Managing Teams in the Remote Workplace

I was recently contacted by a member of the team at Time Doctor to discuss remote work. Like Pyrus, their software aims to help remote workers maximize productivity. Interestingly enough, they had just published a piece on how remote work has impacted management. That really got me thinking. Though I’ve spent quite a bit of time writing about remote work, remote management is really its own challenge to face. In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the topic head on. Here are some of the opportunities, obstacles, and skills to keep in mind if you’re managing a remote team.

A New Management Landscape

As we know, the pandemic forced many teams to go remote for the first time in early 2020. Like it or not, remote work is still sticking around 18 months later. And even if it weren’t for the seemingly unending pandemic, we probably wouldn’t all be rushing back to the office anyway. As this survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates, many organizations and employees have embraced the new normal.

There are certainly benefits of working from home. For instance, you can set your own schedule for maximum productivity. (I gave some tips for how to do that here.) It also may feel easier to take breaks while working at home. However, that flexible schedule and independence might be worrying someone: your manager. This study drew attention to the strain remote work has put on managers’ trust in their employees. How do we feel responsible for others’ productivity if we have no idea what they’re doing day in and day out?

Fortunately, there are great strategies for managing a team remotely without micromanaging. However, not all managers are finding it easy to do that. Before we go into what they should do, let’s address some mistakes that are popping up.

Managing Threats to Remote Management

This article from HBR highlights the “trust issues” facing remote managers in the modern world. Unfortunately, preliminary research has found that many supervisors don’t feel confident in themselves in this new setting. Sure, someone might be a great manager. But how do they adapt their skills to the remote workplace?

This lack of confidence feeds, and is a product of, a vicious cycle. It seems like those managers doubting their employees are probably learning it from their superiors. Managers’ own managers aren’t sure how to handle the new terrain. The unfortunate consequence is that employees may feel pressured to be accountable at every moment. That’s an unrealistic expectation. It’s also one that can easily contribute to the burnout epidemic. This FastCompany article shares exactly that concern. Poor remote management practices are putting workers at risk.

This isn’t anyone’s fault. This article on cognitive biases explains why remote managers aren’t functioning as well as usual. Without being able to see their teams working, managers make assumptions. Those assumptions tend to support confirmation bias, attribution bias, and groupthink, among other heuristics. As I mentioned in this blog about finding confidence to speak up in virtual meetings, it’s not always easy for people to feel heard in the remote workplace. The result? Plenty of workers are just letting their managers believe those biases.

Remote Management Skills to Rev Up

Clearly, managers in the remote work landscape need some best practices to do right by their teams. Employees deserve a chance to be assessed fairly for their hard work, wherever it’s happening. And they shouldn’t have to feel tremendous pressure over it. This article from Time Doctor shares some great strategies to get you started with managing a remote team.

First and foremost, don’t forget the value of a great team. It’s important to find opportunities for networking and virtual socialization. One benefit of bringing employees together is collaboration, sure. But all the other stuff that being in a group facilitates, like humor, is important too! (Here’s my earlier post about how humor boosts productivity.) To that end, create a great culture for your employees. Do your best to minimize stress for the folks you manage. Celebrate their accomplishments regularly to encourage gratitude in the workplace. Take time together to show your employees that you’re invested in their success and value them. That’s an important way to offset the mistrust remote work can breed.

At the same time, remember that employees are spending most of their work days alone, and they need support. This is a great time to reiterate a commitment to letting employees choose their own flexible schedule. I wrote about one major reason this matters in this post about women in the workplace. In addition, meet with employees one on one frequently. That can help you hear their concerns with humility and show real empathy. Plus, you can delegate tasks more effectively when you know where your employees are at. This can help you, the organization, and your team members hit goals.

How Pyrus Can Serve You

Finally, it’s critical to choose software that will make remote management easier for you, not harder. If it makes life easier for your team, too, that’s a win-win! Looking for that win-win solution? Check out Pyrus.

Not only does this software encourage virtual communication and collaboration, it’s optimized for successful management. You can use the dashboards to engage in smart, data-driven assessment. You can also delegate with ease using Pyrus. Our software makes it simple to manage any business process with elegant, automated workflows. As this short video succinctly explains, Pyrus was designed to help keep remote teams working smoothly together. If you’re a remote manager feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed, look no further than Pyrus. Let us help you move your work forward. Request a demo today.