Managing a diverse team of employees is never easy. Recognizing different skill levels and skill sets, finding various ways to motivate different personalities, and rewarding the deserving employees without sowing division or accusations of favoritism are challenges a leader faces every day.
Add to the mix a pandemic that quickly — and in many cases, permanently — transformed traditionally office-assigned employees into remote workers, and a manager’s task became even more difficult.
However, you can build team trust in a virtual workplace. Here are some tips to keep your home-bound or hybrid employees aligned and connected.
Through email, team meetings, and one-on-one calls, provide your team members with reliable, relevant information. Remember, relying too often on one form of communication (in emails, tone is tough to determine; in conversation, details can slip away) should be avoided.
With defined roles, clear goals and priorities, and constant attention to communication through traditional means and emerging technologies, team members won’t drift to assumptions and gossip.
Trust your employees until they give you a reason not to. Demonstrate that trust by soliciting feedback and incorporating the resulting suggestions wherever possible. Within an overall framework of clearly expressed goals and expectations, allow flexibility in work times and processes.
Foster collaboration and the notions that coworkers are resources for idea sharing and problem solving.
Beyond breaking down the feelings of isolation that can accompany working remotely, team-building exercises or simple group meetings or chats can help familiarize some of your more technologically reluctant team members with new tools that can make meaningful communication easier.
Involve everyone in a well-defined onboarding process for new employees. Regularly acknowledge anniversaries, birthdays, and other dates your company and employees find important. Create social opportunities.
A regular “water cooler” team meeting — work topics off limits, attendance not required — can help work families feel a part of one another’s lives in the way that shared lunch or cigarette breaks can do in an office environment.
Where possible, schedule an occasional in-person lunch or yearly retreat for face-to-face meetings.
Complain up. In other words, focus on the positive when sharing with your team and they will do the same. If you emphasize frustration with your superiors, you encourage your team to focus on things they can’t control rather than the things they can.
Send birthday cards. Send gift cards with instructions to take an afternoon off to use them. Know your employees well enough to get cards that demonstrate that knowledge: no burger joints for vegetarians, no coffee shops for tea drinkers.
Have a routine. Communicate clearly when deviation from that routine is necessary. Deliver what your employees need and expect from you and honor the liberties you grant them.
Studies have shown that employees trusted to work remotely will more often than not significantly increase their productivity. A thoughtful manager who can give the gift of flexibility to his or her employees without creating isolation will lead to a happier team that communicates well, understands every player’s role, and optimizes output. For more ways to build trust, see the accompanying resource.
Author bio: Adam Berke is the co-founder and CEO of WorkPatterns, a company focused on cultivating the habits of great leaders and effective operators to help organizations around the world achieve their mission. Prior to that, he was part of the founding team of NextRoll (formerly AdRoll) and helped grow the company from three to 700 employees around the world. Along the way, he faced the personal challenges of evolving from being an individual contributor on the founding team, to becoming a manager, and eventually an executive who hired and managed other managers as the company grew.