A woman working on laptop in a brightly lit room, symbolising managers communicating remotely.
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5 skills managers need when working with remote teams

6 Sep 2021

Working remotely requires a specific skillset and managers in particular need to hone their skills to best manage their teams.

Remote working has brought plenty of challenges since March 2020. That initial upheaval raised immediate and short-term concerns around how to adapt to a new set-up.

Then, as the months rolled on, companies had to start thinking about how their staff were managing on a longer-term basis with no end in sight.

Now, as discussions about returning to offices begin, there are much bigger conversations to be had around whether or not all staff in all organisations will actually return to offices.

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Many remote working advocates have spoken out against a full return to the office, while others have talked about the collaborative benefits a central workspace can bring. However, even these office advocates seem to agree that a full return to offices five days a week is not going to be the future.

So, with this in mind, managers will have to adjust to managing remote or partially remote teams on a permanent basis. And while some may argue that they have already gotten used to it, the more permanent post-pandemic changes will require much more robust habits to ensure employees are happy, looked after and engaged.

So, what skills do managers need to brush up on when it comes to managing their remote teams?

Communication

This one will come as no surprise and it’s a skill that is essential for all managers, whether they’re working remotely or not.

However, remote communication is a different beast and managers need to be mindful of this when speaking (or writing) to their remote employees.

Not only is there an additional need for day-to-day communication and regular check-ins, but the broader goals of the team or vision of the company need to be properly communicated too. This is something that might have been clear in the office, so managers need to make sure they’re clearly communicating what needs to be done and why all the time.

Delegation

Being able to delegate has always been important for managers, but it’s not just about dishing out tasks to your team. Having strong delegation skills means you’re able to hand tasks over, properly explain what is needed and trust that the work will be done.

When managing remotely, this means not micromanaging your team. Remote working requires a certain level of trust in your employees to work on their assigned tasks without you needing to see them typing at a physical desk.

It also goes hand in hand with those remote communication skills because there may be more explanation needed or more detail about when you want the work completed or if you need to be updated at any stage.

Empathy

Remote working requires empathy from all sides. We have repeatedly said that working during the pandemic is not an accurate picture of remote working in general. However, the additional level of empathy we have needed during this turbulent time may serve us well going forward.

Even without the pandemic cloud looming over us, remote working requires a certain level of understanding. It’s now harder to see whether your employees are having a tough time and they may not be forthcoming about these struggles.

We have previously discussed the duty of care managers have to their employees, a duty which isn’t fixed in place at the office. Being more considerate of your employees and checking in with them is going to be more important than ever when you can’t see them every day.

Coaching skills

Unlike regular staff training, coaching skills are about giving your employees the tools to solve their own problems. It’s about offering a sounding board and guiding them to make the right decisions without giving them the answer.

These skills are always valuable in managers who want to get the best out of their team, but can be even more important when employees are essentially working in their own bubble.

A strong coaching mindset in a manager will give their team the ability to improve their own abilities, confidence and motivation when they’re working alone. Good coaching will also naturally encourage more communication between employees and managers.

Adaptability

If the last year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that being able to adapt to sudden and changing situations is critical. Leaders, managers and employees alike were forced to adapt in March 2020 and have been on a learning curve ever since.

But it’s important that adaptability isn’t just seen as a single policy change when it’s absolutely required, especially for managers.

Having strong adaptability skills means constantly evaluating the structures that are in place and deciding whether or not they can be improved or changed for the better.

With a remote or hybrid team, situations and needs can evolve and change quite quickly so it’s vital that managers are able to adapt to these changes, while employing other vital skills such as communication and empathy.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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