Managers are increasingly wishing to manage teams remotely thanks to advances in remote working and project work, the creation of shared resource centres and the development of organisations. However, you do not manage a team working remotely in the same way as you manage a team that you see every day. What rules should be put in place? How can you help your employees manage their time and get organised? How can you carry out your role as a manager on a daily basis while at a distance? These are questions that all remote managers ask themselves.
The central prerequisite of trust
Trust is a fundamental element of any managerial relationship because it allows you to delegate, to communicate quickly and to save time and resources without having to constantly check the work of your co-workers. But it is built gradually over time. When working from home, trust is simply a prerequisite and must be established as soon as possible because you cannot physically control the activity of your co-workers. We therefore recommend that you follow four main principles:
- Set boundaries
Set boundaries and define the rules will allow you to create trust. Define, by mutual agreement, what you expect from your co-workers in terms of:
- Availability (yours and theirs)
- Tasks to be performed
- Work method
- Reporting back (manner and frequency)
By setting a clear framework from the very beginning, your co-workers will have a clear idea of what your expectations are and how to organise themselves to meet them.
- Communicate and share
In order to keep good contact with your team, we suggest setting up two types of meetings:
Formal and regular meetings.
These can take place daily or weekly depending on your activity. This can be flexible. But it is important to reserve a fixed and regular slot in your schedule to answer your co-workers’ questions. The purpose of these meetings is to share important information and make sure the team are on the same page:
- A short format from 15 to 60 minutes depending on the size of your team and the frequency of the meetings
- It should take place at the beginning of the day or at the beginning of the week
- The whole team is present
- Every person in turn and in a very concise manner
- outlines what they are going to do in the day or the week
- asks their questions (the answers are short and not debates)
- outlines his problems
- offers help if needed
Informal and occasional meetings
These are for celebrating successes, exchanging informal information and building relationships.
- They are flexible and informal
- But must take place regularly every week or every month to maintain the team dynamics even from a distance
- The whole team is present
- The manager outlines
- The team’s achievements
- Accomplishments / Focal points
- Listens to their employees
- Being attentive and available means always leaving your door open, even from a distance!
From a distance, your co-workers will not be able to knock on your office door and you will not be able to observe their behaviour in detail. But you can leave one time slot per week (or per day) available in your diary and make this known to everyone, for example every Monday morning from 9 to 11 am, to answer your co-workers’ questions individually. This way they know that you are available and that this time slot is always reserved for them.
Many problems are solved during informal exchanges in companies. Try to organise regular virtual breaks, e-coffees, informal moments with each member of your team. It is generally during these exchanges that you will best identify the needs of your teams.
- Make sure you respect the balance between professional and personal life
According to a recent Gallup study, 51% of office workers would be willing to switch to a job that offers more flexibility. The balance between professional and personal life has become a major issue in terms of employee loyalty and commitment in a company where couples have to juggle the priorities of both of their careers and increasingly long commuting times in large cities. Working from home therefore appears to be an ideal solution to deal with this challenge, but this must not be done at the expense of the personal and family life of its employees.
In the short term, this means that you have to be careful when you call upon your co-workers who work from home. Not being able to see if your co-worker is sitting at their desk may lead you to try to communicate with them without thinking. Look at your watch and calculate any potential time difference before making a call and ask yourself if your co-worker is supposed to be at work at that time. In the long term, it also means providing time with your co-workers to discuss their professional goals and career development.