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Don't be a stranger - managing a remote team

November 3, 2017

Management, Remote Working

The world of remote work, or telecommuting, continues to grow. More and more organisations are seeing the benefits, and managers are seeing new demands and responsibilities to how they manage their teams.

Without the obvious physical connections, they find themselves needing to approach things in different ways. Its always important for managers to see themselves as a part of the team, and not apart from the team.

Obviously, communication is what its all about. The ability to know where telecommuters are up to in their work, and what progression is being made towards targets carries a new significance. Its all important to keep the channels open and clear.

It starts from the ground up, and that means building the team carefully to fit their role. Some people wouldn’t be comfortable working remotely. This team needs people who will get the job done no matter their location, people who can be trusted to complete. They’ll still need leadership and support though, we all do.

Another key skill for remote working is the ability to write well. As the sharing of information and communicating is such an integral part of telecommuting, writing needs to be strong, succinct and direct. Not everybody has that skill. Again, we’re building the team from the ground up. The remote world offers slightly less in terms of a social working environment, and telecommuters also need to be ok with that, or even to flourish in such a situation. 

As telecommuters work at arms length, they need to feel supported, but also need to be accountable. As always, communication is the answer.

Taking all this into account, its not possible for managers to over communicate with the team. There can be no gaps. Telecommuters are likely to feel better supported and integrated in the team if they’re in constant communication with their managers. They will appreciate the opportunity to feedback regularly, and to hear how the rest of the team’s doing. That said, not everyone needs to know everything. The manager’s role is as an information stream, and it is their place to know who needs what information, and when. Team motivation is as always, a primary goal.

So what’s the solution?

Obviously, there are tools that can help. Online collaboration communities where we can share all the information we need - and much we don’t - remotely and securely. They’re comfortable places to be, easy to use - once you’ve logged in, and at first they can seem like the perfect answer. But they can clog up your day, distract your mind, occupy too much time and wreck your productivity by pulling you away from your work. Eventually, these tools begin to feel like an all day meeting with no agenda, telling you things you don’t need to know. Each thread becomes an inbox in its own right, and confusion begins to reign.

Imagine you’re one of our remote workers, needing to communicate with your team and your manager, but also actually quite busy doing your job as well. All of this can be achieved simply. Much more simple, in fact, than you’d imagine. Its called Wundamail. And its a wonderful thing. (please try and ignore this awful pun)

One email is all it takes. Just one. At the end of every day, your manager sends the whole team an email. It simply asks, “What did you do today?”. You reply. This is your chance to report back. You’re day went well? Say so. You came across a couple of issues? Say so. The rest of your team do the same.

The next day, you and everybody else in the team receive an email. One email. Its a compilation of everyone’s replies. It gives you an overview of everything that’s going well, where everybody’s up to, and an idea of how you might be able to help a colleague who has an issue. Simple.

Not only that, but your engagement is incentivised, so you’re rewarded too. Obviously, your replies need to be provable, so you can forget any fanciful claims like “brought about world peace today”. There’s no need to log in, so no need for yet another username or password - and lets face it, that’s the best news!

For managers, the benefits are obvious and many. We’re looking at a simple system to give an overview of everything, keeping the whole team in sync. A system that can easily be branded, configured and designed to each team’s specific needs; keeping everybody in the loop and offering support where needed. The team is incentivised and enthused by earning rewards for engagement. It allows trust to be built, and the telecommuters feel empowered and able to work autonomously. No team is too big or small, as this beautifully simple solution works across the board. All they need is an inbox. Its so simple its a wonder nobody’s come up with anything quite like it before. Or should that read ‘a wunda’ ?(okay, okay, ignore that pun too)

This article is part of our larger guide all about Team Management

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