Remote Control, Part 2: Smells Like Team Spirit

photo via Andrew Spencer (Unsplash)

With team members across the country and around the world, we at T!LT have turned remote work into an art form. We were doing it before it was cool, if “cool” could be redefined as “necessary for the health and safety of everyone involved.”

Now, everybody’s doing it. It’s so passé. It also doesn’t look like it’s going to be changing anytime soon. Not everyone is having an easy time of it, and that’s okay. As a species, we adapt, some better than others. Humanity is constantly evolving but there will always be those individuals who are content getting left behind watching cable TV instead of enjoying seemingly endless streaming options. To each their own. But, at T!LT, we’ve been doing this whole “remote work” thing long before it was a gleam in the weary, multitasking eyes of all you whippersnappers.

So pull up the same chair you’ve been sitting in for the last six months, make yourself comfortable, and learn from the hard-earned wisdom of Old Man T!LT.

Remote Control, Part 2: Smells Like Team Spirit

So, you’ve assembled a fantastic team, and though you’re spread out all over the place, you’re ready to tackle new projects without missing a beat.

…Or so you think. Like any hero’s journey, this one is fraught with unseen peril. But that’s what makes any journey worth taking, right? If it were easy, it wouldn’t be rewarding. And if it’s rewarding, that means it’s never as easy as it seems.

Managing a team gets a little more challenging when no one can be in the same room. You can’t just walk over to someone’s desk to see how they’re doing. If they’re in a different time zone, you can’t even be sure they’ll be awake when you pick up the phone. After a lifetime of thinking outside the box, you’ve got to take one more step away from it — and maybe even ditch the box entirely.

Social Isolation? More Like Social Nice-olation, Amirite?

It’s hard enough to get 64% of Americans to agree on anything these days, but according to one study by KPMG, 64% of US workers feel that working from home has improved their quality of work. (Don’t worry: if you’re one of the 36% shaking their heads reading that, read our next post to find out how to make that possible.)

There are plenty of benefits to remote work. There’s no commute to speak of, which means workers can get things done more efficiently (and less exhaustedly). And when you don’t have to travel for in-person sales meetings, you can fit more into a day, multiplying your productivity exponentially.

But getting there takes some work, especially on the part of management. Right now, according to that same study, 66% to 72% of managers find that overseeing a remote workforce is more challenging. Here are some tips to make that number drop (along with, we assume, the blood pressure of our poor harried managers).

At Last! That Meeting Really Can Be An Email

We’ve all been there. Sometimes multiple times a day. “This meeting could have been an email,” we think, as we shake our legs and tap our pens and long to be free of the shackles of modernity like  Wonga-Taa.

Now is your time: because now, that meeting really can be an email. Your team are all working as hard as you are, but they may not be working synchronous hours. People with kids have to figure out remote schooling; people caring for their aging parents may have a whole other set of responsibilities. Trust that your team will get the job done without having to micromanage them. If you’ve  picked the right people — and of course you have — they’ll meet their deadlines.

You should keep having regular meetings, of course, to make sure everyone is on the same page. But instead of scheduling daily meetings, can you have conversations via email? Or start a staggered conversation on Marco Polo? Work together through shared comments on a Google doc?

More often than not, these are rhetorical questions: the answer is likely yes. Your team members may not be working the exact same hours that you are, but they are putting in the hours. And if you make your expectations clear, they’ll get the job done. So when you’re ready to go Zoom, ask yourself if you can ease up on the throttle instead.

…But Don’t Be A Stranger

You aren’t breathing down your team’s necks, but don’t make them wonder whether you’ve stopped breathing altogether. We don’t want a Weekend At Bernie’s situation on our hands here. You may have cut down on meetings, but that doesn’t mean you should vanish completely.

Make an effort to stay connected with your team. When you’re working from home, it’s easy to feel like you’re stranded on a remote outpost planet somewhere in the void of space. And space is cold. And lonely. And no one can hear you scream in it.

Take the time to check in personally with everyone on your team. Even one brief, low-pressure email a day can go a long way toward keeping morale up. And keep it positive! People are naturally more motivated when they receive positive feedback and recognition.

Oh, The Humanity: The Personal Touch

One more thing: it doesn’t have to be all business, all the time. Remember that time away from the office is time away from all the social interactions that happen there. And your team may need more social interaction now than ever before. Virtual events and team building activities can help ensure that your team stays bonded, even when they’re miles apart from one another.

When you’re checking in with your team members one on one, make sure you’re seeing the whole person. Get to know who they are, especially the new remote hires that you may never have been in the same room with. What are their interests? Their hobbies? Their aspirations? Just asking how someone’s weekend was can help you feel a more genuine connection to someone.

Unless they spent their weekend at Bernie’s. Then they might not want to talk about it.

Next Up: How To Stay Organized When Working From Home

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