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Written by Candor Team
October 13, 2022(edited on October 17, 2022)

7 People Skills That Managers Need When Working Remotely

Remote working is here to stay—hooray! But for newly promoted managers or team leaders adjusting to a remote role, it can be challenging to foster team motivation, engagement, and personal and professional growth. Without the correct management, some team members can begin to feel isolated. 

Remote working has been exponentially growing since 2020. It’s grown by 44% in the last 5 years and 159% in the last 12. When it comes to remote workers:

  • 55% would look elsewhere if the remote work was removed. 
  • 32% claim to be more engaged at work (vs 28% in the office).
  • 13% are more likely to stay for five years when compared to office workers 

It’s clear remote working is the present and future, so managers need to equip themselves with the right people skills to keep their teams motivated. At Candor, we discovered that: encouraging and building mindfulness, listening and proactively sharing company updates, celebrating small and big wins, making processes democratic, accommodating asynchronous work, thinking about ‘belonging’ with new hires, and connecting with team goals are the most useful people skills for a manager leading a remote team.

Interested? Time to unpack those skills a little further. 👇

Within this content (no surprises):
  • Encouraging and building mindfulness 
  • Listening and proactively sharing company updates
  • Celebrating small and big wins
  • Making processes democratic
  • Accommodating asynchronous work 
  • Thinking about ‘belonging’ with new hires and connecting with team goals

They’re humans, after all 

Remote working only works if your people are connected. They’re human after all. Unless you work at Tesla, where many are robots. 🤖 Jokes aside, a traditional manager requires empathy, patience, the ability to oversee, accountability, and more. Whilst these skills are always useful, there are specific management requirements for those running teams remotely. 

The upside to office spaces is team members can have physical interactions and ‘water-cooler’ moments. This is the thinking behind Apple’s doughnut shaped Cuppertino headquarters, which increases the chance of spontaneous interaction. But that place has people running into glass walls, so it might be worth a rethink Tim Cook.

The hard truth is remote staff can easily slip into isolation and their motivation can suffer. It's the manager's job to create a culture where in-person interactions are replicated online. It’s also the manager's responsibility to ensure systems are in place to keep their team motivated, productive, and progressing professionally (whilst also maintaining a healthy work-life balance).

Here are 7 skills managers need when working remotely.
(Now’s a good time to bookmark this page, your team will thank you!)

1 - Encourage and build mindfulness 

To a certain extent, team members have a responsibility to communicate with their team about well-being and workload. But what a manager can do is create a system and a culture where team members have the methods and the encouragement to be transparent about their needs.

To be specific, within the team messaging platform (e.g. Slack, Microsoft Teams, Whatsapp), team members can set statuses that reflect if they’re in ‘deep focus’, ‘having lunch’, ‘in a meeting’, ‘picking the kids up’ etc to signal to the rest of the team what’s going on. This might be tough to get off the ground, but managers should challenge their teams to create and promote these statuses. Actually, team members may find it easier to say they’re overworked or feeling burnt out over a message, rather than in person. Lean into this and create a healthy culture online. 

2- Listen and proactively share company updates

With difficult economic times, it's normal for a business to go through peaks and troughs in performance. This can have a knock-on effect on employee well-being, which can be heightened by remote working. With fewer daily interactions, mental cogs can spin and uncertainty can rise. 

Managers should combat this by creating a culture of empathy and active listening. Developing open, honest communication with your team members is very important. We’ve got three actionable tips to boost this:
  • Select a tool or platform (e.g. Google Drive, Notion, MailChimp) where it’s easy for team members to access and receive company information. You could even kick-start a weekly or monthly internal newsletter.
  • Identify sub-leaders who can report back to you on temperature checks in the smaller teams and field questions from across departments.
  • Create a cadence of 1:1 check-ins. Don’t overwhelm people's calendars, but a monthly 30-minute call to discuss your team's personal life will go a long way. It’s about listening.

