Pandemic-based restrictions and technological advancements have made it preferable, safer, and easier to employ remote workers. While virtual teams may enjoy the newfound work life balance, many managers are overwhelmed at ensuring everyone meets key objectives with minimal supervision.
Using invasive software to track online activity and view how often workers leave their desks are unhelpful, but a carefree and lax approach often results in decreased employee motivation and productivity. It's critical to strike a balance between the two management styles while helping a work team stay connected, engaged, and efficient.
10 Tips to Managing Remote Workers
Though remote-based companies have been commonplace for quite some time, the last year has seen an even greater increase in the number of remote workforces. While it's difficult enough to manage a remote team in an office setting, managing remote teams results in an array of other challenges, including
Communication Problems- It can be difficult to encourage team building when workers are isolated and under minimal supervision.
Performance Tracking Issues- Remote managers have to optimize project management by tracking employee productivity and finding ways to communicate daily expectations.
Maintaining Company Culture- it's challenging to optimize employee engagement when everyone is physically separated.
Scheduling Challenges- With everyone in various time zones, remote managers must use scheduling tools to meet with and manage different teams.
Companies need to maintain the stability of their teams by utilizing different techniques and software systems. This can help mitigate many of the feelings of isolation and disconnection among remote workers. Here are the best practices to manage a remote team
1. Set Expectations Regularly
Managers should implement guidelines, metrics, and policies so employees know exactly what is expected of them. It's important to make sure that team members can easily access and reference these expectations and ask questions.
Managers should also keep everyone updated on staffing changes, business success stories, and specific priorities to ensure team members know what's important daily.
2. Use Organization and Flexibility
Remote employees should work flexible hours but still be expected to complete all essential tasks and requirements. Managers should use concrete plans and procedures when possible but remain open to changes and new strategies.
It's more critical to create an environment where workers can complete all of their tasks in their own time. As long as projects are finished and employees get work done, management can be flexible in other areas.
3. Use Short Meetings
What works in the office doesn't work very well at home, as attention spans are shorter in virtual meetings. This is particularly true for those who are in a different time zone, who may be attending a meeting after work hours.
Management should schedule 10-15 minute virtual team meetings to give brief updates, answer questions, and share ideas.
4. Track Performance
Management should use a set of key performance indicators to track remote employee progress and ensure business goals are met. Printing out direct reports and reviewing them in one-on-one meetings can be an effective way to track how well a remote worker is performing.
Some managers prefer team members to document the tasks completed in one day, while others track progress on a weekly/monthly basis.
5. Optimize Communication
Establishing effective communication practices is how an organization achieves business success. Remote workers particularly need mediums to ask questions, build relationships with co-workers, and ask for help.
Options include Slack (an employee messaging system), email, texts, phone calls, Zoom meetings, or other communication software tools. It is particularly important for new hires to feel connected and a part of the company culture to avoid high turnover rates.
6. Use Active Listening
Successful team leaders know how to listen and ask the right questions, particularly with new hires. Leaning towards over-communication is a safer bet than employing minimal communication and hoping for the best.
Methods to listen to employee feedback include surveys, reviews, or one-on-one phone calls. Management should be prepared to fix recurring problems to ensure workers feel appreciated and listened to.
7. Be Available
Newly remote-based teams may feel disoriented and frustrated by new norms and expectations. Building strong connections among team members and management is essential to mitigate some of those apprehensions.
Sharing helpful feedback, creating virtual coffee dates, utilizing forums, and generating social media pages can help employees stay connected in a personal way. Managers should also be readily available and patient while everyone transitions from office life.
8. Optimize Collaboration
Collaboration is required to complete business activities. Managers should prioritize the use of communication mediums to ensure everyone can work together to complete tasks. Shared documents can help team members track tasks while messaging systems can help to collaborate on them.
Team leaders should talk to remote workers to determine which collaboration methods are acceptable to them. Staying flexible requires switching to a new medium when a particular method (text, phone calls) is disruptive to a remote worker.
9. Don't Micromanage
Management may feel like they have lost the ability to control and monitor their team when transitioning to remote work. Though it's important to track employee performance, ensure tasks are complete, and perform regular check-ins, it's not a good idea to micromanage workers.
Frequent nitpicking, constant phone calls, or employing management software to track internet activity are not effective ways to build relationships. Workers should be given the benefit of the doubt until they fail to meet expectations. Then, more stringent methods can be reevaluated.
10. Celebrate Milestones
If work milestones and accomplishments were celebrated in the office, they should still be celebrated for those who work remote.
Virtual celebration meetings or company-wide emails can help accomplished workers feel appreciated and part of the team. Managers should consider implementing new work milestones such as employee of the month or the greatest number of sales leads to further optimize the work-from-home experience.
It also boosts employee morale, which contributes to a lower turnover rate and greater worker engagement.
In conclusion, here are the key takeaways to remember about managing remote teams
Setting regular expectations, keeping organized, and being flexible will make it easier to transition to a remote-based organization.
Short meetings are more effective for remote workers than longer ones. Tracking employee performance will help workers stay accountable and ensure business goals are met.
Communication software and other techniques should be used to make sure everyone stays connected and feels a part of the team. Managers should also be active listeners and find solutions to common employee problems.
Being available, optimizing collaboration, and refraining from micromanaging can help remote workers' morale and increase engagement. Celebrating milestones is also a great way to improve morale and maintain a sense of normalcy.