5 Best Practices for Remote Team Management

Frances Simowitz
Frances Simowitz
Managing Director at NUMA New York
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Remote working isn’t new. From companies like Buffer to Digital Ocean, many organizations have found the capacity and practices to manage their teams and workforce regardless of location, efficiently and productively. It’s a common perk among startup companies, and increasingly larger organizations, to have remote work policies as a benefit to give employees flexibility and autonomy. Until COVID-19, however, this practice was not implemented for many organizations across a multitude of industries.

With the global surge of COVID-19, a new reality has been thrust upon us.

NUMA, while having a long-standing remote work policy one day per week, has had to adjust to a fully remote way of working. There are numerous articles and books on the practices of remote work management, so we will not attempt to invent the wheel. We’d like to share our top 5 best practices to navigate remote team management.

1/ Preparing to go remote

There are many changes that occur when transitioning to remote work, from feeling a loss of control over your team to your time management, to having to be on video calls all day.

Yet, there are still many things that haven’t changed, such as how busy your schedule is. For me, I had originally thought that work might slow down, but it’s been quite the opposite! My calendar is just as full, if not more so than it was before going remote,

It’s critical as a manager to still manage your time wisely and strike a balance between the time you spend managing your team, the time spent executing on your own work, and the time that’s available to deal with the unexpected things that come up throughout your day.

We recommend adopting the 10–15–15 rule highlighted in the book ‘Radical Candor’ by Kim Scott, which recommends 10 hours for your management responsibilities, 15 hours for execution, and 15 hours for the unexpected.

2/ Managing your team's performance

Trust is a new imperative for managers in this time. The traditional tropes of managers being able to have visibility over everything their employees are doing to the point of micro-management becomes impossible when you are remote. Managers cannot simply walk up to their employee's desks and ask for the latest status reports. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and exchange trust for results.

We recommend utilizing ‘Goals of the Week,’ which is a component of the OKR method, where each week you have your employees share 3 individual goals for the week with measurable results. This will ensure team visibility and personal accountability over their work.

3/ Mastering Communication

Catching up on weekends at the water-cooler and informal conversations leading to creative ideas in the hallway is no longer possible. Nor is walking into a colleague’s office to notify them of something urgent. Communication is a critical component of how we operate and manage our teams on a daily basis, and with so many channels of communication, from tools like Slack, text message, calls, and email, it can be difficult to manage.

When choosing which communication tool to use, we recommend you first consider the urgency of your message. For something extremely urgent, a call or phone text is the equivalent of walking into a room and interrupting a meeting. Less urgency, consider using internal communication tools like Slack, or your company’s internal messaging services. For things that are not urgent, consider sending an email or waiting until the next 1:1 with your employee to address it.

Also, don’t be afraid to communicate more frequently, or to have more video meetings. It’s true that for organizations that were built to be remote, they can manage with fewer meetings and more emails and digital communication. Yet, the meetings serve a greater purpose than just disseminating information. It’s a moment for your team to connect, communicate, and get on the same page.

Finally, be mindful of how you are communicating in your 1:1’s with your team, and you may also want to increase the number of 1:1s you’re having. If you are only having them once a month, bi-monthly may be better, or even weekly. It’s helpful in keeping your team feeling supported and on-track. Prepare for them in advance, and consider having your employee set the agenda. Really listen in these, your team will be going through challenges and emotions that extend outside of work, and it’s a moment for strong leadership.

4/ Managing Engagement

I’m sure that by now many of you have already had some version of a virtual happy hour with friends and family, so there’s no reason why you can’t also do it with your team and colleagues! In this moment, people are isolated and craving connection and human interaction, and as the manager, you have a strong ability to support and facilitate social activities.

Encourage your team to share their best tips and tricks for managing their energy, and any fun remote activities they’ve discovered. So far, our team has had a virtual wine-o-clock, created a fun ‘Work from Home’ music video, had a networking session on Zoom with our colleagues in Paris, and shared their favorite virtual resources and events like musical improv and our pets.

5/ Re-learning how to work

Our daily life routines have been massively disrupted, from our morning commutes to our routine gym classes at the end of the day. Finding a new rhythm and balance is imperative and challenging.

And within the home, finding the best routines from how we start the day, to how we manage our space (especially in small apartments) is all new territory. Try to set a few rules and suggestions for your team, like a daily kick-off meeting where everyone shares their priorities for the day, or recommendations to get dressed in the morning (even if only from the waist up), to feel more productive and separate work time from home time.

If you have your own tried and true tricks share them in the comments below! If you’d like to view the playbacks of NUMA’s Remote Academy, you can check out the videos here.

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