The world of work has been evolving at a rapid pace over the past two decades. But nobody was prepared for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on work. Pre-pandemic, only 12% of professionals worked primarily from home means they were in a remote work environment. Now, more than 30% of UK white-collar professionals work remotely.
While some companies are steadily returning to in-person interactions, an overwhelming 85% of professionals want a “hybrid” approach of both home and office working in the near future. Meanwhile, in 2021 alone, over 20 million people worked remotely for UK companies.
In 2022, the remote work environment is well and truly the “new normal.” As a leader of one or several remote teams, this means that you need to adopt a slightly different management approach. While this might be more than you ever bargained for, change is a rising wave that you either learn how to ride or will knock you off.
Ways To Lead Effective Teams Relationships In A Remote Work Environment
Now that you are ready to face the new reality of the modern workplace, the big question is: how do you lead a highly effective remote team?
The good news is that even without physical contact, you can still offer your team the right support and ensure optimum efficiency with these 15 tips.
1. Develop A Culture Of Trust
Setting a strong foundation of trust is an important step toward building dedicated and productive remote teams. It helps your team members build professional relationships that are based on mutual understanding, respect, and collaboration.
This means they’ll have the confidence to share ideas that can potentially transform how your company operates. Even better, they’ll feel free to speak up when something related to work bothers them. But how can a company build a remote work environment that promotes trust amongst workers? Here are practical tips.
As a leader, you must lead by example if you want to cultivate an atmosphere of trust in your team. Show humility and genuine interest in whatever remote employees are doing. Encourage every team member and also try some new things and avoid making mistakes faster, learn lessons, and move on. This way, they’ll feel happier at work and will do everything in their power to return the favor.
Always give constructive feedback that is devoid of vague complaints or blame. The key is to do it in a direct, reassuring, and subtle way.
2. Make Time For Continuous Learning
The changing nature of any type of business means’ your top employees could have outdated their skills tomorrow.
A study by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that 90% of all UK employees will need reskilling and upskilling by 2030. Yet only a small chunk of employees is a high risk of job displacement from technological changes and have received the requisite training. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, those most at risk are often the ones who are least likely to receive any retraining at all.
Adopting a continuous learning approach means your remote employees can regularly update their skills and knowledge. It also has the added benefit of helping your employees develop a flexible and adaptable mindset. Fortunately, you don’t have to do much to take on and actualize this approach.
- Create a positive growth mindset within your distributed workplace atmosphere:
Communicate to your employees that learning is a key company value and encourage them to explore their interests. One of the most impactful ways to do this is to create spaces in which employees can teach and learn from one another, which promotes a culture of upskilling from within.
- Invest in your remote team:
Conference and webinar tickets are a one-time cost that can provide months of inspiration and revitalization. If budget allows, offer to pay for certificate courses or create scholarships for employees seeking to advance their education. This return on investment is immeasurable—you’ll gain skilled and inspired every other worker who will use whatever they are learning that also makes your company better.
3. Favour Asynchronous Working
Encouraging a culture of asynchronous work is always important, but in the current post-pandemic environment, it’s absolutely crucial. Instead of wandering into someone else’s office with a simple casual question, employees now need to get all types of information more efficiently.
With that in mind, make sure you and your team are clear about goals, priorities, and deadlines. As long as work is done on time, allow employees the autonomy to choose how and when they do their work.
When it’s time to communicate, make sure you’re conveying your points in a succinct and direct manner. Long paragraphs hurt productivity and cause employees to check out and miss out on some key information. Avoid this by introducing conversation framing concepts like Pyramid Principle and BLUF (bottom line up front).
4. Keep Meetings To A Minimum
The truth is that remote teams can—and often do—have too many meetings.
There’s a lot of ground to cover each day, so it’s not surprising that some managers rely a bit too heavily on them. But despite of anything how well they will going to keep everyone on the same page by creating a collaborative environment, excessive meetings can hold your remote team back.
The trick is to make the most out of every meeting you have. Aim for each one to be productive, informative, and as mindful of your team’s time as possible.
Consider establishing meeting-free days as well. If that’s not possible, cut meetings in half or reduce their frequency. Use time agendas and timekeepers to prevent meetings from running late.
