Managing a work-from-home team can be stressful.
Working on projects together is challenging enough even in an office setting.
Now, can you imagine how complicated things could get when working remotely?
If you’re reading this piece, you’re probably worried you’ll blow the whole thing.
That’s why we decided to write this article so you can proactively avoid making remote team management mistakes and build a high-performing work-from-home team.
Without further ado, let’s get right into the list.
1. Lack of Communication
One of the most significant issues that could hinder a work-from-home team’s efficiency is the lack of communication. When people collaborate from the same office, all they have to do is peek over to the next cubicle whenever a question comes into their minds.
However, this open collaboration can sometimes be abandoned when coworkers aren’t sharing a workspace anymore. It’s vital that, as the manager of the team, you check in on collaborators regularly.
The best approach would be to have periodic group chats to get some broad insight into where everyone is at with the project. You should also sporadically have one-on-one calls with team members to delve deeper into the finer details to achieve effective team communication.
Nowadays, there’s virtually no excuse for ignoring communication since modern software has made it easier than ever before to stay in touch while miles or even continents apart. Solutions like Slack have revolutionized the way we connect.
While keeping meetings productive is critical, you should add a healthy dose of casual conversation to your conferences. It could be something as simple as sharing one thing about your week or exchanging insights — anything to build rapport between collaborators.
2. Inconsiderate Schedules
We just went over how staying connected as a team is so important. That being said, there’s a fine line between consistent communication and interrupting employee workflows with frequent calls.
The particular aspect is especially true for teams that span multiple time zones since the only thing more annoying than a call interrupting your work is a call interrupting your sleep. Many US-based companies may think they’re exempted from this challenge of remote teams, but that’s not exactly the case.
For instance, if you and a few other team members live in New York, then having a conference at 9 AM could seem pretty reasonable, albeit a bit early. However, if your collaborators live in California, for example, then they’ll have to be on their computer at 6 AM!
You can’t expect those on your team to perform well if they’re getting up before the sun does just to make it to conferences that don’t take their time zone into account. The easiest way to get around this is to run a poll when scheduling calls.
It’s not a perfect solution, but at least it’ll help everyone find common ground regarding availability. Make sure that meetings end on schedule as well because keeping your team on the call longer than promised also eats up their time.
3. Excessive Rigidity
A significant benefit of working from home is the level of flexibility that it provides. Sadly, some team managers negate this advantage by being too rigid. These are the types of managers who want employees to check in at a specific time of day every morning as if they’re going into the office.
Structuring a WFH arrangement in the same way you’d set up a regular 9-to-5 is not only a missed opportunity to cash in on potential flexibility but also a detrimental misstep that will negatively impact results in the long term.
Different people are productive at different times of the day. Some people can hop right out of bed and start mashing their keyboards in a vigorous frenzy — more power to them! But other, more nocturnal humans, may get their best work done past midnight.
Forcing a “correct” schedule on employees that work from home will slow down their turnaround times and potentially even affect their mental health if the stress is significant enough. Rather than gauging performance with a wall clock, look at the actual output of your team members.
This freedom can also encourage coworkers to learn a new work skill or exercise to ensure they stay in top shape. If you give people the flexibility they need, then you’ll end up with happier, healthier collaborators that are both productive and fueled creatively.
4. The “Face-on-a-Screen” Phenomenon
Coworkers that used to share an office will often have an easier time collaborating remotely since they already have that rapport established amongst themselves. In contrast, employees that have been working remotely from the start may feel disconnected from everyone else.
This is because, for as long as anyone can remember, they’ve always been just another face on a screen. The disconnect may not seem like something worth dealing with, but it can cause issues down the road if left unchecked.
A member that feels like an outcast on the team is less likely to ask questions, collaborate closely with others, and communicate freely. The reduction in information exchange and cooperation will cause sluggish progress or even project-stalling misunderstandings.
If you want to avoid such problems, then the best thing to do is incorporate remote employees into in-person gatherings whenever possible. This will make them feel more connected to the business as a whole.
Whether it’s a company retreat, celebration dinner, or even a recreational activity such as escape rooms, getting your remote workers in on the fun will be a net positive for everyone involved.
5. Overbearing Oversight
Keeping tabs on what your team is up to and ensuring the quality is up to par are essential for any manager. There are times when this can go too far, though — such as ignoring complaints about employees struggling with computer-related issues.
If someone needs help resolving scratch disk problems or other computer problems, do not just tell them to Google the problem themselves. Get tech-savvy people to help instead.
Making designers or writers await approval from half a dozen people before publishing their work is another example.
Like we mentioned earlier, time differences can be tricky with remote teams. Think about how much slower your projects will move if employees need to wait a day before being greenlit to put their material online.
If you’re dead set on oversight remaining at its current level, then at least try to pair people who are in similar time zones. If you have writers on your team, having them report to an editor that’s eight hours behind their time zone likely isn’t the most efficient path forward.
Another workaround would be to have collaborators on two projects at once. This will maximize their output since they can work on their secondary tasks while waiting for approval on the assignments that they’ve already completed.
Streamlining operations in this way will make the team more cohesive, and you’ll have fewer situations where employees point fingers at one another when you ask why a project has blown right past its deadline.
6. Lead by Example
This final tip applies to both in-office and work-from-home teams, but it’s arguably more paramount for those treading the remote path. If you want those you’re managing to give the project their all, you have to do the same.
You can’t expect collaborators to pull an all-nighter if they see that the very person in charge of the project barely checks in on its progress or takes days to reply to their concerns. Make some of the same sacrifices that you’d endure if you were working from the office.
Whether it’s getting an extra early start on the project or staying up late to finish things up, these gestures can show everyone that you care about the outcome on a personal level, and it will inspire them to do the same.
After all, there are many cases where people are more likely to do what you do than what you say. Sure, it may be a bit cumbersome to devote extra effort to your work, but the good that will come out of it well outweighs the energy needed to get there.
It’s worth noting that even less extreme methods like updating remote workers on information from an in-person meeting could set the example of inclusiveness, thereby reminding team members to keep WFH employees in the loop.
As you can see, managing a remote team doesn’t have to involve mental gymnastics or workflows that belong in the field of rocket science. Simply steering clear of the mistakes we covered above can make the whole experience a lot easier for both you and your collaborators.
Whether it’s getting to know your employees personally or setting an example for the rest of the team to follow, a little effort goes a long way. It won’t be an effortless process, but the result will be quite rewarding.
If you found this article useful, then be sure to share it with a few colleagues so that they too can reap the benefits of the information we’ve gone over. That’s all for now. Keep collaborating, and stay safe!