Training on Managing Remote Teams Can Turn Challenges Into Opportunities

CoachHub · 8 July 2022 · 6 min read

Remote working is seen by many as a win-win scenario—employers benefit from quality work, while employees enjoy more freedom. Companies can overcome the challenges of virtual teams by identifying project management solutions that build strong, agile teams that are collaborative from anywhere they work. 

Managers need to double-down on the fundamentals of managing remote teams, including establishing clear goals, running engaging meetings, clearly communicating, and leveraging individual team members’ strengths and those of the entire team. 

Holding regular, one-on-one meetings with virtual employees can significantly minimize feelings of isolation—an existing problem exacerbated by the lack of face-to-face interaction between remote team members. Without consistent communication and collaboration, virtual employees often don’t really know which direction to go in, creating a loss of productivity and a drop in performance. But spending enough time with employees and discussing their goals is not always easy for managers, especially if they are also working remotely.

The rise of remote working 

 

A Stanford University study revealed that remote team members found it easier to concentrate and were less likely to take sick days or prolonged breaks. In addition, their employers saved an average of $2,000 per employee each year on real estate costs.  Further evidence from Stanford revealed that work from home teams are 13.5% more efficient.

 

SHRM’s 2019 Employee Benefits Report found that69% of companies in the U.S. offered ad-hoc telecommuting benefits like technology to work from home and more flexibility. That is a rise of almost 10% compared to 2017 and illustrates a trend that is only likely to continue. The increased flexibility makes it easier for employees to better utilize the time they might ordinarily spend commuting on activities that improve their overall well-being, such as spending more time with family or pursuing a “side hustle.” For example, according to data from Upwork, 35% of the U.S. workforce engaged in at least some freelance or contract work from home in 2019. That is an increase of 4 million freelancers since 2014. 

 

Here are some of the top project management challenges of virtual teams that leaders encounter, followed by solutions that turn those into opportunities for higher performance as well as improved communication, trust, and productivity.

Man working remotely

Challenge: fostering a collaborative culture 

 

Everyone has a different style when it comes to communication. As a leader, it is incumbent upon you to make sure that your work from home employees understand what the expected level of communication is. In a remote setting, it is important to welcome collaboration and brainstorming, just as you would with an in person team, in order to address misunderstandings or conflicts. 

Research published by the Harvard Business Review shows that remote team members are more likely to feel disconnected when compared to on-site employees. Encouraging a virtual team to collaborate well requires a strong manager to foster a culture of open communication throughout the organization. Lead by example by giving regular updates and holding check-ins with your team. Be explicit about how your team members should communicate. Provide written guidelines that outline what kind of messages should be sent through which mediums, and how remote team members are expected to interact.

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Opportunity: Boost your remote teams’ sense of belonging with clear engagement rules

 

Rules of engagement and rituals for the remote working environment should be established early to prevent the risk of employee isolation and demotivation. Through objectives, clarity is created, and every person knows what is expected of them. Rules of engagement ensure that remote team members collaborate with other colleagues from other divisions. This can include videoconferencing for daily check-ins, the best time to reach the manager, and when the leader will reach out to team members. Peers sharing information and time for collaborating should also be a part of the rules of engagement.

 

When you have a culturally diverse team, or one that is spread out across different time zones, rules of engagement are even more important. At the very least, managers who supervise remote workers must provide clear rules in two important areas: communication channels and meetings.

 

Communication channels. First, identify the type of communication by its nature, its urgency, and the level of collaboration that it entails. Next, establish a framework and rules to prevent employees from being swamped with messages and feeling overwhelmed, or conversely, isolated. Rules also deter the use of too many digital tools, which can be counter-productive. The key is to set up a simple system that everyone will find easy to follow. 

Meetings. Setting clear meeting rules will make project management much easier. For example: do team members always have to connect with their cameras? And what about microphones? Can a meeting be recorded for those who could not attend to watch later? Finally, it is also a good idea to appoint someone to compile the minutes of each meeting as a summary, which can then be shared on a common platform.

Challenge: establishing trust in a shared goal 

 

A shared mission, collaborative spirit and strategic team building all require trust. When employees trust their managers and their peers and also believe they’re working toward a shared vision, collaboration and engagement happen naturally. But it is very hard to do this in an environment where face-to-face interaction is a rarity. 

 

In the list of challenges of virtual teams, building trust is a top priority. It is vitally important that managers establish a shared goal (or goals) and a common understanding among remote team members of how progress will be measured. These goals may be dictated by broader business goals, or it may be up to you and your team to decide your goals. 

 

Opportunity: Work together as a team on a strategic plan 

 

Planning strategy is where managers play a major role in their ability to prove that their remote team members can count on them to personify the stability of the working environment in a context that is virtual. Collaborative planning sessions will also counter employees feeling as if they are being left to their own devices. If at all possible, have everyone meet in person, get to know each other better as colleagues, and work through a strategic planning process. If it’s not possible to meet in person, a strategic plan can also be formulated via video conference.

 

The objectives, deadlines, processes and people involved should be clearly stated. Once strategic goals are set, managers should set up regular one-to-one sessions with each remote employee. Managers who focus on being understood will improve their overall team’s efficiency and cohesion. They should check that their instructions are clear and encourage feedback.

 

Coaching for managing virtual teams 

 

You can empower your leaders to achieve your company’s work from home mission through leadership and management development. Training helps leaders who are managing the challenges of virtual teams demonstrate the beliefs and values of a company and reinforce behaviors that reflect those values. 

 

Virtual coaching for managing remote teams can be done anywhere. Coachees interact using technology to access a coaching platform

 

Studies demonstrate that virtual one-on-one coaching can improve psychological well-being in coachees by strengthening their self-awareness and emotional regulation abilities. At CoachHub, we provide a professional coaching solution, and among our many programs is remote team management. Our coaches are certified, and we use a 100% online action plan to assist in managing virtual teams.Digital coaching will future-proof your business, as there is little doubt that remote working, and the digital coaching sector, will continue to grow. 

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CoachHub is the leading global talent development platform that enables organizations to create a personalized, measurable and scalable coaching program for the entire workforce, regardless of department and seniority level. By doing so, organizations are able to reap a multitude of benefits, including increased employee engagement, higher levels of productivity, improved job performance and increased retention. CoachHub’s global pool of coaches is comprised of over 3,500 certified business coaches in 90 countries across six continents with coaching sessions available in over 60 languages, to serve more than 500 clients. Our programs are based on advanced R&D from our Coaching Lab, led by Prof. Jonathan Passmore and our Science Council. CoachHub is backed by leading tech investors, including Sofina, SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Molten Ventures, Speedinvest, HV Capital, Partech and Silicon Valley Bank/SVB Capital. In September 2021, CoachHub acquired French digital coaching pioneer MoovOne to build a global champion focused on jointly democratizing coaching. CoachHub is committed to creating a greener future and is a certified carbon neutral company since 2022.
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