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There’s no surprise that remote work has become the norm for many associations in recent years. And while vaccines are widely available and social distancing and mask mandates are mostly lifted in the U.S., remote work is here to stay. For leaders, however, this introduces a new set of challenges. From understanding what your team needs to adjusting the way you think about collaboration and productivity, modern thinking is needed to effectively manage your remote team. 

Here are some top tips to be the best association leader in an increasingly dispersed world.

Set Clear Expectations for Your Team

From the get-go, it's essential to provide clear guidelines and boundaries your team can work from. That means setting business hours and allowing your employees to manage their own work-life balance. Remote work comes with a surge in autonomy, which is great for your team's morale and productivity. 

However, it does mean you run the risk of letting communication take a backseat. While taking an autonomous approach to managing your team can seem daunting, with the right system in place, you don’t have to worry about work falling to the wayside. 

3 Tips for Setting Remote Work Expectations

  1. Overcommunicate – When in doubt, request feedback from your team and over-communicate while assigning new tasks and team goals. When your team knows what to expect from you, they’re more likely to deliver exactly the kind of work you’re looking for. 
  2. Set Working Hours – Although remote work gives your association staff the freedom and flexibility to work in a way that suits them best, that doesn’t mean you should abandon structure altogether. Having a few hours each day that you know everyone will be online makes it easier to collaborate and get support. 
  3. Keep Routine Meetings –  Whether it’s a daily huddle or one-on-ones with your team members, meetings are still an essential part of remote work. As a manager, it gives you an understanding of what your team is up to without worrying about micromanaging them, and as a staffer, it gives you a safe space to ask for support.
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Encourage Team Collaboration

Regular Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings are an easy way to ensure the whole team is on the same page. But when it comes to team connection and collaboration, scheduled virtual meetings just don't make the cut. 

One of the most significant impacts of remote work is often a lack of camaraderie, or at the very least, a loss of interpersonal interaction or connectivity that happen when everyone is in the office. 

So how can you fix this?

To make the most of your virtual meetings, consider taking a few minutes every now and then to speak spontaneously with your colleagues about their weekend activities or hold a mini-icebreaker. These conversations allow your team to bond on a personal level, making it easier for everyone to collaborate on work-related matters. 

You may even want to occasionally host virtual happy hours or pizza party Fridays to bolster your team's connection further, however, keep these during working hours as you always want to encourage work-life balance for your remote teams.

It's also best practice to get your team together in person at least once or twice a year. 

Bonus: Make Communication Easy

As we mentioned above, holding icebreakers can be a great way to get people talking. But that doesn't necessarily make it a natural part of the culture of your remote team. One solution is adding routine intro questions to each meeting. 

For example, always start your weekly meeting with one positive takeaway and one lesson learned from the previous week. Not only does it help facilitate some discussion, but also it can help add camaraderie around the work and challenges your staff may be facing. 

Change Your Management Approach

The empowerment and autonomy that remote workers gain are crucial to the success of your dispersed team. As a result, the best remote managers learn to shift their approach to office management. In the office, you wouldn't feel the need to constantly be checking over your team members' shoulders, and you shouldn't feel obligated to do so virtually, either. 

Micromanaging is one of the quickest ways to lower remote work productivity. After all, if employees are constantly having to reply to your emails or Slack messages, they have less time to focus on the work that matters. Focus on outcomes above all else and see yourself as a mentor rather than a direct manager. 

Additionally, don't forget to schedule regular one-on-ones with your team members to check in on their progress, answer any questions, and build strong collaborative relationships. These meetings can also serve as check-ins for the emotional well-being of your employees, where they can relay any personal or professional struggles that may be impeding their productivity.

Bonus: Don’t Ignore Feedback

One of the biggest challenges of remote work has often been the blurring of lines between home and work life – hence the rise of burnout and overall stress. If your staff is coming to you and relaying their concerns or frustrations with work, it’s important to be there for them. 

If your staff feels burned out, look for ways to delegate or adjust deadlines to create a healthier workload. Have a staffer struggling to tackle a project because of a lack of experience; help them find professional development to build the skills they need. 

As a leader, it’s important to listen to understand, not simply to respond. 

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Combating Burnout Learn More >

Take Advantage of Delegation and Automation

These days, there are remote working tools for nearly everything under the sun. While you don't want to overwhelm yourself and your team with dozens of software applications, using a few effective apps can help your team to better communicate and produce quality work. 

Some of the tools to prioritize include:

  • Project Management – Many of these software platforms, particularly project management platforms like Asana or Trello, allow you to better break down individual tasks, assign them to team members, and monitor overall project progress. These tools are instrumental in allowing you to focus on big-picture items while keying your team into exactly what's expected of them.
  • Communication – When walking down the hall to ask your coworker a quick question isn’t an option, software can help. Slack, Zoom and Microsoft teams all offer a convenient solution for remote work communication without the need to ever pick up the phone. 
  • Work Focus – Distractions are a problem whether in the office or at home. Luckily, there are ways to empower your team to boost productivity. Whether it’s productivity skills like the Pomodoro Technique – working for a specific amount of time followed by a break (i.e. 25-minute work block followed by a 5-minute break) – or online tools like BlockSite, a browser extension to help avoid online time-wasters, giving your staff options and suggestions is always great. 

Of course, you don’t always need to rely on technology to help with these. Even a classic to-do list can keep your team firing on all cylinders throughout the day. 

Lead Your Remote Team to New Heights

The shift to remote work was a struggle for many associations at the beginning of the pandemic. Fortunately, now that everyone is much better equipped with the technology and know-how to work on their own terms, you can achieve results that just wouldn't be possible in the office. It all comes down to taking a clear-cut, empathetic approach to management.

Celita Summa
Post by Celita Summa
February 18, 2022
By day, Celita Summa is a Florida-based freelance writer specializing in business, technology, marketing, and a plethora of other topics. By night, Celita can be found developing her special talents, which include her black belt in karate, her fluent Italian, and her knack for vegan cooking.