Manage remote teams


4th March, 2022

How to effectively manage remote teams in 2022 and beyond

It’s now two years since many businesses made a hurried shift to remote work, but has that been enough time to figure out how to manage remote teams?

The global workforce is going through some rapid changes.

In January 2021, 71 percent of employees wanted the future of their work to be hybrid. And more people than ever are ready to retake control over their professional paths. In November 2021 alone, 4.53 million Americans left their jobs. Plus, as many as 64 percent of employees would quit within the next three to six months, even without another job lined up.

All things considered, it’s clear to see that keeping employees around is more challenging than ever. And the fact that so many people are working from home doesn’t make matters easier. As a result, all employers, leaders, and HR experts need to learn to effectively manage remote teams. And that’s not just to boost productivity but also to maximise retention, increase employee wellbeing, and attract new talent.

This guide looks at the best ways to do just that. So, without further ado, the following are the top practices for effectively leading remote teams in 2022 and beyond.

Understand & address key challenges for remote work

Whether you’ve been managing remote teams for years or are just moving over to a permanent WFH model, your first task in improving the way you lead is to understand the key challenges that come with guiding dispersed teams.

In truth, remote work comes with several difficulties. In 2021 remote workers struggled with:

  • Not being able to unplug (27 percent)
  • Communication & collaboration difficulties (16 percent)
  • Loneliness (16 percent)
  • Distractions (15 percent)
  • Motivation (12 percent)
  • Being in different time zones from their teammates (7 percent)

But these struggles are just the beginning. Below are some other areas to watch when managing a remote workforce.

1. Work to avoid burnout in your workforce

Remote work also tends to push most employees to pull more weight than usual, resulting in high burnout rates. And experiencing burnout isn’t just about fatigue (emotional or mental). It can also have negative health consequences, which is always unwelcome news for remote team managers.

So, if you want to up your remote team management game in 2022, look for ways to support your employees in taking better care of themselves – even if it means them staying away from their (home) office more often.

2. Consider more paid leave

One excellent solution to actively working to prevent burnout is to give your remote employees unlimited paid time off.

Before you introduce a brand new policy like unlimited paid time off, remember that employees don’t always feel motivated to take days off. To remedy this, consider introducing minimum time off requirements, which will ensure that every single member of your team gets sufficient rest and is ready to perform at their absolute peak.

3. Limit communications channels

Sure, the pandemic has proven that anyone can master remote communication (even tech-averse grandmas). However, it has also managed to highlight the fact that most people practice poor communication hygiene.

Just count the number of communication channels remote teams use daily. Email is inevitable. So are professional communication platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack. Some organisations also employ productivity management apps with communication features (like Asana or Trello). And, of course, there are Zoom meetings, or as most remote workers like to call them: “the 10th circle of Dante’s Hell.”

Looking at this, remote team managers have to keep track of a minimum of three communication channels every day. And juggling them (as well as the information shared in them) is a Herculean task – one plagued with multiple distractions.

4. Set rules about when and why it’s OK to get in touch

With the advent of remote work and the proliferation of internal communications channels, it’s important to set clear boundaries regarding when each resource should be interacted with.

Consider the time requirements of your workers against the needs of the business. You might find that restricting communication times to business hours works in some cases and not in others.

One solution is to seek engagement with your workforce early on. Ask them when they’re most effective, and what type of communications they need in order to maintain productivity. You might then ask them to agree on a team charter that clearly lays out the ground rules for all stakeholders.

5. Don’t forget about team building activities

Underestimating the importance of team-building can quickly lead to disengaged workers. These activities should not only aim to develop trust but also teach remote workers to collaborate better, automatically resulting in a higher quality of work.

Not to be overdone, team building activities should be used sparingly

How to be a more proactive remote team manager

Many remote workers are looking for a change in their professional lives. And the reason for this is that their wants and needs have evolved over the past decade.

According to a survey published in May 2021, when looking for work, people want:

  • Flexibility (88 percent)
  • Work-life balance (76 percent) – even if it means taking a pay cut
  • A holistic approach to measuring productivity (86 percent)
  • To be part of a diverse team (86 percent)
  • An agile approach to learning (88 percent)

As you can see, keeping your remote team happy doesn’t just come down to compensation or benefits. Instead, the modern workforce wants to feel assured that their work has a purpose. They need to know that their contribution is appreciated. And they want to work for organisations whose values are in the right place. Finally, they need assurance that they will experience growth and learn new skills in their current place of work.

