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How to manage your team remotely

Frequent and regular contact keeps employees engaged and in the loop

4-minute read

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed how we work. Teams that used to see each other every day have had to learn how to work and collaborate remotely.

For entrepreneurs, this has meant leading teams in a new way. Jonathan Pastrikos, Director of Business Innovation and Technology with BDC Advisory Services, says that providing good communication with employees as well as the proper equipment are crucial to success in this new environment.

“What’s key is to have regular and frequent communication,” says Pastrikos. “Giving them secure and intuitive tools that work is also part of ensuring you have an effective remote team.”

Provide the right tools to remote employees

Pastrikos says businesses need to have everyone on the team use the same applications for video conferencing and group file sharing.

He says that choosing strong and familiar collaboration tools, and everyone using the same ones, are necessary for working well together and being tightly integrated. .

“It makes it much easier for your employees to learn and become familiar with the applications and the different capabilities. It also helps in managing the day-to-day business activities, such as file management, information sharing and messaging, and in securing the applications.”

He says, while there are many great tools available for free or low cost, those are only appropriate for the smallest of clients. He says entrepreneurs should select one that is designed to support their industry and has features and functionality most important to them and that integrate well with their existing tech stack.

He says companies should also invest in equipment for their teams to work successfully from home. That can include supplying company laptops, headsets for conferencing, or if they’re tradespeople, salespeople or other professionals working in the field, a tablet or cellphone, as well as the right business applications to support mobile work.

Some business owners may also want to subsidize employees’ Internet or mobile data plans to ensure they have sufficient bandwidth and speed.

Communicate regularly and often

At the heart of managing remote teams, says Pastrikos, is the ability to communicate.

Frequent and consistent communications not only keeps people “in the loop” but also helps maintain morale and makes up for the loss of everyday water cooler talk at the office.

“If your team usually meets once a month or every two weeks, bump that up to at least once a week. And prioritize that meeting.”

Weekly one-on-one check-ins with team members allow leaders to know how people are doing. Some employees may need support but aren’t comfortable sharing their concerns in a group setting. Pastrikos says that having regular conversations, even taking a few minutes to talk and connect over non-business-related interests, will help them feel more comfortable to speak up if a problem does come up.

If your team usually meets once a month or every two weeks, bump that up to at least once a week. And prioritize that meeting.

Take into account employees’ different time zones

A team made up of remote workers will sometimes have employees talking to one another at different times of their day. Pastrikos says it’s important to not let time differences get in the way of the group working as one unit.

“It's very easy for a team member in Vancouver to feel isolated,” says Pastrikos, who works out of Toronto. “Because they’re three hours behind, I try to not schedule meetings that are too early in the day. I also try to make a special effort to reach out towards the end of the day. It’s the end of my day, but they're mid-day.”

Shift your expectations

Because leaders have less direct control over remote teams, Pastrikos says some entrepreneurs may need to adopt a new management style—one that gives staff more autonomy.

“Trust your team,” he says. “Frame what needs to be done and give them the room to come up with their own solutions. There's a level of autonomy that has to happen for individuals to be able to work remotely.

“To help your team work better as a unit, it’s important that everyone understand that while they have their own individual roles, they also have a role in contributing to the team”—even if that team is working from numerous locations.

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