveness of the communication.

  • Is the mode of communication decided? – If not, a manager must decide on a preferred way of communication. It can be video conferencing, phone calls, or any other messaging platform. However, a manager must have the buy-in of all his team members before finalizing a medium of communication, but only after having taken his team members’ buy-in as well. 
  • Is the communication medium easy to use? – A manager should deploy a communication tool that all employees are familiar with or is easy to learn and use even for first-time users.
  • Is the communication accessible to all? – A manager should strive to ensure that information flows freely within a team. The information must be shared with an intent to keep everyone in a team equally informed, regardless of their presence during a team meeting/call. 
  • Is the feedback being gathered promptly? – If not, a manager must make sure that he puts in place a system to gather periodic feedback. A manager may take individual or group feedback. The feedback should be aimed at understanding the roadblocks in communication being faced at the end of the team members. That is not all. The feedback of the team members must be employed, and hence the communication systems should be adaptive to change and evolution. 

Here are some additional tips for making communications within a team more effective:

  1. Conduct effective and regular meetings that convey necessary information, goals, targets, and provide space for discussion. Teams that have regular meetings communicate better.
  2. It is essential to discuss and schedule meetings at times that work for everyone, especially in the case of teams where members are situated in different time zones. If someone isn’t able to attend the meeting, record the meeting, and share it with them. 
  3. Managers must follow up with their team members regularly to ensure timely completion of critical tasks.

Engagement and Coordination

The level of engagement and coordination within a team must be high. A manager should realize and also help his team members be aware of the fact that no one works in isolation. Only coordinated efforts of all team members will eventually lead to the fulfillment of ultimate objectives. 

How to enhance team engagement and coordination?

  1. A manager must work towards creating a harmonious work culture void of any politics. A manager must actively discourage & eliminate favoritism & currying for a favor.
  2. Managers must be empathetic towards the mental and emotional implications of working remotely in isolation. Hence, managers must put in place proper engagement methods – casual group discussion, a fun web conference, team building exercises, exciting brainstorming activities, etc., – to prevent team members from feeling isolated. These methods turn remote work challenges into opportunities to bond better.
  3. Managers must plan the workflow and communicate the same to all the team members. The roles and responsibilities of each team member must be specified clearly. This will help foster the smooth coordination of team efforts. Doing so will also eliminate confusion, if any, and assist in getting things done without delay.

Productivity

If a team is communicating well, members are engaged, and work is coordinated, the productivity of the team will be high. However, besides this, a manager must make concerted efforts towards further enhancing the productivity of his team members.

What else can managers do to multiply the level of productivity of his team?

  1. Managers must evaluate the individual contribution of each team member and make sure that credit is appropriately distributed. Likewise, the flaws or shortcomings of any team members must be discussed with them to help them improve constructively.
  2. Managers must smartly use the skill set of all the team members. Each member has a unique skill set that is useful for certain aspects of a project. A manager must leverage the exceptional skills of team members for the effective delivery of targets. 
  3. Managers must ensure that work is divided thoroughly and equitably such that no team member is unfairly overburdened with work. Adam Smith has famously said, “The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labor, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labor”.

Conclusion

Everyone should understand that COVID 19 is yet another challenge. Take this challenge as an opportunity to learn and become better in processes and practices. It is well known that remote working is nothing new nor a one-time activity.

Hence, it is time to learn to adapt better to virtual work. On the brighter side, seeing the glass half full rather than half empty will help sail through these testing times. This is an opportunity for every manager to use the experience gathered during such times to expand the team’s capacity and enhance its productivity.

By – Avneet Kaur Sahni (Contributing Author) – Business Blog Expert