1. Go beyond rule making

A lot of it boils down to communication, which we’ve already covered. When heading meetings, assigning tasks, or brainstorming with your colleagues, ensure that you share the why behind every goal. Knowing that their work makes a difference (and how it does) will be a significant motivational force and help your employees find satisfaction in their jobs.

Moreover, find ways to provide that sought-after flexibility to your employees. This can mean allowing them to dictate their work hours or choose their personal passion projects. You could even consider supplying a home office allowance, which employees can use to invest in equipment that will streamline their workflows and come up with a personalised system that works for their needs.

2. Tie it all back to your organisation’s values

Finally, don’t forget that organisational values also constitute a large part of what your remote workforce cares about. Invest in company culture and find ways to support and address social issues your remote team cares about.

For example, considering that 70 percent of workers feel there’s a motherhood penalty in the tech industry, you might want to reexamine how your business supports parents working from home.

Or, if you know that your team is passionate about lifelong learning, find ways to support workers on their personal growth journeys. Provide skill-building opportunities. Consider offering benefits like gym memberships or language lessons. Or jump on the latest trend and make mental health resources accessible to your remote employees so that they can take better care of themselves.

3. Be prepared to give up (some) control

An easy management trap to fall into is taking remote worker control a step too far.

You’d be surprised at how many workplaces still use employee monitoring software, require workers to log their hours, or demand in-depth workday reports that take up precious time and create unnecessary pressure on employees to work more than is optimal.

And the funniest thing is, this still keeps happening even after multiple reports have proven that flexible work hours and remote work contribute to higher productivity levels.

So how can you avoid the trap of toxic productivity culture when managing remote teams? Well, setting a few rules can help.

READ: 11 ways to improve productivity in the workplace

For example, sharing when you expect employees to be available is a great starting point that will allow seamless communication opportunities. Furthermore, by being clear (and realistic) about the outcomes you expect, you’ll remove pressure from team members and give them the chance to do better work by doing it at their own pace. You might even look for ways to streamline work procedures with tech or checklists.

4. Maintain adaptability in your approach

Of course, giving up control doesn’t end there.

It also means being open to changing your own ways when they prove inefficient. And, it means investing in your leadership skills. Consider expanding your mentorship skills to effectively manage your remote team.

Learn to actively listen, help people set goals, encourage teams to do better work, and try to inspire your employees to care about your organisation’s vision.

5. Ask for feedback (and make sure you listen)

Lastly, as you look for tips on effectively managing remote teams in 2022 and beyond, don’t forget that knowing how to receive and give feedback is crucial in situations where you don’t have the advantage of face-to-face communication.

The truth is, a lot of what we say gets lost when we communicate via IMs or email. Because we don’t have visual feedback, we may miss subtle messages from our employees or come off as too harsh when delivering criticism.

For this reason, when guiding dispersed teams, managers must learn how to ask for feedback and actually listen to it.

Something as simple as a weekly video check-in can help evaluate how well an employee is doing. Moreover, it can identify key challenges and ways to overcome them.

READ: Managing a gig economy workforce

And, of course, being invested in employee progress also helps managers evaluate the effectiveness of their leadership strategies. That way, they can uncover potential issues before they arise and keep track of what areas of communication need to be improved.

Ensuring success when managing remote teams

The world is changing. And so are people’s values, ambitions, and priorities. Consequently, many remote team managers can expect to encounter new challenges they’ve never had to deal with before.

Effective management is no longer simply about assigning and overseeing tasks. More than ever, it’s about leadership, mentorship, and creating systems that inspire employees to share the organisation’s vision and do their best to contribute to clearly defined goals.

So as you go forward in 2022, it’s not a bad idea to go back to the basics.

Explore ways to support your dispersed workforce. Do what you can to help them take better care of themselves. Take the time to re-build healthy communication habits. Invest resources into supporting their values and goals. Last but not least, make sure that you’re open to improving your own management style as your team evolves.

Sure, there will be ups and downs, even if you do your best. But by approaching remote team management as an opportunity to do better, one day at a time, you’re sure to see high productivity results, boost employee retention rates, and attract top talent in your industry that will help you take your business to the next level.

Find out more about how you can upgrade your workforce management capabilities with MYOB Advanced Business today.