Working from home. A wonderful thing, as we’ve all recently come to realize. What, to many of us, once seemed like a pipe dream reserved for E-commerce entrepreneurs and freelancers has now become the worldwide norm.
As a result, tens of thousands of team leaders and managers everywhere find themselves managing completely remote teams for the first time in their careers – a daunting task to say the least. It’s something they’ve never done and that they had little to no time to prepare for given how quickly the world shifted gears last year.
If at this point you feel like I’m talking directly to you, this list of advice might just be what you need to keep your team focused and successful.
Stay connected when it’s time to be connected
Something we’ve all realized since starting our telecommuting days is that accessing information is a lot harder to do when everyone is working remotely. Even getting answers to seemingly simple questions requires you to embark on a digital quest fit for a knight (or a hobbit).
You know the process. You have a question for someone (let’s call him Steve). You send Steve a Slack. You wait a few minutes. No response. You send a friendly follow up. No response. Now what? Do you call? Do you ask someone else? Or do you send a third message. No, of course not. You’re not crazy.
These are things we never had to worry about when we worked five feet apart from each other. So how do we solve this communication problem? Stay connected. Turn your Slack and email notifications on. Don’t put your phone on silent. Keep in touch.
If you have to jump on an important call or have a meeting where you can’t be interrupted or just need an hour to yourself to focus and get stuff done, send a quick message to your team to let them know you’ll be out of touch for awhile and to only reach out if they need something urgently. Make sure to keep everyone in the loop when you’re taking a day off or leaving early for an appointment.
Disconnect when it’s time to disconnect
Just as important as consistently communicating with your remote team is consistently not communicating. Establish dark hours of communication, both during the work day and after, where notifications are silenced and interruptive messages are reserved for critical situations.
These dark hours can be helpful during the day to give employees time to work uninterrupted, but are especially important after the work day is over. That means no Slack, no emails, and no calls after a certain time.
Respect your coworkers home life and ask that they respect yours.
Spice things up
Professional communication should be just that: professional. But knowing what communication should be professional and where you can take some creative liberty is crucial to keeping communication alive in your remote team.
It’s hard enough understanding the emotion behind written communication without worrying about proper verbiage and email signatures.
Of course there are times where you do need to keep things professional. But outside of that, don’t be afraid to spice things up. Throw in an emoji at the end of an email or attach a gif to a Slack. Keep it interesting 🤘
Check In Daily
Checking in with your team should be something you’re doing every single day. Every. Single. Day.
Daily check-in doesn’t mean sending a ‘good morning’ message to your team’s group chat (and it definitely doesn’t mean adding a thumbs up to someone else’s ‘good morning’ and calling it good).
Whenever possible, you should be holding daily check-ins one-on-one. That doesn’t mean you need to fill your mornings with Zoom calls with each team member, but it does mean that taking 15 seconds to send a good morning message to each of your reports will pay huge dividends in the long run in terms of trust, productivity, and communication.
And since it’s a daily check-in, don’t draw it out. Keep it brief and to the point. Just long enough for all members to give feedback on relevant projects and to answer any questions that might come up.
If you’re a team leader managing an all-remote team for the first time, just know you aren’t alone in the struggle. Your team members will appreciate any extra steps you take to ensure they have everything they need to continue to be successful.
So keep it up. You’re doing great.