5. Develop a culture of high accountability and transparency
A team is only operating channels that work as the weakest link. By encouraging high accountability and transparency, you will get the assurance everyone can succeed and get projects to the finish line. Without accountability, times continually get shifted, and it’s harder to make progress.
- Create a watertight work policy:
Put your team’s remote work policy in writing. Create boundaries and expectations for when they need to be available via email, Zoom, or other communication channels.
- Document all processes:
Whether it’s all about your team meeting, completing deliverables, or doing anything else they do on a regular basis, write it down and store it on a platform like Trello. Refer to your documentation often to help educate your team when they stray from the approved processes. Use mistakes as teachable moments.
6. Looks For Ways To Increase Collaboration
It can also be pretty tempting while working remotely not to put any effort into enhancing team collaboration, especially if you hold weekly meetings. But with other colleagues, they are distributed across multiple locations, and constant moments of contact create vital connections and encourage camaraderie.
Getting your band together often helps avoid the kind of tunnel vision that working alone can engender, whereby employees become so focused on their own work that they lose sight of the overarching vision.
You only need to look at statistics to know how highly the modern worker rates collaboration. For instance, 33% of millennials want collaborative workspaces. Many of the employees know what is a remote work environment, but they actually do not aware of the process of collaborative work.
Here are the hints which can Increase team collaboration by:
Following the 3 Cs:
Clarity, communication, and collaboration tools are crucial for bringing remote teams together.
Connecting with employees on a personal level:
Create a mentorship program, establish fun company traditions, and keep an open line of communication.
Rotating team members for different projects:
A diverse team brings multiple perspectives to the table and helps ignite true innovation.
Tracking and celebrating project milestones:
This can be as simple as praising and tagging a team member in your recognition tool, such as Lattice.
7. Trust Your Employees
One of the most important things you can do to increase your remote team’s effectiveness is to let them go about their day.
Employees hate it when you hit their inboxes every now and then with incessant messages. At best, they’ll treat you like a nuisance, not a leader. At worst, they’ll block you from accessing them, which can hurt their morale and subsequently create a toxic workplace culture. Your employees are smart people, so trust them to self-manage and accomplish assigned tasks on time.
8. Lead By Example—Show Work-Life Balance
No matter what your inspiration might be, it’s not okay to work for long hours to get things done sooner. Do that for a few days, and your team members will most certainly follow suit. Then, because good work is its own reward, you’ll keep doing it. Before long, no one on the team will want to take time off. We hate to be the one to tell you this but forced productivity is extremely hard to sustain.
It’s, therefore, no coincidence that workplace stress is on the rise. If a recent Champion Health report is anything to go by, 33% of UK employees report moderate-to-high levels of stress, and 23% of people who chose to quit their job did so due to burnout.
Taking time away from work helps people do work better—you included. In a 2016 HBR study, 55% of people surveyed returned to work with much higher levels of energy after a low-stress vacation. So, don’t shy away from taking a break every now and then. In the spirit of true leadership, encourage your team to do the same.
Effective leaders are all-time inspiring the people around them and pushing themselves to excellence. They lead by example, and you can set one. It will go to maintaining the team a good work-life balance. Keeping the line between productivity and stress clear lets your remote employees know that they matter and improves work quality all around.
9. Set Up Recurring 1:1s And All Hands
Remote workers often feel a gap between what they contribute to the team and the recognition they receive in return. Holding regular 1:1s and all-hands can make all the difference in bridging that gap. You can use them to go over your employees’ work, address any concerns, listen to their ideas, and plan ahead.
These meetings don’t have to be long. They could take 10 minutes or less. The real key is to conduct them on a regular basis. All-hand meetings are also important in keeping an openness between leaders and employees and help nurture a culture of transparency in the organization.
10. Do Virtual Team-Building Sessions
As part of leading a truly effective remote team, consider inculcating virtual team-building sessions in your strategy. The good thing is that they are easier to implement compared to in-person ones and will only take up a small chunk of your resources.
Simple remote team-building activities include:
- Running a game-show-style competition
- Scheduling any types of social hour for everyone else and chatting over coffee
- Organising a team trivia session where everyone shares fun details about themselves
- Playing an online board game together (bonus points if it requires teamwork!)
