Remote or hybrid working has become commonplace since Covid. But managing a team at an arm's length is still an evolving skillset.
We asked our engagement delivery managers for the secrets to a successful long-distance working relationship.
1. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone
In the course of a working day, it's not uncommon to receive messages from the same person via two or three different channels. Email if it's important and needs evidence of being sent. In-house comms platforms like Teams or Slack for information sharing, and occasional banter. WhatsApp for urgent questions or to share a picture.
In this deluge, so many messages are overlooked. Nuance is lost. And, time is wasted in the back and forth.
Receiving a phone call is becoming a rare thing but we find it's generally welcomed. Unlike a video call when you're on screen like Google Meet or Zoom, you can wander around as you speak and focus on the conversation rather than looking with dismay at how tired you look.
A phone conversation often moves a project along far more quickly than a series of emails, and allows you to hear the tone of someone's voice. This can give you valuable clues as to how they're feeling about a task that might be masked on screen.
2. Do check in, even if there's no reason to
Find the reasons for your online equivalent of a chat over a cup of tea in the kitchen. Open ended questions are better than statements. For instance "how's your day looking today?"
This shouldn't feel like a check up on whether someone is at their desk. Make that too obvious and they'll feel that you don't trust them, which can be very undermining, particularly with senior and experienced staff. Ask how they're doing from a place of genuine care and interest, and people will feel well supported, even if you're not sat on the same floor as them.
3. Make sure you have a remote working policy
Most large organisations have got remote working policies in place now. By issuing one, it places legitimacy on that way of working and doesn't feel like a Covid hangover. And strangely enough, the idea that your organisation cares enough to give consideration to whether you've got a suitable space, the right support in your chair or a lack of interruptions, again serves to make your colleague feel supported.
Please ask us if you'd like to see a template for a remote working policy.
3.5 Recognise their location
This doesn't qualify as a whole tip, but a nice extra thought is to bear in mind where your team are located. At Stellarmann, our shared policy hub contains a weather forecast for all the places where our team are based. A small, thoughtful touch that makes everyone feel part of the team.
Got any more tips? Please let us know.