The COVID-19 lockdowns have popularised working from home in Australia, with about a 10% increase in the number of people regularly working from home. That’s because a lot of employers and employees now recognise the benefits and productivity boost that come with working from home. The flip side is it creates communication and management challenges, different than when everyone is working together in a physical office. In this situation you might feel like the team and business problems you thought you understood, have suddenly morphed into uncharted territory. You might be well served by a grounding in management theory and psychology taught as part of a formal qualification, such as a Graduate Certificate in Business Administration Online. However, let’s detail some of the advantages and challenges of managing a remote or hybrid team, versus a team where everyone meets in person each day for work.
When you first have the opportunity to manage a hybrid or remote team, you may go through a honeymoon period in which you notice the advantages and opportunities more than the challenges. On the other hand, if you are feeling anxious about managing such a team, it’s worth pointing out some of the goodness from a manager’s point of view. For starters, if you have the opportunity to build a team, it might be the first time in your career you can transcend geographical limitations to focus on finding the skills the team requires. Did you see on LinkedIn that the excellent UI/UX specialist you worked with in America is open to new opportunities? You might be able to reach out and see if they are interested in a remote opportunity on the team you are managing. Having said that, you’ll need to be aware of potential legal problems with hiring overseas remote workers. You will also need to be aware of different public holidays when scheduling work.
Working Across Timezones
Working asynchronously can be either an advantage or disadvantage depending on how you plan it. On the one hand, you have the ability for work to continue while the staff in your timezone sleep. On the other hand, work that requires collaboration has to be handled carefully to minimise the risk that employees will be blocked waiting on answers from team members who can’t be available due to differences in time zones. In this situation, it’s important to over communicate who is responsible for what, so vaguely defined responsibilities don’t cause team members to waste effort by doubling up on tasks. When communication is required, you will need to encourage doing this more formally than you might if team members were in the same locale. And remember that as a manager it’s your job to empower the team to adjust to the learning curve of being distributed, so make sure to be present in meetings or otherwise verify that the right kind of communication is happening.
Team Building for a Remote or Hybrid Team
For team members who enjoy the option to work from home, periodic mandatory days in the office can seem like a chore. You can mitigate this by making days in the office fun, with team lunches which your department might have some budget to pay for, and team-building activities that your team can vote for via polls on Slack. Even if your team is fully remote, you have an opportunity to spice up Zoom meetings on Fridays with some fun Zoom games or even network gaming. You’ll need to decide what works for your team and gather feedback so that well-meaning fun activities don’t turn into an obligation that your team members end up resenting. But you might be surprised at how much the right kind of remote team-building activities can enhance your team member’s morale and sense of belonging.
Build Knowledge Sharing into Your Team’s Routine
Remote work can cause the silo problem on steroids, in which certain groups tend to communicate only with each other and create their own echo chambers. To help break silos down, encourage team members to give Zoom presentations sharing knowledge. The soft skill of presenting will be just as valuable to grow in your team members as the technical knowledge of your team.