Creating Certainty for Your Remote Teams in Uncertain Times

As the market fluctuates, tech companies are feeling the pinch. Our workforces are more affected by rounds of layoffs when we don’t meet revenue goals or when our funding round falls short of expectations. 

These realities can shake up our already-overwhelmed teams. When things look uncertain, it’s even more important for managers to understand their teams and how they can continue to develop trust day by day. 

In fact, research suggests that managers play a huge role in creating stability for their teams. According to a report from Oyster HR, 82% of employees feel that remote work and distributed teams have become more important during the pandemic, and 68% of employees said that the need for more supportive managers has increased.

That means remote managers play a special role in their company, helping their teams to feel secure, anchored, and filled with purpose—even in uncertain times. Managing remote teams well is a special skill, and it’s needed now more than ever.

3 Ways to Manage Your Remote Team More Effectively

In our recent event with Oyster HR and Firstbase, Oyster HR CEO Tony Jamous provided an incredible three-part framework for managers who want to evolve their management style to better support remote teams

According to Jamous, remote leaders can work more effectively to:

  1. Intentionally build trust by creating emotionally safe work environments.
  2. Measure and define results for employee performance in ways that are not specifically tied to “time in office.”
  3. Clarify how you work together as a team, including the tools and rules for remote collaboration.

“It's harder to build trust in remote environments, so you need to be intentional,” said Jamous. “We do it by creating the maximum amount of emotional safety for people to make mistakes.”

Emotional safety becomes even more important when your next round of funding is up in the air. 

“The way you as a leader react to bad news determines, for instance, how the company is going to consider emotional safety and build trust,” Jamous added.

Below, we offer more strategies for building trust, evaluating performance, and helping your team collaborate effectively in a remote work environment—even when you’re not sure what will happen next.

How to Develop Trust with Your Remote Team

Trust is a two-way currency between managers and their team members. When you’re leading a team, what you say has to match what you do—especially in uncertain times. Here’s how to cultivate that sense of trust every day:

  • Go above and beyond in your communication efforts. Check in asynchronously and conduct your weekly one-on-ones in-person. During those touchpoints, be mindful about where your team is at. Consider asking questions like, "What's most important to you right now?" to continue building trust and understanding what they need.

  • Give your team members breathing room. Whether you’ve made a big announcement or there’s a new shift in their personal lives, give your team members space to process. How does a business announcement affect them personally? How does a personal challenge apply to what's going on in their work?
  • Assume best intentions from your team. It’s not easy to communicate asynchronously. For remote teams, assuming best intentions in communication and work product promotes trust, especially in times of high stress.

  • Make it personal. This is a great time to have constructive conversations about how you can support each of your team members. You'll get better insights into how to manage individuals, as well as a more holistic view of where your team is really at.

  • Be transparent. Create a continual line of transparency about where you're at as a manager, where your team is at, and where the company is at. If there are significant changes about to take place at the company, you should communicate this ahead of time to build trust. Even if things change, your team will remember that you have authentically communicated with them about a potential challenge. All of this builds trust.

In uncertain times, a manager's job is to get ahead of rumors and to answer questions transparently on as many levels as possible, from the team to the individual level. After all, you want your remote team members to stay, feel connected, and work with a certain amount of security and pride. Your support is the anchor they need to weather the storm.

How to Measure the Performance of Your Remote Team

As revenues shift, many tech companies are struggling to meet quotas. They might have set ambitious goals just as we entered into a period of inflation and a potential recession. Given the state of the market, it only makes sense that many teams are now missing their goals. It’s time to readjust.

As remote managers, it's important for us to drive realistic conversations about goal-setting and projections with leadership. Lower your quotas, introduce project-based goals, and align your quantitative and qualitative goals to the market. The best way to support your team is to make all of these goals more realistic to what the market can actually deliver.

If you don't make these adjustments, you risk adding to employee stress or creating a "doom loop." When employees try to meet goals that are consistently out of reach, they may internalize failure as a personal shortcoming, rather than evidence of larger, more systemic challenges.

As managers we also need to be aware of how our employees are feeling, and we need to be ready to address their frustrations around performance. If your strongest team members are consistently stressed, that's an indicator to re-evaluate your goals or what you're trying to measure.

Here are additional tactics for supporting your remote team members as they strive to hit company-wide goals:

  • Avoid micromanaging. Instead of looking over everyone’s shoulder, be very clear about the deliverables you're expecting. What are the outputs that are required to show that the needle is moving toward your team goal?

  • Communicate about progress every week. If you're not progressing toward your goal, do you need to adjust your team’s objectives? Is there a team issue? Does everyone have the right tools? Assuming best intent, best team, and best talent, be real about what you can achieve together.

  • Don’t fixate on hours spent. Trust your team members to get their work done. Set goals that empower them to run with their tasks and finish their work successfully.

How to Help Your Remote Team Collaborate and Connect

We want each of our employees to have all the tools and rules they need to be successful in a remote work environment. 

As work and life become more integrated, rules around communication and collaboration will help you create and maintain the work-life boundaries your team needs to be happy and successful.

After all, success is a holistic picture. When your employees are working 70 hours a week, constantly responding to Slack notifications, you have a recipe for burnout on your hands. Here are additional tips you can use to create a supportive environment through communication rules and tools:

  • Ensure every employee understands how your team communicates. How do you engage with one another as a team, synchronously and asynchronously? What rules have you set to ensure employees aren’t going overboard in any given channel? Get specific about how many messages they can send, when to take communication to the DMs, and when to notify everyone in the channel.

  • Set rules about which tools support your collaboration efforts. Where do you whiteboard digitally? Where do you have your wiki? It's a manager's responsibility to clarify the types of software your team uses and how they should use it.

  • Define how, when, and where you meet. You only want to have a meeting if you have a clear purpose. It’s also important to clarify the tools you use for synchronous gatherings. How do those tools change with the purpose of your meeting? Zoom might be great for one-on-ones, but it’s less ideal for a sales kick-off or an all-hands meeting. (Ahem! For employee events, we would recommend Welcome.)

  • Increase the frequency of your all-hands meeting. In uncertain times, a quarterly all-hands is not enough. You should connect with your entire company more often, whether that’s once a week or once a month. By keeping the line of communication open for the entire company, you’ll build and maintain the trust and connection that’s key to working through rough patches. 

Without boundaries on collaboration and connection, you risk burnout and overwork. Encouraging your team to unwind and take care of their mental, emotional, and physical health is crucial in moments like these. When everyone feels like they can walk away from their work stations at the end of the day? That's success. 

So go ahead. Turn your notifications off. You deserve it.

Final Thoughts

It’s not easy to navigate your team through troubled waters. You’ll need all the empathy and emotional intelligence skills you have at your disposal. Plus, some really great tools for connecting and building trust with your team.

Welcome is employee event software that supports your entire employee lifecycle. Whether you want to amp up the number of all-hands meetings you’re holding as a company or give your employees more time and space to process big changes, Welcome is the platform to help you build transparency and create clarity around big-picture goals.

Find out how Welcome can support all the touchpoints in your employee lifecycle and book a demo today!

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