7 Tips to Overcome the Lull of Remote Work & Management
Remote teams have been growing in popularity for the last several years. With the emergence of a national pandemic, many were forced into a remote work environment to continue operations. With this, many have faced challenges in redefining how they operate.
The productivity and welfare of teams depend on how well they can meet the challenges of navigating remote work. It’s more than just an IT problem. The truth is that virtual teams can be difficult to establish and hard to maintain.
With the pandemic creating changes that will last into the foreseeable future, companies must be able to adapt to the new norm. This includes enabling a remote work environment AND sustaining it.
Once a team is established, staying on track and engaged to meet key goals and initiatives is of vital importance. It’s not always easy. There are specific remote work challenges, that can impact productivity and results while remote.
In addition to following remote work best practices, it is important to recognize any lull or dip in engagement. This dip can directly impact remote work productivity, leading to missed outcomes.
Navigating the “Dip”
Your remote team is assembled and working towards its goals. In the beginning, everyone is excited and invested. The team members are focused and driven by early results and the challenge of being perpetual students.
In Seth Godin’s The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), he talks about the “dip.” Once the initial excitement wears off, and growth begins to slow, investment begins to wane at a commensurate rate. The team begins to estimate what remains to be done in reaching its key goals. Its members lose some of their initial enthusiasm.
If the team is working on a venture that’s new and there’s not already an established market, the entrepreneur creates that market with much excitement. But a dip is also created and the key is to plan for life after that dip has been reached.
The dip also addresses the impact on strategy and tactics.
Using Nokia as an example, “the dip” explains that strategy must change along with tactics. Each year Nokia discontinued models of phones. But for years, their overall strategy didn’t change. Once their interest in producing the best phones on the market waned, so did interest in their brand.
When companies are clear about their strategies, the market can and does forgive missteps. Especially when they’re able to change their tactics in reaching their goal.
While this “dip” refers to investments and ventures, the same can apply to remote work. The excitement was high, but without actions to sustain it, a lull can occur. It’s the psychology of being a one-hit-wonder as opposed to a successful artist with consistent top ten hits.
With many organizations reaching months under remote work, individuals may be hitting their “dip.” The initial excitement has turned to complacency. Productivity has sputtered and communication is slipping. Without action, the results will be the next slide.
How do you pull the team out of the dip and take them from one-hit-wonders to legendary rock stars?
7 Ways to Overcome the Dip of Remote Work
1) Promote a Culture of Communication
Communication is undeniably one of the most vital components of a successful remote team. Whether the bulk of your team’s interaction happens over email, online chat, or video conferencing, it’s important to get right.
Guaranteeing an accessible flow of accurate information to all team members helps keep people engaged. You’ve hired the right people for your team. Now support and encourage team communication at all times to meet your goals.
It’s important to foster a communication culture within your remote team. Take the initiative as a leader to provide regular updates and get status reports from all team members. By demonstrating how you’d like communication to go and how to do it effectively, you can set the standard for your team.
2) Establish a Pyramid of Communication
A Pyramid of Communication is the order of communication types from the least effective (but convenient) to the most efficient. It should include:
- Video conferencing
- Instant Message
Establish a pyramid for your team. Identify when and how each communication method should be leveraged.
Remote teams can benefit from taking their communications up a notch and it starts with effective leadership. Using more effective forms of communication instead of what’s easiest goes a long way. For example, exchanging a phone call for an email can speed up a process allowing questions to be addressed much faster.
3) Over Communicate
Increased communication between remote team members fosters greater trust. Trust is a hard thing to establish in a virtual setting where relationships are harder to build. But how do you increase communication?
Communication can be increased in quick, simple ways like instant messages each day. Even if it’s not necessary, that ongoing conversation can go a long way in making sure that team members are heard and feel included. When you have virtual meetings, make sure each person gets to weigh in on topics of discussion.
You can also send frequent updates to increase contextual awareness of what’s going on with the team, initiatives, and the company as a whole.
4) Share Knowledge
One of the biggest ways a remote team can crumble is through assumptions. It’s so easy to communicate with someone and assume that they know what you know. If the other party doesn’t have that knowledge, how can they have an accurate understanding?
Awareness of the “curse of knowledge” is key. The possibility is in every conversation, email, or message. You can get around this by making your messages as simple to understand as possible and inviting any questions.
5) Create Shared Goals
Mission-driven companies excel because team members know their time and effort are meaningful. Your mission should be clearly stated, and your goals and initiatives should support it.
Shared visions and goals go a long way in building your team and fostering interaction among its members. It can give them an opportunity to learn how others work and understand their main focus. As they learn each other’s strengths and styles, they build each other up for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.
6) Improve Individual Accountability
Productivity can make or break any virtual team. Low productivity is always a risk when it comes to a virtual work environment.
It takes discipline to work outside a traditional office setting. Some team members may be experts at getting work done efficiently and on time. Those same team members may also be susceptible to burnout. The line between work time and personal life can blur when they’re in the same physical location.
Others may find distractions keep them from their best efforts. The lack of progress can lead to a lot of problems for both the employee and the entire team. Each team member needs to meet their assignments on time for the team’s collective goals to be met. How do you ensure that’s happening?
- Set clear expectations: Clear direction and goals will help create a culture of accountability.
- Be flexible but consistent: While promoting flexibility, encourage your team members to keep consistent hours to assist teamwork.
- Maintain 1:1s: Keep interacting with your team and manager, using Video, to gauge their happiness and engagement.
- Keep an eye on your top performers: Without boundaries, your star players may be working crazy hours and working themselves into exhaustion. Encourage the continued use of PTO.
7) Leverage the Right Tools
Virtual teams are impossible today without technology. There are many dynamic software products and tools available that can make everything much easier for you and your entire team. Not every product is guaranteed to work with your unique operation.
We’ve previously outlined the 6 best software categories for remote work. Here are some cliff notes:
- Communication Tools: Leverage video and chat tools to keep the team connected.
- Document Sharing: Use cloud storage to make it easier to share and edit documents.
- Plan Management: Automate the processes for strategic plan and project management to improve execution.
- Learning: Make training and onboarding easy through virtual systems
- Knowledge Bases: Create a shared knowledge base to answer common questions and outline key processes
- Employee Feedback: Enable the collection and distribution of employee feedback.
Getting Back on Track
While a challenge, increase focus to tackle the challenges of managing a remote team. By doing so directly and expeditiously, you can revive interest in its initiatives and goals and get everyone back on track.
By developing good communication habits and taking a professional, hands-on method of management, you can keep your team members engaged and satisfied throughout the organization.
By effectively navigating the challenges that come with managing a remote team, you’ll enjoy the collective efforts of a happy group of employees. You’ll also enjoy watching the team grow and develop along with your organization as they successfully meet their goals.
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