I am not exaggerating if I say that the work team is the most important element of an organization. A team is a group of people who actively cooperate to achieve the same goal. Until a little over a year ago, the connection between people who collaborated at work was in person, except for those who had, for mainly geographical reasons, to work remotely.
Changing paradigms and the need to manage virtual teams
The pandemic forced us to create new and different ways of living and working. Many companies experienced remote work for the first time, showing that teams, their safety and their needs are a top priority. There are two important factors to consider for teams such as guaranteeing that the organization continues to function as well as the physical and emotional wellbeing of employees.
Regarding the first point, the World Labor Organization (2020) stated, “Effectively directing those who work remotely requires a results-based management approach. This means defining goals, objectives and tasks, and then monitoring and talking about progress, without imposing excessive reporting ”. This is a great challenge, as people, processes and tools must be managed.
And precisely when the “people” factor is involved, it adds a degree of complexity to this situation. Since doing remote work is not only about providing work tools to the team. If you are a team leader you should consider how to motivate and inspire when you cannot be with them all the time. How you manage energy, momentum, connection, creativity, effective communication is key for your small community to continue functioning while also ensuring they are physically and emotionally well.
Do not lose sight of the fact that while working from home, each of the members of your team will also have to participate in their own home activities, as a result of the pandemic restrictions. So there is an added level of complexity as people have to juggle family relationships and the distribution of tasks. As a leader, you need to have a certain degree of sensitivity to allow space for this while also guiding to achieve work goals.
Actions you can take to improve the management of your remote team
The Amsterdam-based Center for Evidence Based Management conducted a study in 2020 on remote work, considering some factors that help create a psychologically safe environment in which people can thrive. Here are some of those suggestions:
1) Social cohesion, in which you allow your team to find a cordial and friendly space where they feel comfortable to create positive relationships. Remember that as a leader, it is not only important to manage your team, but also to provide emotional support. Create an environment that allows dealing with sensitive issues, resolving conflicts and generating a positive effect for each of the members.
2) and 3) Trust and exchange of information – As a leader you must show your confidence in the capabilities of your team. It’s important to show trust in your team and share reliable information immediately, which helps generate confidence in their own capacities, especially in times of so much uncertainty and also improves collaboration. This trust must happen between team members (horizontal) and between employees and their leader.
4) Perceived supervisory support – Research indicates that people who have a supportive leader or mentor are much more prepared to contribute to their own team. This is where you have to consider the saying “people work for people not for organizations.” If a person has a weak relationship with their leader, their relationship with the organization will also suffer.
5) Clarity of vision and objectives – Your team must understand the vision and objectives of the company. Help your team work with a purpose, as doing so will allow them to keep focused on the main objectives. When a person connects with the vision of the organization, they have an emotional connection and therefore generates a greater contribution.
While a remote team could be viewed as having disadvantages because performance is affected, it is up to leaders to implement strategies to maximize its benefits and minimize disadvantages.
In addition, the findings of a study carried out by MIT has defined what should and should not be done when managing a remote team and maximizing its performance. It emphasizes the generation of vital processes such as communication and coordination to carry out tasks and improve teamwork. Do not underestimate the social skills of people to be able to collaborate at a distance to achieve effective communication, mutual support and the coordination in their processes.
I suggest as a last tip that you encourage one-on-one meetings with team members to promote informal communication, belonging and team cohesion.