Management & Leadership

Managing remotely? How to keep connected

Hannah Keal
Hannah Keal 4 min

Managing remotely? How to keep connected

Hybrid or remote first working has brought us many benefits - from greater autonomy to work in a way that works for us to better work-life balance. However, managing distributed teams is not without its challenges.

In particular, it can be difficult to build the kind of camaraderie that comes with sharing a physical space together. In this blog, we’ll inspect some connection conundrums and leave you with a few easy-to-implement ideas to foster closeness and belonging within your team.

Woman working on a laptop

Challenge 1: Miscommunication

When you’re managing remotely, there are ample opportunities for miscommunication. Whether it’s a hastily fired off slack message going down like a lead balloon, or a video call to delegate a new project resulting in complete confusion - it isn’t always easy to land the messages you need to.

How to tackle it:

There are several ways to minimise misunderstandings. Firstly, we’d suggest talking to your team about their individual communication styles and sharing your own communication preferences. Take written communication for example - some of us are naturally more succinct. Someone who communicates this way might see their directness simply as the most efficient way to get the message across, but to others it could come off as cold. Taking the time to have a conversation about preferences means your intentions are clearer. Think of it a bit like the ‘sent from my iphone, excuse typos’ email footer - when you know what you’re dealing with, it’s easier to give each other grace.

Working remotely also requires taking the time to give context for requests and check for understanding. Remember, none of us are mind readers and when we’re working remotely, we don’t pick up contextual information organically in the same way as we would in an office environment. Taking a bit of extra time to share useful information helps to set people up for success and avoids wasted effort.

Challenge 2: Transactional relationships

At the height of the COVID pandemic, a lot of us got used to the personal showing up on our screens at work. Since most of us working remotely have settled into a more of a rhythm, some of that seems to have faded into the (zoom) background - and with it, the opportunity to get to know colleagues as fully formed human beings beyond their head and shoulders. Taken to its extreme, working relationships can become transactional, leading to feelings of disconnection and disengagement.

Challenge 2: Transactional relationships

How to tackle it:

Carving out time to connect is vital when you manage a remote team. 1:1’s are not just about performance - you can also use them to ask questions to really get to know your direct reports. Remember, it is always up to the individual to choose what they feel comfortable sharing - but taking an interest is key.

Here are 3 questions to help you go deeper in your next 1:1:

  1. What motivates you to do what you do?
  2. How do you like to be recognised/rewarded for a job well done?
  3. As your manager, it’s really important that I have your back. What are some of the signs I should look out for that indicate you might be feeling overwhelmed?

It is important for remote teams to get together from time to time - both to collaborate on important work and have time to just be. Make the most of ‘in person’ moments by choosing relaxed activities where there is plenty of space to connect - whether that’s volunteering together, taking a cooking class or trying your hand at pottery.

Challenge 3: Creating connection through culture

When working remotely, it can sometimes feel harder to bring your unique culture to life and form bonds based on shared values.

How to tackle it:

It’s important to remember that culture has never been about office staples like pizza and beer on a Friday. Rather, it’s about how you treat one another, how you make decisions and the rhythms and rituals that reflect who you are as a team.

Whether it’s using an app like Donut that pairs team members up for a virtual coffee break or creating little end of the week moments of reflection and gratitude - it’s about building habits that bring your team closer together. Experiment a little and get feedback from your team - connection means different things to different people and it’s likely that together, you’ll come up with something as unique as your team.

So there you have it - plenty of ways to help you and your team feel more, well, ‘teamy’, even when you spend most of your time away from each other physically.

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