Managing Remote Teams with Empathy

A remote or hybrid work culture requires a new approach to managing remote teams: use empathy and grace to keep your team connected.

Managing Remote Teams with Empathy

GUEST POST from Douglas Ferguson

Managing remote teams goes beyond using the right tools and tech for communication: intangibles like grace and empathy are an essential part of successfully leading teams.

Remote work undoubtedly changes team dynamics and communication. Making the most of distance work requires us to humanize remote work and challenge the culture of isolation that remote companies typically face.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • Remote Work Culture
  • Conflict in Remote Teams
  • Exercising Empathy Online
  • Building Psychologically Safe Remote Teams
  • Transforming Your Remote Team Management

Remote Work Culture

The nature of remote work undoubtedly changes company culture. As team members prepare to work remotely, they lose out on the real human connections gained from working in person. As a result, it can be challenging for coworkers and management to truly connect with each other.

By intentionally creating a remote work culture of connectedness, remote companies can navigate the hurdle of separation and bring team members together regardless of where they may be working.

Strong remote work culture counteracts the effects of isolation and unites team members around their shared purpose or common goal.

When managing remote teams, it’s important to:

  • Encourage feelings of camaraderie
  • Ensure regular effective communication
  • Shift your work culture to a balance of synchronous and asynchronous work

Remote Management

Conflict in Remote Teams

Making the transition to successful remote work culture isn’t easy, especially with regard to conflict resolution. This lack of face-to-face interaction makes miscommunication easier than ever before. While all team members may be focused on achieving a common goal, in the digital world it’s easier for words, and actions to get lost in translation, causing conflict between team members.

According to a study on remote work conflict, 81% of workers reportedly experience conflict and 39% of workers think about leaving their jobs as a result of a virtual conflict. Moreover, workplace conflicts are increasing in remote teams as employees are no longer able to verbally and visually communicate as they would in a physical workplace.

Exercising Empathy Online

With more workplace conflicts happening online, it’s up to companies to head off these communication challenges as proactively as possible. Experts suggest that empathy may be the cure-all to virtual drama in the remote working world.

When managing remote teams, maintaining team members’ well-being, morale, and engagement from afar requires intentionally exercising empathy.

Practice exercising empathy with your remote teams by:

1. Connecting with Your Team

Managing remote teams with empathy starts with establishing and maintaining a meaningful connection with your team.

Improve team connections with the following:

  • Ice breakers that add team-building and play to a meeting
  • Regular check-ins with team members
  • Video chats so team members can see facial expressions
  • Consistantant communication via platforms like Slack, Trello, or Asana

2. Actively Listening

Listening is an essential part of empathy, especially in remote teams. Listening allows remote teams to contextualize conversations and can help team members avoid unnecessary conflict.

Actively listen by asking intentional questions during check-ins to identify challenges team members might be facing. Experts recommend using prompts to help check-in.

3. Creating Opportunities to Ask for Help

It’s not always easy for employees to speak up and ask for help. Team leaders can demonstrate empathy by showing other members of the team that it’s okay to ask for assistance. By being vulnerable with your teams and asking for help yourself, you’ll open the door for others to feel as though it’s okay to ask for help as well.

4. Equipping Team Members

Ensuring that team members have everything they need to complete their work is another way to embody empathy. Be sure to ask thoughtful questions and offer materials and tools proactively to ensure your team is properly equipped to do their jobs.

Be sure to ask questions such as:

  • What traditional resources does my team not have access to when working remotely?
  • Do any team members have accessibility needs?
  • What tools do all team members need?

5. Encouraging Transparency

Transparency is key when managing remote teams. Without in-person conversation, information isn’t always as readily understood in the virtual realm, so it’s essential to regularly share important and accurate information.

  • Set explicit expectations for team members like KPIs, milestones, and timeframes
  • Share objectives clearly with the team
  • Provide feedback and guidance regularly to team members

6. Increasing Recognition

Recognition is essential in helping employees feel valued and validated. Employee recognition for remote teams can take on many forms from a shoutout via email or a monthly gift certificate. A small gesture of gratitude goes a long way online as it reminds your team members that you see the work they do and you value them as a critical part of the team.

Building Psychologically Safe Teams

Another element of successfully managing remote teams is creating a sense of psychological safety. When team members feel psychologically safe, they’re most confident to share their ideas, ask for help, and perform their best work. Creating this environment in the virtual realm allows employees to work without the fear of being punished, judged, or ignored.

Empathy and psychological safety go hand-in-hand. Team members are all responsible for creating this environment for each other.

Promote an environment of psychological safety by:

  • Encouraging participation
  • Practicing conversational turn-taking
  • Encourage leaders to take on challenges
  • Use breakout rooms on Mural or Miro
  • Address problems immediately
  • Increase mistake tolerance

Psychological Safety

Transforming Your Remote Team Management

With empathy in mind, it’s time to transform your remote team management.

Manage remote teams with these best practices:

1. Offer Multiple Contact Options

When managing a remote team, it’s essential to provide multiple forms of contact. Share your contact information for video chat, email, instant messaging, telephone calls, and other platforms. By diversifying your methods of communication, you’ll give your team every opportunity to stay in contact with you.

2. Increase Flexibility

Flexibility is a valuable element when managing remote teams. From offering flexible hours to allowing team members to set their own deadlines, allowing more flexibility will help build trust and boost morale with your remote teams.

3. Use Remote Work Advantageously

Focus on the advantages of remote work and hire a diverse and dynamic team. Remote work gives companies access to the global workforce, allowing them to hire the best in the business from any country in the world.

4. Find a Balance for Asynchronous and Synchronous work

When managing remote teams, there is untapped potential in understanding, and utilizing synchronous and asynchronous work times. With remote workers, we have discovered the benefits of deep focus that asynchronous work has to offer. This allows for flexibility across timezones, teams accomplish more in a shorter amount of time, and it allows for synchronous time to be more focused and productive. Managing remote teams takes a leadership team that understands the importance of synchronous and asynchronous work.

5. Accept Adjustment Periods

In learning how to best manage remote teams, don’t forget to be patient. Transitioning to a remote-only or hybrid workplace will take time. From troubleshooting technological issues during meetings to learning new habits to improve your virtual workplace, allowing team members to learn as they go is an important part of managing your remote team.

Working remotely comes with its own set of risks and rewards. Want to learn more about how to navigate the ins and outs of managing remote teams? Connect with us to discover how to implement empathy and grace as you lead your remote team to success.

Article Originally Appeared on VoltageControl.com

Image credits: Pixabay, Unsplash

Subscribe to Human-Centered Change & Innovation WeeklySign up here to get Human-Centered Change & Innovation Weekly delivered to your inbox every week.

1 thought on “Managing Remote Teams with Empathy

  1. Pingback: Managing Cross-Cultural Remote Teams | Human-Centered Change and Innovation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *