Universiteit Leiden

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Managing a remote team

Managing a remote team calls for a different leadership style.

Most of our staff are currently working from home. No one knows for how long, but we can assume this may still take some time. This will take some getting used to, not only for staff but also for their managers. For both, this is an exceptional situation, which can cause uncertainty and stress. For managers who are used to controlling their team, it can be difficult to lead through trust. Managing a remote team calls for a different leadership style. What is important? We provide seven important tips:

Keep the communication lines open

Working from home for a prolonged period can feel unstructured and isolating for staff. This makes it important to keep communicating. Weekly or even daily contact, by phone, by whatsapp or in online meetings will help your staff feel involved.

If you like, you could follow an online course with New Heroes in Communicating or Understanding others.

Keep an eye out for individual staff members and their specific circumstances

Each staff member is different and has different needs. Some may need more social contact than others who are less bothered by social isolation. Many staff members are not used to working from home. Ask them how things are going from time to time.

You could choose to follow these online courses at New Heroes: Open questions or Small talk.

Allow for more flexibility in working hours

Be understanding of staff whose children are now at home or of those with caring responsibilities, for example. People’s working routines may be different at home and they may need to be more creative with breaks.

Online courses about this: Empathy and Creative thinking.

Trust your team and focus on results

Focus on results rather than activities. If you’re not used to working from home, you may feel the need to control your team. This is futile and is neither productive nor motivating.

Online course about this: Result oriented management.

Set clear expectations

Set clear expectations about required results and, if relevant, the frequency of progress reports, meetings and any follow-up and what shape these will take. Also decide who will be available when.

Online courses about this: Preventing misunderstanding and Time management.

Organise contact moments and invest in your team

What many people find difficult about remote working is the lack of direct contact with colleagues. Organise online meetings for the whole team. Update them – by email or in a phone call – about what is going on at your department, institute or faculty. Make sure that everyone is included in the communication.

Online courses about this: The power of a compliment and Team culture.

Use the right technology for the right situation

Modern technology and the internet have made working from home easier but it can also have a downside. Technology is worthless if you don’t use it properly. You won’t solve a conflict by email, a brainstorming session without video won’t be very efficient and putting everyone in cc in all your emails will mean that no one reads their mails anymore. For each goal, use the right technology in the right way to achieve the results that you are looking for.

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