For many businesses across all industries, the remote team culture might be a new experiment forced upon them by the pandemic this year. At SYNC, however, we have been thriving with remote staffers for almost three years now, since the very beginning.
We know that managing remote teams is no easy feat. It all ultimately falls on the management style and the team members’ willingness to commit to the company. Working from home can be exhausting and needs a lot of discipline. While it is a manager’s job to ensure their team’s mental health is not adversely affected and that they can cope with their workload, it is also crucial for a leader to be able to deal with the stress that comes with the job. If you want to explore this further, I have spoken at length on dealing with exhaustion in this podcast.
While there are some great resources on building and maintaining remote teams, we’ve had significant success growing and scaling these teams that often have language and cultural barriers. To give you more insights, with this article, let me share how I manage my remote staffers and keep them motivated and engaged at SYNC.
Prioritizing Actual Meetups
Although technology allows us to keep in constant touch irrespective of where we are based, it is crucial to take the opportunity to meet up with your remote staffers. While the pandemic has transitioned many of our meetings to an online platform, it is beneficial to meet up virtually or physically (when safe and possible) to keep all teams involved.
Pre-pandemic, I always ensured that I frequently met with our teams on the ground. I would meet with the Singapore team weekly and with my Indonesia and Malaysian teams on a monthly basis. This helped build strong relationships and ensured that our remote workers felt connected to the company despite being in different countries.
Now that physical meetings have been curtailed, it has actually increased the frequency of our meeting – all virtual, but still critical to ensuring the teams know that they are valued by leadership.
Creating a Real Company Culture
As a leader, it is your job to foster a company culture that supports remote teams. To achieve this it is essential to be flexible and accommodating to staff in different time zones. Be aware of varying time pressures when you set deadlines and ensure you are not setting unachievable targets that will have your team working through their nights.
There are also the intangible criteria that make a team bond and feel like they are valued. This is dependent on your management style and team dynamics, but being able to foster the right culture and environment is critical even if your staff are not physically in the same office.
Focus and Create a Results-Driven Approach
Move past the timesheet culture. Focus on the outcome rather than following everyone’s time logs. This way, you will encourage efficiency rather than solely focusing on the time spent on the job. Understand that your staff will achieve their results in different ways and do not penalize those who effectively manage their time and productivity if they are not ‘logged on’ 24/7.
Our team members thrive best in different environments. Some prefer to work in coffee shops, some prefer a home office and others prefer working in an office space. If the focus is on employee productivity instead of constant monitoring of where team members are and what they are doing, leaders can create a culture that works for everyone.
Manage Deadlines Carefully
Set reasonable timelines but be strict with deadlines. Find the way to strike the right balance. Deadlines that are unmanageable can be de-motivating and will lead to increased stress and the infiltration of work into the private time needed to ensure teams are refreshed and performing their best. This can easily become a problem if your remote staffers are working from home, where their work and home-life balance can easily become blurred.
Make sure the timescales are feasible but that remote staffers understand that they are not to be missed. This will help smooth the entire functionality of the organization.
Collaboration Is Important
Create a collaborative working environment by fostering a culture of openness. I previously wrote about the challenges I faced adapting from a traditional office-based environment to remote staff teams and the importance of building a culture of honesty and sharing.
One key thing I have learned is that leading by example is crucial. If I make a mistake, I take responsibility, and I receive feedback on my performance that everyone can see. We try and foster a flat hierarchy where communication channels are open.
We try our best to practice radical candor in our office – which is a form of open communication that values honesty and focuses on eliminating the BS that can sometimes be a barrier to being productive.
Use Technology Effectively
There is a host of technology tools and platforms available to ease the operations of businesses working remotely. Leveraging technology and making the best of tools like Slack, Asana, Google Docs, and Canva for better collaborations and maximum productivity can help manage teams and tasks better.
While tools like Slack can help with communication, other platforms such as Google’s Suite of Docs, Slides, and Sheets can help with sharing ideas and working together on documents and presentations. Explore various options to see which tools work best for your organization’s needs.
Too many businesses are slowed down by their reluctance to adopt technology and integrate it into their daily work. Simple tools – both on your computer and mobile phone – can save you time and allow you to manage and collaborate with your team easily.
For some businesses, the remote working culture may be a temporary change forced upon them by the unprecedented events of 2020. For others, this new way of working may become a permanent fixture of the organization’s culture. Interestingly, studies have shown that companies that let their staff work remotely have a 25% lower employee turnover rate. More business leaders may start to recognize the benefits of long term remote working and can use the ideas explored in this article to help lead efficient and effective remote working teams.
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