5 Timeless Principles for Effectively Managing Distributed Teams

Do we really need another guide on telecommuting? Apparently, we do. The outbreak of Coronavirus has disrupted the normal work routine, leading to an increase in the number of people who work remotely. While there are many instruction manuals available, we assure you that this article will provide you with fresh and valuable insights.

Since its inception, Works has intentionally hired remote teams, giving us extensive experience in executing tasks from a distance. Our familiarity with remote work has instilled us with confidence in our ability to effectively manage and deliver successful remote operations.

Admittedly, we have made several mistakes and tried various unsuccessful strategies in the past. However, our comprehensive research has positioned us as authoritative sources of genuinely useful advice. Our focus is to provide guidance to remote team leaders, whether they are beginners or experienced professionals seeking to implement changes.

Without any delay, let’s dive into these five reliable strategies that will prove useful not just during the pandemic, but also beyond.

1. Set and Follow Consistent Work Hours

As people begin their journey into remote work, it is common for them to experience a range of emotions. For some, the ability to work from home can be liberating, especially with the convenience of staying in their pajamas. However, the absence of direct supervision may lead some to believe they can behave without accountability. This newfound freedom may also affect their ability to perform tasks that were once effortless in the traditional workplace setting, leading to discomfort and uncertainty.

Working remotely can drastically alter your daily routine, from how you communicate with colleagues (i.e., through phone calls, messaging, emails, or video calls) to what you have for lunch. However, effective changes are only possible when you take control and commit to them. Our experience has shown that establishing and adhering to specific working hours can make a significant difference.

With no fixed schedules for remote workers, there is a risk of working beyond regular hours, especially in computer programming. To avoid this, it is beneficial to establish clear guidelines on when to send emails or make phone calls. This helps to communicate expectations for participation during specific periods while allowing for absences outside of that timeframe.

2. Utilize Cameras in Meetings

Despite its simplicity, some people shy away from using their cameras during phone calls, perhaps due to fear of rejection or reluctance to engage in face-to-face communication. However, video communication is the preferred method, especially during these times when physical contact is not advisable. It is highly recommended that people utilize their cameras during phone calls.

Body language and facial expressions play a crucial role in meetings and calls, making it necessary for all participants to activate their cameras as a standard practice. Seeing the people on the other end can positively influence the conversation and improve message delivery. While most of us tend to focus on our own devices during calls, being able to witness our team’s reactions can be immensely valuable.

It is logical that all meeting attendees should have access to a video-capturing device, such as a smartphone or laptop. Even if some attendees are in the same physical location, acquiring separate cameras is recommended. This enables easy identification of speakers and understanding of their contributions, particularly in situations where everyone is attending remotely.

3. Do Not Hesitate to Include Others in Your Calls

During a typical workday, it is common to engage a colleague in conversation. Soon after, a collaborative issue may arise that requires a second opinion. It is natural and expected to approach their desk and ask if they are interested in discussing the matter further.

Despite this, the practice is often overlooked in remote work, possibly due to the perceived effort of including an extra person in calls and meetings or simply forgetting to do so. This is a common phenomenon even in normal working circumstances. However, it is crucial that you do not neglect this practice.

Encouraging your team to pause meetings when necessary and allowing remote workers to join in, while setting an example yourself, ensures that standard procedures are followed even in your absence. This is only feasible if everyone is using the same communication software and hardware, so it is crucial to ensure this beforehand. This makes it easier to efficiently include new participants in relevant discussions.

4. Meetings May Take Longer, Plan Accordingly

At Works, we appreciate the frustration of unproductive lengthy meetings. We endeavor to make our meetings effective and efficient, even in remote settings. We believe that the key to this is to maintain focused and structured conversations, where participants can express their opinions and reach conclusions within an appropriate timeframe.

It is not unusual for individuals to engage in casual conversation unrelated to the agenda during meetings. While this may occur more frequently during isolation periods like quarantine, it is a customary occurrence in everyday life. Thus, if online meetings get sidetracked by similar distractions that affect in-person meetings, there is no cause for concern.

Regular communication with remote team members is crucial. Scheduling regular meetings with them is beneficial as it provides an avenue for you to receive progress updates and show that you value their thoughts and ideas. These meetings may take longer than usual, as discussions may include not only work-related matters, but also much-needed social conversation.

5. Try, Fail and Try Again

It may not be immediately clear how to uphold productive communication and collaboration among colleagues when working remotely. It is crucial to be open-minded and willing to experiment with new approaches. For example, one can try different communication methods, like video calls or conduct online games to boost morale. Moreover, it may prove worthwhile to contemplate if there is a correlation between individual productivity and work starting times.

Remember that it is acceptable to make mistakes while trying to alter remote working approaches. Making changes and starting again is acceptable when required. It is crucial to pay attention to your team’s opinions and consider them, as they may have ideas that can enhance remote work quality, like productivity or morale. It is critical to ensure that your team members feel valued, and their perspectives matter.

As a manager, you hold the power to initiate desired change. Your remote workers will depend on you for direction, so it is crucial to keep an open line of communication and be available for assistance. If you are not familiar with managing remote workers initially, the transition could be challenging; however, with the correct attitude and approach, remote work can be successful.

Success Has No Surefire Formula

We must emphasize that while the suggestions that have been highly successful for us here at Works, they might not guarantee success for everyone. However, we are confident that they will work for you, but it is essential to remember that you are not obliged to implement these guidelines with your own staff.

Working remotely has its unique set of challenges, which can be daunting, particularly for those accustomed to office environments’ structure. It is crucial to consider any advice provided and adapt it to fit your situations, but don’t feel obliged to follow it blindly. The advice could potentially improve productivity (as it did for us), but it is essential to ensure that it feels natural to you before implementation.

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