The demand for remote workers has been growing continuously over the last few years. Some people work from anywhere in the world, and others only telecommute part of the week.
Managing fully remote teams is different from managing an office-based team. As a manager, you can’t wander by a desk to touch base or expect the employees to keep working the same working hours that you do.
The manager’s role is even more crucial in remote settings because they need to make sure everything is well organized and coordinated, not to mention clearly set out. Keeping the team happy and productive is no easy feat, so managers are highly likely to make mistakes. The good news is that many of them are avoidable.
Read on to learn the most common mistakes managers make with their distributed or remote teams — and how to avoid them.
1. Not creating room for conversations
When you work in a physical office, the day is filled with opportunities that spark conversation. You can simply stop by someone’s desk and ask them about the weekend or pop into the manager’s office to get clarification on a project issue.
Even though these interactions may seem trivial, they are indeed part of what brings the team together. Unfortunately, they aren’t available for remote or distributed teams, but this doesn’t mean that they’re not still important.
As a manager, it’s essential to create a virtual environment that fosters conversation within your remote team. Try to check in with team members at the beginning of a one-to-one meeting by asking how things are going, not only professionally but also personally.
You can also schedule end-of-the-week virtual happy hours where everyone can hop on video and catch up with the team. Another idea is to create opportunities for the team to connect throughout the day, like on an informal Slack channel, for instance.
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2. Not setting clear expectations
When you outline tasks for your team, you know exactly what you’re asking from them. But just because you’re clear on what you need, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the team has the same level of clarity.
This is why it’s essential to set clear expectations and give detailed directions when managing a remote or distributed team.
Whenever you assign a task, be clear in your communication and make sure the employee understands it. Sometimes prompting employees to repeat the instructions in their own words is useful. Once you’re positive the team understands exactly what you need, make sure you set clear expectations on when and how you expect them to complete the task.
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3. Rushing through virtual meetings
People can easily chime in when they have something to say in an in-person meeting. This can become difficult in a virtual meeting because remote team members may not feel comfortable interrupting the speaker in order to give their input.
As a manager, it’s important to avoid rushing through meetings because that way, your employees won’t be able to have a real contribution, and you’ll lose their input. For example, don’t simply ask, “does anyone have anything to contribute” and then move on immediately. This is a sure-fire way to shut down your team.
When you’re in a virtual meeting, you can’t always see body language, so it’s important to remember to leave enough space during the meetings so people can gather their thoughts and contribute their ideas.
4. Not trusting your team
As a remote team manager, it’s essential to understand that you have to provide a level of autonomy to each of your team members. This is not going to work in the absence of trust. When you’re managing a remote team, it’s essential to trust your people.
Micromanaging is one of the most common mistakes remote team managers make. To avoid it, make sure that you set out clear expectations and trust your team to meet the goals and deadlines with minimal input from your side. In other words, you should try to focus more on the outcome and less on the process.
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5. Focusing on working hours
Most of the time, remote team members don’t live in the same time zone, and even if they do, it’s vital to allow employees to work the hours that suit them best. Apart from joining meetings with set times, employees shouldn’t feel pressured to work fixed hours unless it’s necessary for the business.
Multiple studies have shown that employees are much more productive when they’re allowed to complete their tasks on their own schedule. As a manager, try to focus on deliverables and not on working hours. As long as employees are completing their tasks on time, they should be able to do so at any hour they want.
6. Overscheduling meetings
Meetings are an important part of remote work, but managers need to make sure they don’t overdo it. Meeting fatigue is a real issue for remote and distributed teams, so try only to schedule meetings that are absolutely necessary.
It’s indeed easy to fall into the trap of checking too often on your team, so do your best to determine which meetings are necessary and which ones could be merged. A regular schedule for weekly or bi-weekly check-ups always helps and keeps the team productive because employees won’t have to take time every day to attend non-essential meetings.
7. Not scheduling any one on one meetings
One of the best ways to get to know everyone on your team is through 1-1s. Even though many managers struggle to find the time for them, 1-1s should definitely become a part of your routine because they are an excellent way to exchange feedback, celebrate accomplishments and make it easy for team members to discuss any issues they may encounter.
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The common mistakes outlined above are easy to correct, so try to focus on transparency, communication, and trusting your team. Avoiding these mistakes when managing a remote team clears the path to building a thriving and productive team.
Search Remotely is a leading company that has assisted hundreds of companies around the world to recruit talented individuals and help build exceptional remote teams.