Managing Remote Teams in the 'New Normal'

When the government announced the first lockdown on 23rd March 2020 few could imagine what was to come. Offices emptied, roads were quiet, and the nation held a collective breath. Behind closed doors, things were rarely so calm.

Adapting to the world of working from home has been a learning period over the last (nearly) year. From finding space to squeeze a desk to politely ignoring the crying children/pets/significant others in our colleagues’ homes, it hasn’t been a steady course for many. For businesses managing remote teams, it has transformed from quick band-aid solutions to adapting to a more permanent way of working, with various levels of success.  

Addressing pain points, finding smarter ways of working, and adapting to the ‘new normal’ is a necessity for many businesses in 2021. Because, critically, if business does go back to usual post-pandemic and the traditional office returns… who will want to work there?

What have been the biggest challenges managing remote teams?

No business runs perfectly, there is always room for improvement. But identifying and addressing key pain points of remote working at breakneck speed has been a particular challenge for many. In 2020, we discovered that most work can be done outside of an office, yet this discovery came with the unique challenges of managing remote teams.  

Some of the challenges that we faced transforming into remote teams included:

  • Poor time management
  • Fragmented communication across teams
  • Building and maintaining trust
  • Remote collaboration
  • Security
Daniel Rabie, CEO at GetBusy explained how the sudden shift to remote working has impacted businesses: “As a company that specialises in team collaboration and task management, we work with a lot of businesses that are at very different levels of digital maturity. For some, the switch to a remote-first way of working came naturally, but for others it was a shock to the system and caused miscommunication, missed deadlines, and isolated and unhappy employees – especially in the first few months of the lockdown.”

At first glance, this list may point towards a people problem. The reality is a technology problem.

How to manage a remote team

Managing remote teams isn’t a magic spell. You can’t wave a wand, shout out ‘Hocus Pocus’, and hope for the best. It needs structure, time investment, and, importantly, an investment in your technology. Give employees the right tools and remote working is suddenly not the headache it once was.

GetBusy has been designed to make any task—big or small—feel manageable. Both for the person doing it and the people overseeing it.

1. Structure tasks

Collaborating on a task within a team can sometimes be incredibly stressful. We’ve all been there: a group project where one or more people are late on their tasks, or simply don’t do them at all. Coming across this scenario in the workplace is just that little bit more frustrating. Especially when the person you’re chasing is a key stakeholder. How do you chase your boss for work?

With GetBusy, our system is designed to make tasks simple to manage and team collaboration easier than ever.  

Each task comes with clear guidelines:

  • What do you need to do?
  • Any extra information
  • Documents needed
  • Participants are tagged
  • Tags can also be made based on client/project/etc
A screenshot of GetBusy's main dashboard

With a clear structure, it gives all remote team members the knowledge they need to get a task done. And better yet, the nudge feature means asking your boss for work isn’t the end of the world!

2. Set deadlines

Poor time management is an issue in or out of the office. But, often, it comes down to one key issue: the person in charge of the work does not set clear deadlines. Even the most diligent worker is likely to mismanage their time if a deadline is unclear or comes as a surprise.

This is why every task on GetBusy comes with a Due Date. Not only that, but the participant gets regular reminders if left undone, tasks can be put on pause and later completed without hassle.

Assigning clear responsibility every time with GetBusy
Assigning clear responsibility every time with GetBusy

A deadline gives your team a clear goal and sets the pace for task completion. Of course, time management still falls to the individual, but this added layer means they are better equipped to deliver on time.

3. Set clear standards for communication

An interesting pocket of information that came from a recent Microsoft study indicated that UK workers are happier at home. However, it does come with the added pressure of ‘instant availability’, with more than half of participants admitting that they felt they had to be always-on.

Offering clear communication channels and setting a precedent for ‘signing off’ can help manage this new remote working pressure.

Daily and weekly check-ins via video, robust chat systems, and the like is vital to ensuring a level of trust is built when managing remote teams. Keeping that all-important work/life balance in check, however, is also down to leadership and part of the managing process. Set standard working hours and then stick to them, avoiding requests or meetings outside of the typical 9 to 5 workday.

Forced to change to the world of work: boon or bust?

The scramble to make a workforce remote-ready instantly was felt in every corner of the working world, from big enterprises to small teams. After almost a year of remote working, it begs the question: has it been good or bad for business?

There are mixed opinions on this and there are certainly businesses that will return to full-time office hours when safe to do so. However, for many, it has opened the doorway to if not a fully remote business, then a much more flexible model. There are a few key reasons for this:

  1. Removes/reduces the cost of office space
  2. Increasing profitability…
  3. Or allowing that money to be dispersed to grow the business further
  4. Improves staff morale – increasing the potential for better staff retention
  5. Team productivity increases
  6. Improves the candidate pool

Future of remote working

No one can predict the future—2020 certainly proved that—but, it does seem that remote working is here to stay. In fact, Upwork’s Annual ‘Future Workforce Report’ suggests that by 2028, nearly 73% of all teams will have remote workers. Is your business ready for this reality?

If you are looking for a new solution to help manage a remote team, get in touch with the GetBusy team today! You can also try for free or book a demo to see how we can boost your business.

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