What 8 years of working with a virtual remote team has taught me.

What 8 years of working with a virtual remote team has taught me.
April 2, 2022 Linda Murray

I saw the results of a LinkedIn poll recently which really made clear how much the world of work has changed. The question was, “Would you consider applying for a job that didn’t have remote working as an option?” 69% of respondents said no. Remote work is a new and permanent way of working and leaders need to adapt.

How are your leaders coping? Are they still learning to work with remote teams? 

I’ve worked with a remote team for over 8 years now and during my time I’ve learnt a lot about how to lead them. Today I’m sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned so my experience can help you and your team sooner.

Systems and processes are critical.

We want to work smarter, not harder, and that isn’t possible without systems to support it. As a leader, I want my team to be able to get on with their work without having to check in all the time to see what to do next. I want them to know the workflow and understand how their work fits with what the rest of the team is doing. 

Knowing what to do, when and how is the basis of all teamwork.

Manage the barriers

These could be anything from lack of technology, lack of confidence, lack of guidance, poor policies, unsound expectations, and even poor relationships. Some of the battles will need to be fought within the workplace but you might not even discover some barriers until you spend time talking with each person. Barriers can be quite personal.

As a leader, you have to show yourself open to listening and supporting each person.

Trust issues

We know that distance can lead to distrust between team members. I’ve seen it myself. When we’re all together in the workplace, we can see each other working. We know what people are doing. It’s easy to pop in and talk when you need to. You can’t do that when you’re working remotely. 

Regular check-ins and lots of opportunities to chat as a team are important to overcome the problem. Don’t see a quick social Zoom meeting as a waste of time. It is doing important work in maintaining trust and relationships.

Motivation. 

How do you keep remote workers motivated? Concentrate on purpose and potential. It’s easy to forget why you’re doing your job when you’re separated from the team. 

Make sure you remind people of the big picture behind what they do. We need to have a reason to bother going to work at all, don’t we? It’s about more than money. I also like to reinforce each person’s sense of potential. They are still part of a workplace and still part of a team. They can still have an exciting career path ahead of them. It’s important to help your team see a future so they’re not stuck in the rut of routine. 

Time of work doesn’t matter – results do

For some people, this has been the hardest mental shift of all to make. Work is no longer 9-5. People will work at different hours to suit their lifestyles and that’s OK. I’ve found people can deliver a better quality of work when they can do it in the time that works for them instead of cramming it into “acceptable hours”. If you’re worried about the time of work, you’re probably micromanaging your team. Step back. Give them space and autonomy. They want to deliver quality for you. They know what they’re doing. They’re well trained (aren’t they?). Shift your focus to their results. That’s the critical issue. 

Working with hybrid teams does ask leaders for a mindset shift but it allows them to build a more human and solid relationship with their people. In my experience, if you can do that, your team is well on the way to becoming high performance – and happy.

What else would you add to these tips?

If reading this article has made you reflect on your leadership skills and look to improve them, Athena’s Leadership Academy programs can deliver what you need. Give me a call and let’s find the best way forward for you and your leadership team.

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