Digital technology has enabled many new forms of work, but the ability to easily and efficiently work remotely is one of the most pressing. Individuals can choose to work remotely, as freelancers, or may work at home for several days out of the week, creating new and pressing complications for leaders.
Maintaining a sense of teamwork and commitment or motivation for organizational goals across distances is more difficult, and leaders managing remote and mixed teams will struggle with that distance. Here, leaders must maintain connections with persons who may not be physically connected by establishing clear structures, using technology, and ensure collaboration through proper people management.
4 Leadership tips for mixed and remote teams
Hiring the Right People
Not everyone will be collaborative or productive without constant management and accountability. Not everyone can collaborate and communicate well over longer distances or through digital mediums.
A successful hire is someone who is self-motivated, engaged and interested in the organizational goals, and very good at communication. This can be ascertained through skills assessments and competency or behavior frameworks to test how well people are likely to contribute in an unstructured environment, such as when working remotely or from home.
Trust is most easily established by creating close and personal connections with others, closing distances, and making everyone feel like an equal contributor. While this isn’t always possible with remote workers, taking the time to close perceived or actual physical distances as much as possible is an important aspect of leadership.
You can integrate several tactics, bringing nearby remote employees into the office, facilitating communication through tools, and forcing communication through collaboration methods. Your other, and likely most important, tactic will be to treat external employees in the same way as local ones. External employees should receive the same benefits, attention, email address, and access to tools and equipment.
While this won’t always be possible, consistently showing external or remote workers that you value their contribution as much as in-office team members will help you to build trust.
Even when some employees work in other countries, it can be beneficial to have them meet up in person at least once, especially if they are important contributors. This isn’t always possible, but if so, you can compensate for it in other ways, such as sharing video walls to remote offices or asking individuals to share when they leave their desk or office on settings such as in Skype or Slack, and so on.
Establishing the Right Tools
Creating strong team is often difficult when everyone works in office, but it can be even more so when everyone is working at home, externally, or even in another country. Establishing clear and structured communication is one of the most important things you can do as a leader.
You can achieve this by creating clear and structured communication channels. For example, chat and video calling, conference calling, email, and project management tools like Slack are all valuable.
It’s also important to create communication within tooling. Individuals should work in the same tools, in the same way, whether they are working at home or in another country. This will enable better understanding of work processes, better project sharing, and faster communication and collaboration no matter the size of the project.
Create a Structure
Once you have tooling in place, the most important thing you can do as a leader is to establish clear and efficient structures for communication, work deadlines, and collaboration. External employees can’t simply stop by your office to discuss something, they need regular and scheduled ways to communicate and collaborate. Creating set video or conference calls, establishing coaching, developing time and space for collaboration and creativity, and setting a communication strategy will be invaluable in your ability to guide and lead your remote or mixed team.
Remote work is becoming more and more common, with a 140% + growth rate since 2005. However, once you establish strong communication and tooling and create standards for hiring employees based on their ability to self-manage and motivate, most of the barriers preventing good teamwork and communication have already been overcome.
As a leader, your largest considerations will be continued maintenance of structure and communication, while ensuring that everyone feels like an equal and important contributor.