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Social distancing has forced businesses to shift their operations remotely, and one of the biggest challenges owners are facing is learning how to manage a remote team in this new setting. While digital applications are nothing new, moving your business completely virtual is stressful and intimidating.

Luckily, there are a ton of strategies, tools, and resources available to help through this transition. Keep reading to learn the challenges of managing a remote team, techniques to master it, and the tools that are at your disposal.

The Challenges Of Managing A Remote Team

While managing a remote team is challenging, working from home can result in positive effects for your team and the business. Even before COVID-19, companies were beginning to allow their employees to work remotely. The idea is that by increasing flexibility and autonomy, team members can be productive in a way that works best for them.

One massive challenge of managing a remote team is figuring out how to collaborate effectively. In fact, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2019 report, about one-fifth of respondents to their survey cited collaboration as the biggest challenge to remote work.

The 6 Must-Do’s To Conquer Remote Collaboration:

Lucky for you, we are experts in working with and managing remote teams — and we’re here to help! Here’s the low-down on the six steps you must take to ensure that your team is ready for success.

These six must-do’s are:

  1. Share Information Regularly
  2. Practice Patience & Empathy
  3. Use Tools to Stay Organized
  4. Establish Guidelines for Communication
  5. Find Creative Ways to Present
  6. Don’t Forget About Company Culture

1. Share Information Regularly

Now that you’re managing a remote team, sharing information needs to be more intentional. Whether it comes in the form of an email or a chat, information-sharing can happen quickly with the right tools.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Schedule 15 minute daily touchpoints. Use this time to share valuable information and answer questions. Implement a communication tool and create a channel for regular touchpoints.
  • When you think of something you need to share, make a note. Working from home provides new interruptions (kids, animals, TV, family members…), which can cause forgetfulness. Whether it’s pen and paper, or a note-taking app, write it down!
  • Utilize chat forums and text. Online chatting and texting are great ways to get quick one-liners to your team members.

2. Practice Patience And Empathy

You’ve probably seen the hilarious Buzzfeed articles about people having trouble with technology as they are switching to working remotely. From turning themselves into potatoes to forgetting to mute calls, adapting to new technology can be challenging. While at times, this is a much-needed laugh, it can be frustrating.

Being patient and empathetic are vital practices that you will need to integrate when you manage a remote team. The fact of the matter is that technological abilities vary greatly, as do productivity levels when working from home. Some of your team members will transition seamlessly to collaborating remotely, and some will struggle.

Chances are, you’re probably going to face some obstacles that require your team members to be patient and empathetic with you as well. Set the standard to react kindly, and everyone will follow suit.

3. Use Tools To Help You Stay Organized

To successfully manage a remote team, you have to organize projects and tasks. Project management applications will help keep your business in order and allow you to connect with your team, share files, chat, assign tasks, and much more.

The application you use will depend on your team’s needs. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Slackan instant messaging platform that helps virtual teams stay connected.
  • Trello: a project management tool that allows you to organize and prioritize your projects in a fun way.
  • Basecampa project management and team communication tool, used to help teams stay on-task.
  • Asanaimproves team collaboration and work management.
  • Google Drivea cloud storage application used for file-sharing.
  • Hive: a project management tool that emphasizes productivity.

4. Establish Guidelines For Communication

Everyone on your team is facing challenges with their new work-at-home lifestyle. Between interruptions and individuals creating their schedules, chances are, the standard nine-to-five is a thing of the past. While this can be a scary change when you manage a remote team, all you need to do is establish clear guidelines for communication. Here are some ways you can do that.

Set office hours for yourself. Be clear about the expectations that come with remote work. Commit to and communicate your office hours to the team. This allows other team members to know exactly when they can reach out to you with questions or comments. Of course, more conversation will happen outside of these hours, but setting office hours allows your team to know when they can reach you and get a quick response.

Set 1 to 2 required hours for the whole team to be online. In addition to your office hours, set one to two hours per day that the entire team must be online. Ask your team members what works best for them and set the time accordingly.

Establish communication standards: How will you communicate, and when can you do it? Let your teammates know how to reach out to you outside of your set hours. How quickly will you respond to email, text, slack, etc.? Establish and communicate standards on these two aspects:

  1. How to communicate: Do you prefer to text, chat, or email? What does the team prefer? Establish how exactly you will interact with one another.
  2. When to communicate: Even though you’ve already established hours that you will be online, let your team know the best time to reach you when they need a quick response.

A bonus to establishing communication guidelines is that you allow your team to work when they are most productive. Not only will you and your team become more efficient and effective, but your productivity and happiness will also increase — all by allowing flexible work hours and setting communication standards.

5. Find Creative Ways To Present

Social distancing will keep you from seeing your team in-person, but that doesn’t mean you have to quit doing your regular team presentations. Instead, use video software and continue to present to your team, while you see one another.

Your team needs to be able to see your enthusiasm during your presentation. If they are just on an audio call with you, there’s a chance they will lose focus, which could hurt the outcome­ of your presentation. Encourage questions, whether you do so throughout the presentation or after in a Q&A.

When you manage a remote team, you have to make sure everyone knows how to use the new tools to operate successfully. Instead of typing a boring how-to in black and white text, create a beautiful presentation. We recommend using a template created by SlideShop.

6. Don't Forget About Company Culture

Company culture can get lost when teams transition online. No need to fear, though, because you can be intentional about keeping the culture present. Here are some ways to incorporate culture and keep your team members excited and motivated:

Celebrate wins. Record your teams’ accomplishments throughout the week or month, then shout them out in an email, chat board, or team meeting.

Hold virtual happy hours. While you may not be able to enjoy each other’s company at a face-to-face happy hour, consider holding a virtual happy hour! Schedule a video call and encourage your team members to grab a beverage and sign on.

Check-in using phone/video calls at least bi-weekly. Use video as often as you can. Remember, we’re all human beings, and social interaction is essential. You still want to like your job, and part of that is social interaction. So, catch up with your teammates at the beginning of the check-ins. Ask how they are and what they’ve been up to outside of work hours.

Hopefully, you feel more prepared than ever to manage your remote team. We encourage you to leave a comment on any challenges you’re facing and let us try to help!

Get more tips like this one here.

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