The Leadership Challenges of Remote Teams

The transition to remote work can be burdensome for any organization—especially those engineering changes almost overnight.

Business leaders must guide their teams through this disruption and maintain the status quo as much as possible. Whether the change is temporary or part of a permanent shift in operations strategy, many leaders are guiding this change for the very first time. It’s no surprise, then, that many managers and business leaders are seeking out advice on how to provide effective leadership in an entirely new work setting.

Successful transitions to remote work are largely dependent on the organization’s procedures for implementing this change and on leadership’s ability to keep team members motivated and connected under new pressures and challenges. If you’re struggling to adapt your leadership style to a remote work setting, here are some tips to address some of the most common challenges with managing a remote team.


Use Daily Check-ins to Stay in the Loop

One of the biggest challenges of remote work is that teams lose their sense of unity and shared purpose. The meetings and interactions you enjoy during the regular work day can give way to a more individual approach to daily work—especially when team members are also facing new challenges at home, such as helping school-age children keep up with their schoolwork.

One way to build focus, routine, and a sense of teamwork into each day is to start the work day with a team-wide check-in. This process can be a brief meeting where all team members discuss their current projects, challenges, and status on various tasks. 

As a leader, you can also use this meeting to assign new responsibilities, manage resource allocation, and motivate workers to be productive in the day ahead.


Lean on Communication and Collaboration Tools

With the transition to remote work, existing channels of communication, which range from drop-ins to your office to informal meetings that take place throughout the day, don’t happen unless you’re intentional about maintaining communication with your team. One way to do this is to adopt communication tools that aren’t always needed in a traditional workplace setting.

Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and Slack are great options for organizing your team and providing easy channels to communicate and collaborate on projects. Although email and video conferencing are an essential part of day-to-day operations, you want to create informal and easy-to-use channels where you can drop in on team members and see if there’s anything they need from you.


Consider Increased Flexibility with Remote Work Hours

Whatever your leadership style might have used in the past, managing a remote team may require new flexibility or accommodation to help your workers do the best job possible in the conditions they’re facing.

For some workers, that may mean allowing evening or even weekend hours to give them more time during the day to be with kids who are home from school or daycare. Although this might not be the ideal work arrangement for your company, leaders should take whatever steps are necessary to get the best performance and results from their workers. 

Bending the rules or company policies might be the most beneficial move if only for a short period.


Revise Expectations, Deadlines, and Performance Goals as Needed

Make no mistake—goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) are as important as ever. In fact, given that daily work activity isn’t visible in a remote setting, productivity and results arguably matter more than ever because they serve as evidence that work and projects continue to progress in spite of operational turmoil.

Use goals and KPIs to measure performance, and set deadlines and performance quotas to keep your team motivated and engaged. But don’t overlook the unique circumstances your team is facing and how those challenges might impact performance.


Provide Encouragement and Emotional Support During Trying Times

This change takes place alongside a lot of other personal difficulties and strife for workers and companies transitioning to remote work. In this “new normal” around the globe, everyone is asked to make certain sacrifices for the greater good—and leaders should expect these sacrifices to take a toll on their workers.

Insisting on regular order probably won’t lead to healthy, balanced, productive workers in the long run. Instead these challenging times are an opportunity for leaders to demonstrate care for their employees. Encourage your employees to be open about the challenges they’re facing in their life, and position yourself as a resource for when they’re struggling.

You might not be able to fix all of their problems, but you can offer validation and support. You may be able to offer strategies to alleviate the stress they’re facing and achieve a better work/life balance.

Leadership skills are most evident when businesses and individuals are faced with hardship and uncertainty. As a leader in your organization, this is your opportunity to rise up and show you’re equipped to guide your remote team through any situation—even one you’ve never faced before.

To learn more remote security tips and tricks, watch our on-demand webinar: Working Securely and Efficiently Remotely.


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