3- Celebrate small and big wins

With much of remote work going ‘unseen’ and many companies running busy projects on tight schedules, it can be easy for managers to overlook rewarding success. The big notable achievements like a promotion, or campaign going live, or winning a new client are usually noticed. But small achievements such as running a PB 5k at lunch, closing a tricky first sale, and receiving positive feedback from a client — these small wins can go unnoticed.

A physical gift or a posted hand-written note goes a long way. Send your team members something special in the post to make them feel valued. It will also create a dynamic of people doing good things and rewarding each other for those good things. It’s a value exchange. 

4- Make processes democratic 

You might be asking, does process have a place on a listicle about people skills? Well, with remote working it's super important you make the processes about the people. Some managers are looking after teams across multiple countries and time zones, so getting their input into ways of working and digital tool selection is so useful. Just make sure you give that call an exciting name; nobody is going to eagerly dial into ‘Process Chat @9:00 AM’.

To make sure your team can be productive and innovative from anywhere, their input into digital-tool selection is vital. But it’s equally vital to make sure the tools they use are secure and compliant, not to mention cost-effective. As a manager, it's your responsibility to strike a balance between what works for the business and what works for your team. We’d recommend kicking off a call and putting the tools and processes to a vote—use a Google form to get started. 

5- Accommodate asynchronous work

With scale-ups, startups, and corporates now taking advantage of remote work and building global teams, there needs to be an appreciation for asynchronous work. In short, giving team members flexibility on when work can be completed. It’s time companies were built around their people, rather than people conforming their lives to a strict 9-5:00 PM.

To get specific (you know we like to), managers should consider embracing asynchronous work themselves. This will show the team you’re serious about the approach. Consider what working windows are best for you; are you more productive in the mornings, do you have a gym routine to stick with, kids to pick up from school? Introduce core collaboration hours and schedule meetings within a four-hour window. This syncs calls around times that work for most, while reducing meeting fatigue (yes, it’s still a thing). Create a schedule that works for your ‘whole person’ and your team will follow.  

6- Think about belonging when onboarding new hires

At Candor, we’ve written a full article about why belonging at work matters. The people skill that’s critically important for managers is ensuring new remote hires have an immediate sense of belonging. Obviously, this emotion needs time and patience to develop, but there are ways to make a remote hire feel part of the clan right away.

Before any new employee’s start date, hold an official meeting dedicated to their onboarding. This makes it feel like an important part of the company culture, rather than a bolt-on. Encourage them to meet up with the team in person (if they’re in the same geo). Factor their first few weeks around team building, rather than a full workload. Learn what makes them tick and the belonging will follow. 

7- Empathise with team goals and connect them to yours

As teams become more hybrid, there’s a growing appetite for bespoke personal development, learning, and skills advancement. Remote workers want to use their regained time (gathered from no commute and fewer meetings) to build up and strengthen their skillset. If these skills have a strong overlap with their day-to-day responsibilities, they can contribute towards promotions and pay rises. 

As a manager, you’ll unlock a wealth of motivation if you empathize with your team's personal goals and even tie them to yours and the business. If there are sales targets to hit, or content production targets to nail, consider the overlap between your team's personal development and the bottom line of the business. 

Managers never stop learning

You don’t need us to tell you, but management can never be ‘completed’. It’s an ongoing skill that needs constant development and considerable self-analysis. The same applies to the skills needed to manage a remote team. In fact, it’s even more apparent with a remote team because technology shifts and changes so rapidly. 

Key Takeaway

It's important that managers keep learning as more and more teams transition into hybrid and fully remote roles. The data doesn't lie—the working world is going remote and that shift increases by the year. 

The biggest threat to the success of a remote team is isolation. The 7 skills we’ve covered directly combat isolation and foster a team culture of acceptance, accountability, and engagement. If managers are to draw from the huge upsides of remote working, they should be evolving with the times and creating working environments that suit the people, not just the profit. 

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