Virtual or not, team-building sessions can skyrocket your company culture and employee engagement in ways you never imagined.
11. Use Technology To Its Full Potential
Having a structured remote work environment won’t do much if you don’t empower employees to use online tools better. After all, everything they spend time on during their workday—think: meetings, collaboration, presentations, etc.—exists in a virtual world.
You’ll want to encourage them to make the most of tools like:
To facilitate asynchronous work and project management.
To facilitate sharing of ideas and strategies.
- G chat/Zoom:
To support better communication and bring a personal touch back into online meetings.
- G Suite:
To create online business documents and much more.
While the tools highlighted above should suffice for any team, there’s room to add more collaborative solutions to your stack. The possibilities are endless.
12. Develop Clear Development Pathways For Everyone
Supporting career growth for individual employees is hard enough as it is. Throw in the remote work setup, and the whole thing starts to seem untenable. But we’re here to tell you that it can be done.
Hold Candid Career-Related Talks:
By chatting with team members and gaining a clear understanding of where they want to go, you can help them map out a bespoke path to get there that includes training courses, necessary certifications, and so on. It may be useful to keep these paths on file so you can periodically check in on each member’s progress.
Provide Peer Feedback Whenever Possible:
Peer feedback is real-time most valuable asset than any type of feedback that happens two weeks after completing an assignment. Real-time feedback can be provided within the collaboration platform your team currently uses, or it can be provided during 1:1s. It’s also a good idea to pair up a junior employee with a senior one for more immediate feedback and learning.
13. Favour Video Calls
The concepts of video calls and remote work productivity are pretty much inseparable. You can’t demand optimum efficiency if your team is still stuck on using traditional text messages and private phone calls.
Instead, opt for—and stick to—video calls. There is a plethora of fantastic video conferencing tools out there to pick from, including Zoom, Slack, and Microsoft Teams. One quick search on Google will leave you spoilt for choice.
Anyone who’s used video conferencing before will tell you just how beneficial it is. Early adopters of this technology report increased team productivity, more time savings, and reduced travel expenses. So, really, there is no excuse for not fostering a video-first remote work environment.
14. Recognize Employees For Their Hard work
Did you know that employee recognition and engagement have a direct impact on people’s performance? In fact, according to a recent report by Quantum Workplace, employees are 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged if they believe they will be recognized for their contribution.
Thankfully, recognizing remote employees for their efficiency is a lot easier than you think. Here’s how:
Sometimes, it’s okay to cut your employees some slack when they don’t do things “by the book.”
Embrace Social Recognition:
This is one of the best—and least expensive—ways to keep employee morale high. Tools like Lattice are there to make your work easier in this department.
Celebrate each other’s successes through team appreciation. Beginning weekly team meetings with personal shout-outs is a fantastic moral builder.
Provide A Personal Touch:
In this age of virtual technology, a simple handwritten thank-you note can go a long way.
15. Show employees you’re dedicated to diversity and inclusion
If there is one place you really need to walk the walk, it’s here. Don’t just promise to reinforce DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in your remote work environment; do it.
Employees in inclusive companies are three times more likely to be happy at work and two times more likely to have a positive work-life balance.
When thinking through your own DEI initiatives, keep these best practices in mind:
- Set up a remote DEI committee
- Include all employees in conversation about inclusion
- Create a formalized DEI policy
- Have a well-designed DEI training program
- Create spaces for non-work chats
- Be intentional about developing all employees
- Practice empathetic leadership
- Make DEI part of your recruitment strategy
Continuous Improvement Is Key To Leading A Truly Effective Remote Team
Like most things in life, your first foray into leading effective remote teams might not be a total success. You’ll need to continue reiterating, gathering feedback, and improving.
In fact, leading an effective and efficient remote team might be your own form of personal development. So take the time to pursue opportunities and find creative solutions. Once you gather feedback from your employees, you’ll know where your company can improve.
A smart, engaged, evolving organization is the kind of organization that can weather any storm. When employees have an easy time at work and are constantly appreciated, they’re happier and more innovative. That means a healthier, happier organization and an enviably happier culture.
Want more help with leading effective teams in a remote work environment? Book a free demo of our collaborative learning platform today.
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