Remote work is here to stay, but the majority of managers still struggle with relationship building, and sustaining team morale and motivation.
A recent report by Kona, a tech startup, interviewed managers from over 150 tech companies, which included well-known brands such as Medium, Dropbox and Figma. They found that a significant proportion of managers—over 37%—had no prior experience being a manager before they had to work from home. For them, the learning curve for managing a remote team became much, much steeper.
As we embrace hybrid forms of working, we’ve got to think long-term and be intentional about how we build relationships between our remote colleagues, and how we collaborate remotely while minimising as much miscommunication as possible.
Overcommunicate with transparency
Working remotely requires us to have really strong and transparent communication with our colleagues. Even if we use the best of remote working tools out there, it’s easy to misinterpret a hastily typed message or fall short on giving our recipients enough information to understand the big picture of things.
Remote companies that value transparency (NewCampus included!) promotes honesty and lowers the chances of miscommunication. A study by EY showed that a lack of transparency leads to a lack of trust in the workplace and in turn, would lead to unhappy, unproductive teams.
Here are some ways to make transparency the default from Katie Wilde’s book, The Holloway Guide to Remote Work:
- Keep employees informed. We don’t like surprises and last-minute changes to our plans. So whenever possible, we should let everyone know what’s coming up or what the team should be focusing on. When people are kept in the loop, they’re in a better position to plan for a productive week.
- Act on employee feedback. Ignoring feedback breeds distrust. We’re strong supporters of managers being coaches, who constantly seek to develop their teams and get feedback about their development. Hence, it’s crucial that we act on the feedback to ensure our team’s needs are being met.
Guide how your team works toward outcomes
One way to make remote work succeed is to have clearly defined and documented processes. This could be as simple as a 1-page document detailing how your team should be working, how to communicate ideas and delegating tasks, or how performance is measured.
As Robert Nickell, founder and CEO at Rocket Station, shared: “Define processes clearly! This is the best way to avoid misunderstanding. An extensive knowledge base full of guides and how-to's helps employees to familiarise themselves with the structures and approaches of the company. Communication Guidelines explain what tone and channel to use for every message they want to share.”
Build relationships in a safe space
Physical distancing can leave us more psychologically isolated, socially disconnected, and make us feel more stressful. According to a study by Microsoft Nearly 1 in 3 people working in Asia Pacific have said the pandemic has made them feel burnout in the past year.
With hybrid and remote work, we can’t count on relationships to build and form themselves naturally like they did when we work at offices. Now, we have to create space for our social capital to thrive. The social media management platform Buffer, for example, frequently holds an “all hands on deck” company-wide meeting where people can freely express their thoughts and emotions—and each meeting is never the same.
Bottom line: It takes trial and error
Trying to do it all and expecting it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy.” – Sheryl Sandberg
Due to the pandemic, we’ve participated in the world’s first large-scale remote work experiment in the past two years, and we’ve learned that simply porting over the office experience online isn’t enough.
We may never build the perfect remote management system, as every company’s needs are different and industry-dependent. But the point is to become progressively better at getting it right, and there are many other remote culture playbooks that we can draw upon for inspiration.