Supervising a Remote Team (for the first time)

Managers and supervisors have the challenging role of positively influencing their team’s ability to communicate and collaborate well. Supervising a remote team only magnifies the challenge. It becomes increasingly important to maintain productivity, meet deadlines, improve morale, lower stress and retain remote employees. Justin Hale, master trainer at Vital Smarts has some great tips for supervising from a distance!

  1. Frequent and Consistent Check-ins. Check in frequently and regularly with remote employees. The cadence of the check-ins can vary from daily to bi-weekly to weekly but should always be consistent and entail a standing meeting or scheduled one-on-one.
  2. Face-to-Face or Voice-to-Voice. Insist on some face time with remote employees. If in-person meetings are not possible, at a minimum use video conferencing technology or pick up the phone to ensure colleagues occasionally see one another’s face or hear one another’s voice.
  3. Exemplify Solid Communication Skills. You cannot overemphasize the importance of general, stellar communication with remote teams. Be a great listener, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating. At times it can be ok to have a conversation over the phone, and then email out the details to confirm people are on the same page with you.
  4. Explicit Expectations. When it comes to managing remote teams, be very clear about expectations. This is especially important now, because the “rules” of work have suddenly changed. Never leave people in the dark about projects, roles, deadlines etc.
  5. Always Available. Be available quickly and at all times of the day. Go above and beyond to maintain an open-door policy for remote employees—make yourself available across multiple time zones and through multiple means of technology (MS Teams, Zoom, Email, Phone, Text etc.). Remote employees should be able to count on you to respond quickly to pressing concerns.
  6. Mix Up the Tech. Try to use multiple means of communication to connect with your remote workers. Don’t just resort to phone or email but get familiar with video conferencing technologies and a variety of services like Skype, Slack, Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx, to name a few. Get skilled at setting up and running meetings using these technologies, as if this was going to be your new reality moving forward.
  7. Prioritize Relationships. Team building and camaraderie are important for any team and remote teams are no exception. Go out of your way to form personal bonds with your remote folks. Use check-in time to ask about their personal life, families, and hobbies. Allow team meeting time for “water cooler” conversation so the whole team can create personal connections and strengthen relationships.

By: Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Ombuds Office

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