6-step guide to managing a team that works out of multiple locations
Before email, intranets and videoconferencing made communication and remote working so easy, teams just had to work in the same physical location. There was no other way. But now, with employees often dispersed, managers need to learn the fine art of supervising teams in different geographies and time zones.
This can prove to be quite a challenging task for even the most experienced manager. For starters, offices located outside the corporate headquarters have a more informal and relaxed organisational structure. Without a supervisor being physically present, some employees may slack off. Others may feel like they’re not getting the direction they need.
On the other hand, there’s an autonomy that comes with having to be your own boss, so to speak. This can be empowering for employees and lead to increased creativity and productivity.
Either way, it’s essential that team heads find a way to communicate effectively or frequently enough with teams working out of different locations.
These strategies can help you bridge the distance gap successfully:
1. Create a team environment
Working side by side in an office every day is what leads to work camaraderie. With a team where members are stationed in different locations, it’s paramount to foster team spirit. Try and schedule team meets as often as possible; those who work long distance can join in via video calls.
Do: Once a year, consider an offsite, as the time spent together is sure to enhance team bonding.
2. Learn to delegate
It may be tough for you to let go of your micromanaging tendencies, but you must to manage a team that works out of multiple locations. Maintaining a presence is vital; trying to get everyone to run everything past you won’t work. You need to train the lower rung, trust them and let them do what they’re hired for.
Do: Create a solid structure so that all team members have someone to turn to for day-to-day questions or small issues.
3. Keep processes consistent
Teams in multiple locations may have varied necessities, but try and keep processes and procedures consistent. The workday is sure to get simplified if everyone is on the same page about workflow and procedures. Keeping base processes consistent across the board makes it easier to change shifts or move people on projects.
Do: Put the workflow and relevant processes in writing and make sure everyone knows what s/he has to do.
4. Communicate and share
Communication is critical in every workplace, but it’s the glue that binds together a team working from multiple locations. Managing team members in different locations necessitates that information is shared across the entire team simultaneously. This ensures that no one is behind on important information and keeps everyone on the same page.
Do: Invite feedback from team members by email. You may not be there in person, but this can work as a one-on-one and they’ll know you are listening.
5. Take advantage of technology
The reason it’s easy for work to happen at any time, any place is one: Technology. It makes it easy to keep the channels of communication open. Ensure that remote communications aren’t impersonal by trying Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts. Don’t miss management software that lets you track progress from anywhere and allows you to keep an eye on operations.
Do: If the team is spread across multiple locations, the chances of email overload are high. Set down email etiquette rules to ensure this doesn’t happen.
6. Have an escalation guide
With teams now working in multiple locations and serving clients across the world, the office truly never sleeps. In a situation like this, it's imperative that everyone on the team knows what needs to be done in case there’s a problem. Technical issues, delivery woes, failing deadlines, client complaints, …there needs to be a way out for every problem.
Do: Assign a go-to person for every problem. This person will be responsible for following up and seeing the issue through to its solution.
Try to achieve equilibrium and try to get the team working like clockwork, but don’t be afraid to try something new. It could be “having coffee” with a team member and video chatting one day a week or it could be setting staggered work hours for different members so that everyone works together some hours a day. Innovate till you find a solution that suits you, your team and your company best.