How to Effectively Manage Remote Teams, and Yourself, When Working From Home

Working from home and the utilization of remote teams has been gaining acceptance as a real work strategy for many businesses for the last decade. Before the current state of work, almost 50% of employees were already working from home at least half of the time, 16% of businesses are exclusively hiring remote teams, and the percentage of remote workers has grown by 140% since 2005.

This isn’t a new trend, but one that has been emerging for a long time time. However, WorkMarket’s CEO, Jeff Wald, recently theorized that the current environment is accelerating the transition to the Future of Work. We all are on a test run for working remotely and managing our teams remotely. So how can we make it work? We have searched high and low to find some best practices on remaining effective while managing remote teams, and yourself, while working from home.

5 Tips to Effectively Manage a Remote Team

For those of you who are used to managing an in-person team, the nuances of working with a remote team can be overwhelming. While it does require a mind shift, the transition doesn’t need to be difficult. Previously, the WorkMarket team shared these 5 tips for managing a remote team, and you can read the full blog here. A quick summary of their suggestions are:

  1. Understand How a Remote Team Operates - even though remote teams are radically different at the surface when you really drill down into it, both teams operate virtually the same. Collaboration, communication, strategization, and delegation still rule the game. The tools to get these done change from in-person meetings to virtual video conferences and collaboration software, but at the heart, the process is the same.

  2. Manage Remote Teams Through Specific Rules - because visual communication cues are lacking in pure voice communications, it can be hard to read coworker’s emotions or to know when one is beginning to speak. As such, setting clear rules and boundaries (ex. Only one person speak at a time during conference calls) can help your members feel connected and respected.

  3. Develop a Sense of Remote Team Chemistry - It can be easy to lose the camaraderie and chemistry of a team when all communications are done through voice and video. Meetings have strictly defined starting and ending points, causing a lot of the personal connection activities to be pushed aside. But starting a meeting with more team building and casual questions can keep that chemistry going until your team can return to the office.

  4. Vet, Verify, and Trust Your Remote Team Members - A common misconception of working from home is that workers spend more time playing, doing chores, or other non-work tasks instead of producing. Trust is crucial to getting any work from home strategy and team to be productive. You know your team, trust that they can make this transition, and be just as successful as they were in person.

  5. Create a Workplace Culture for Your Remote Teams - You already have a culture for your team when they are in the office. Work to pivot that culture to accommodate virtual teams and keep your team engaged as if they were in the office.

4 Tips to Stay Productive When Working from Home

1. Location is everything. Long term remote worker and writer for Slack, Matt Haughey, says location is critical to the ability to stay focused and on task. He told Time Magazine that “It definitely helps if you have a dedicated space for working from home. I started doing this kind of work sitting at a desk in the middle of my living room of a small San Francisco apartment 20 years ago, and it was a pain to stay on task and not get interrupted.”
Of course, the right space to stay productive depends on the worker. Success online magazine recommends that you find the space in your home that fuels your creativity. Is it a quiet place where you can shut yourself away and free of interruptions, such as a home office with a door? Or is it an active location, such as the couch or dining room table that provides your mind with the most creative fuel? The beauty of working from home is that you do not need to be a cookie-cutter in the way that you work. You find the best that works for you, and you go with it. It might take some trial and error to find what works best for you.

2. Create a routine. Just like when you go into the office, you have a cadence to your day. Which tasks do you tackle first when you just come in? What time do you get up in the morning, what time are you on the road? As much as you can, follow a similar pattern. Make sure you get ready for the day, have a cup of coffee, a few tunes or your typical morning drive podcast, whatever it is that gets you in the grove for your workday, do the same in your morning work from home routine. The same applies to your going home routine. One challenge that many work from home employees find is the struggle with effective work-life boundaries. NBC News recently touched on this topic, with advice from Jono Bacon, the author of “The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation.” Jono states that “A major risk with remote working is that it bleeds into your non-work life. Set primary working hours and stick to them. Sure, if you need to check-in on an evening, or if a work emergency crops up, tend to it, but focus [on using down time] for you, your family and your hobbies.”

woman at desk on laptop

3. Find a “work buddy.” Dan Schawbel, the author of “Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation,” says it’s important to remember that human connection is very important. Schawbel says. “If you feel lonely as a worker, you can't do your best work because psychologically a need is not met.” Even the most introverted worker who thrives in private, remote workplaces, staying connected is crucial to helping your emotional wellbeing through this unique time, even if the amount of connection is less than your extroverted counterpart.

4. Get out. Yes, leave your office and your home (if you have an accessible, distant outdoor location). The fresh air and vitamin D will do wonders for your frame of mind and physical health.