Managing a Team Remotely: How to Create Cohesion and Improve Performance

Table football

Written by Kirsty Scott

 

Let’s take it back to 2019.

You’ve tried every group cohesion strategy in the book and let's be honest; it would be hard to find an ‘Office Team Building Activities Your Employees Won’t Hate!!!’ blog you haven’t read. You were successfully growing your team. And as cheesy as the online advice was; it worked.

Fast forward to 2020. 

We’re singing happy birthday as we wash our hands and contemplating injecting bleach into our lungs (please don’t - despite what Trump says). We’re also struggling to remember what it’s like to wear anything other than loungewear. Why? Nearly half of the employed population are working remotely.

How is this relevant? It’s relevant because the months, if not years, of hard work you poured into building and managing a strong onsite team, was shattered in the time it took Boris Johnson to mumble ‘Stay home, stay safe, save lives’.

How on earth are you supposed to get your employees involved in your many team-building activities when you can’t even get them to the office?

So what’s the solution? Re-think team cohesion and adapt it for remote workers. Yes, we know this sounds like a lot of work. That’s why we’ve done it for you! Below you’ll find everything you need to know about remote team management to build and maintain a strong workforce.

Top Tips to Successfully Manage Remote Teams

Stay connected

We’ve heard it before; communication is key. But when your team is scattered across the globe, it really is a top priority. Not only does clear communication avoid mistakes, but it also reminds team members you still care. And there has never been a more important time to show them some recognition.

Laptop screen showing emails

Managers should be turning to apps to satisfy their remote teams' communication needs. With real-time communication, managers can build remote teams that work harmoniously together while giving extra attention to new starts coming on board. We've got a few suggestions to make it feel less like you're shouting into an empty void when you hit send, and receive approximately zero replies. We've all been there. It's not fun.

Avoid miscommunications and forget confusing email threads with the help of these apps:

  • Slack - for business communications
  • Zoom - seamless video conferencing platform
  • World Time Buddy - organise meetings across different time zones

Keeping your remote workers in the loop should be effortless and enjoyable!

Create a schedule

Managing remote teams can make simple work, like communicating clear dates and deadlines to your remote employees, seem like a huge task. But ensuring your team is on the same page is super important to achieve the desired employee engagement. We suggest using a virtual calendar as it's easy to use and accessible to your entire team. 

iPad with virtual calendar on a desk

Enhance your teams' productivity by setting reminders, scheduling meetings, and blocking time for important remote work projects. You'll immediately see a shift in your team's communication, organisation, and synchronisation once a clear timeline has been set and goals scheduled. Managers should make sure tasks are delegated fairly amongst remote employees and continue to review their calendar once the dates have been set.

Hold face-to-face meetings

As with any relationship, seeing a person face-to-face is always more valuable than hearing their voice on the phone or receiving a message.  This is no different when it comes to managing remote employees. Studies have found that over 90% of our communication happens through non-visual cues. Without body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice, it's easy to see why important information can get lost in translation. Many companies have adapted to video conferencing tools for remote work to make up for the lack of human interaction. With an abundance of video conferencing apps at your fingertips, hosting virtual meetings and eliminating miscommunications is straightforward.

Video call and cup of coffee

Time spent communicating over email will be drastically shortened, multiple conversations can be had at once and visual learners will benefit hugely from the addition of the video. Virtual meetings will enhance your teams' communication skills and ensure they get remote work done effectively and efficiently.

Set sustainable routines

Along with the chances of finding toilet roll in Tesco, many office rituals have been thrown out the window during the pandemic. With other aspects of their lives in disarray, it’s crucial to provide employees with stability in their remote work by establishing new virtual routines. Monday morning meetings are a great way to check-in with remote employees and set a positive atmosphere for the week ahead.

Cup of coffee on a planner

Make sure these routines can be realistically maintained by your remote team. Morning meditations at 6 am may work as a one-off but are not likely to stick. For obvious reasons. Here are some ideas which can be easily integrated and simple to sustain:

  • Lunchtime catch-ups
  • Afternoon coffee breaks
  • Dedicated time to go for a walk

Creating this structure is essential when managing remote employees. But remember to retain flexibility with their own personal routines while they adjust to working remotely. While it's important to have team-wide practices, setting habits can be a deeply personal activity, and respecting an individual's choice will result in higher satisfaction. Establishing these routines will make managing remote employees feel like a walk in the park!

Celebrate wins

Managers need to be celebrating achievements right now, no matter how big or small. Not only because it motivates your team members, but also because at the end of the day, we are fighting a global pandemic. Any good news should be welcomed with open arms and celebrated like no tomorrow.

Party balloons

We've got three ways you can show appreciation while managing remote employees... Employee Recognition; give thanks by recognising your employees with something special. Make sure this consists of regular, meaningful gestures that motivate your team. Real-time feedback; a highly effective way of ensuring your employees are aware of your constant guidance and support. Keep it constructive and insightful. If your employees don't know where they're going wrong, how can they improve? Peer review; create a positive atmosphere and build strong work relationships by getting your team to give each other feedback. This can be especially beneficial for new employees; allowing them to adapt to their role quicker.

So what do you need to remember?

  • Adopt a consistent recognition scheme
  • Provide in-depth real-time feedback
  • Encourage active peer review

Keep it social

Research shows that an absence of interaction between colleagues weakens their relationships with co-workers. On the other hand, strong social relationships between colleagues can have a positive impact on the workplace environment and employee performance. With COVID-19 restrictions and working from home making it trickier to go for post-work pints and organise staff parties, you need to encourage your remote employees to be socialising at a social distance.

Phone displaying WhatsApp symbol

Set up a WhatsApp group for non-work related chat, organise zoom parties or arrange a socially distanced group activity! We love the inclusivity of virtual socialising. It allows those who wouldn't usually be able to participate; people from different demographics and time zones, to feel included and engaged. And according to business magazine Forbes, managers should see reduced stress levels, increased happiness and inspired positivity as they encourage socialising in line with an effective employee wellness programme!

Recognise individuals

Ok, so you should now be feeling a little more confident about your remote team cohesion. You've nailed the virtual outreach and your team members are feeling closer than ever. Sadly your work isn't quite complete. While you've been busy managing your remote team, ensuring they're coming together to enhance work performance and team spirit, you may have forgotten about the individuals.

Orange tree standing out amongst green trees

Being seen as part of the team is not the only way remote employees should be recognised. Valuing individual workers is just as important when creating cohesion between the team as a whole. The best way to do this? Individual team member check-ins. Managers should schedule time in the week to prioritise remote workers independently to their colleagues. Take the opportunity to evaluate their performance, access their goals, and acknowledge their work. There’s no ‘I’ in 'team', but there is in 'managing remote teams'!

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Remote teams management doesn't have to be any more difficult than managing an onsite team. If anything, our modern world is extremely well adapted to assist remote work. Most cohesion strategies can be easily adapted to work remotely, making it simple to foster mutual respect and a supportive environment for all team members!