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Building and managing multi-location and remote teams in challenging times

07 October 2020

A guest blog by Jon Thedham, Trainer and AoC Services Associate

What common problems do we face working remotely?

  • Getting used to the new work-life balance when working from home or working on sites away from the core team and our manager
  • The expectations of how much work you are doing
  • The impact on relationships when working remotely
  • Different team norms and ways of working
  • Two-way trust issues
  • Technology challenges
  • Cultural and other differences between sites and between teams

The secret to managing virtual teams to increase productivity and decrease inefficiency lies in balancing task assignments and relationship building.

Building Relationships in a virtual world

There are a number of communication challenges bought about by operating remotely and this is the same if you are working from home or working on differing sites where face to face communication is at a premium. When communicating virtually we need to be aware of:

    • Lack of social clues and cues (e.g. lack of body language)
    • Social boundary issues
    • Virtual distance
    • Social transitions (the move from social talk to getting down to business)
    • Social anxiety
    • Attention focus
    • Inappropriate self-disclosure
    • Trust development

    7 tips to improve your approach to managing remotely

    • Agree ways of working and regularly review
    • Maintain purpose and flexibility
    • Set expectations and trust the team
    • Ensure everyone has everything they need, including a suitable working environment
    • Establish and maintain routines
    • Ensure effective communication and listen
    • Foster relationships and well-being

    When we are having remote conversations, we need to remember to manage emotions and information in a sensitive way. It is important that we remember and are aware of the sense of distance from people. Virtual communications can sometimes be interpreted in the wrong way, so it is important to be clear and concise.

    How then can we ensure that team meetings are more productive?

    One thing we really need to bear in mind is that remote meetings should not be conducted in the same way as an in-person meeting would be. Here are some tips to ensure they are as productive as possible:

    • Have clear objectives and protocols
    • Information is circulated to everyone beforehand and has prepared
    • The meeting needs to be facilitated
    • Everyone has a chance to speak
    • Keep everyone engaged
    • Take time to encourage social virtual meetings

    Overall, it is so important to reflect on what we have learnt about our behaviours and skill development and that we spend time to have professional conversations and take time to reflect with the team.

    Managing multi-site teams

    Whether you’re a curriculum manager over multiple locations or just having locations in different parts of town managing teams in different locations is a different challenge to one where you are all in the same location. Not only do you have more colleagues to manage and lead, each location will have its own culture and needs. Ensuring those needs for all locations are met and that they are successful takes more planning and invariably a greater time commitment from the manager. Here are some pointers for you to be aware of:

    • Manage expectations from the outset
    • Be fair and consistent across all sites and teams
    • Maintain a presence across all sites
    • If you were a manager of an established team make sure they don’t have less of your support that the other teams
    • Try to move away from micro-managing and delegate where possible
    • Ensure information is shared openly and equally
    • Don’t assume everything is OK
    • Try to regularly bring all the teams together to solve problems, ensure constancy and to build relationships

    Jon is running a masterclass on 13 October focusing in on this topic and will offer you lots of insights and tips to help you to manage your remote and multi-site teams more effectively.