A manager may not be able to impact company culture change, but they have enormous influence over their team culture. 24 Seven’s employee attitude & behavior research has consistently shown that transparent, authentic workplaces that welcome open communication (without risk of reprisal) and are a safe space to bring one’s whole self have the happiest, most loyal, and engaged teams. These are culture goals that managers can set & attain even when managing a remote team.
Trust is essential
The first step is establishing trust. In times of uncertainty, trust between employees and managers is essential. Trust is a two-way street. Managers must be able to trust that their teams are doing the right thing at all times (even when not physically supervised), and employees must trust that managers are supportive advocates. Managers can signal trust by empowering employees to have a say in the team culture and by creating an engaging work environment, even when corporate policy is constraining.
Focus on balance and holistic wellness
Our most recent workplace research uncovered that employees are more keenly aware than ever about what they need from an employer when it comes to their work/life balance, and their physical, emotional, and financial wellness. Below are ideas for managers looking to transform their team into a destination workplace, even when the team they're managing is remote:
Check in to avoid check out
Have weekly check ins with each team member individually to assess stress level, work/life balance, and engagement. Be prepared to offer solutions or at a minimum offer to get back to them with how you can help them manage the pressure. And then, follow through. Be open to their ideas as well as pushback. Allowing for respectful dissent, demonstrating active listening, and exemplifying a willingness to work together to find middle ground builds bonds.
When raises are non-existent or disappointing, seek alternative ways to reward team members. Personalization makes it more meaningful - so get to know what is close to each employee’s heart. Things you can offer instead or an increase with some regularity:
Expense a lunch delivery for the team once a week or dinner out once a month
Cover the cost of a training class - even if it’s not related to job function
Subsidize some or all expenses related to work - cell phone, internet connection, internet speed upgrade, office supplies, etc.
Negotiate on their behalf for additional time off even if their tenure doesn’t qualify for the amount
Give the gift of time
Time poverty is a real phenomenon — most people are overbooked & overwhelmed. Returning control to employees over their time will not go unnoticed, so consider
Giving employees a random afternoon off once in a while
Securing additional vacation days or paid time off
Establishing a revolving half-day Friday, where team members take turns getting a Friday afternoon off
Be the boundary defender
When managing a remote team it's important to remember that the boundaries between home life and work have never been more blurred. This is an area where managers have an opportunity to improve the employee experience:
Get to know your employees at home pressures and their most productive work hours
Demarcate mandatory overlapping working hours - the hours of the day when the entire team must be available for ad hoc meetings, timely responsiveness, collaboration, and connection. Unless they have proven otherwise, trust that your team will complete and deliver individual work and responsibilities in the off hours.
Establish boundaries and rules about clocking in and out. This may include
No work-related emails sent after 6pm or before 8am
No responses expected after 6pm and before 8 am
Same for work-related phone calls
Get Creative with Your Management Style
Managers need to look for opportunities big and small to create a sticky team culture - one that employees reflect on fondly and are hesitant to leave. Finding creative ways to reward consistent effort and acknowledging the pressure employees are under goes a long way in retaining team members. When managing a remote team these factors are even more important to encourage optimal performance.