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Managing remote teams – a challenge or an opportunity?

In the latest blog from Weston College, Joe Smith, the college’s Business Partnership Manager, takes a closer look at making remote working work!

The last nine months has seen remote working move from a trend to a requirement for many of us. Many leaders quickly transformed some if not all of their operations to virtual working in March, having had little time to prepare. This shift has presented both a challenge, but more importantly, an opportunity to leaders and managers responsible for overseeing remote teams.

By now I’m sure we’re all too aware of the challenges of remote working, such as not being able to unplug after work and balancing other commitments at home, but how can we overcome these challenges?

Here’s a my ‘top five tips’ for managing remote teams:

  1. Be accessible. Sound simple doesn’t it? Working remotely brings increased responsibility to employees, productivity and therefore outcomes are halted when feedback is absent. Regular available times of the day for your team to contact you as a manager, even if it’s an informal use of the Teams chat function, avoids delays to tasks being completed.
  2. Manage expectations. We’ve all had to adapt our businesses, meaning for many, we’ve asked our teams to focus on new tasks or activities. In times of change or uncertainty, providing clarity is important. By setting clear expectations of a team and inviting feedback, managers can make sure focus is aligned to overall objectives.
  3. Focus on outcomes. For me this is the most important point on this list. Employee empowerment is vital to effective remote working. If outcomes are clearly defined and employees develop their own plan of execution, ownership as well as productivity is enhanced. Micromanagement can damage trust, especially as remote working can increase anxiety amongst staff, so providing clarity and focusing on outcomes is important.
  4. Be flexible. There is no one size fits all approach to remote management, some individuals will thrive working from home whilst others struggle. Good leaders know and understand the needs of their team, have open conversations about how team members are finding remote working and what support can be put in place.
  5. Social interaction. This is tricky as some love a ‘virtual quiz’ and others avoid them! Virtual interaction can seem a bit forced but can also be good for morale. We recently had a team meeting where unexpectedly, the leader didn’t mention work once, as it was clear the team just wanted to see each other – he read the virtual room. Balance is key and knowing what your team need from you.

I’ve attempted to offer a few tips that have stood out to me recently. Keep it simple, provide clarity with communication, and above all – respond to the needs of your team.

Interesting that in a recent survey, top of the list for required training from employers was management training . . .

To respond, we’ve launched a Fast Track ILM Level 2 Certificate in Team Leading. Delivered remotely over 6 weeks (2 x 2hour sessions per week), the course is perfect for new and aspiring managers looking to develop their management of remote teams, as well as number of other current leadership themes. Course Information here.

More information about Weston College is available online at www.weston.ac.uk.

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