Knowing how to manage remote teams is a must-have skill for every manager. The pandemic pushed more than a quarter of teams into a work-from-home setting. This makes face to face management impossible, but productivity needs to keep up. Having clear policies and knowledge about remote work ahead of time is always a good idea, but when things change fast or there is a crisis, this might not be possible. Even when they have little time for preparation, managers can take research-based steps to boost remote employee engagement and productivity. It’s important that we rethink the way we recruit, onboard, and manage our new hires. The remote economy will continue to grow, and so will the need to effectively manage external teams and independent contractors. When managing your team of distant colleagues, it’s important to have a clear vision of what the company values. This helps you prioritize tasks and measure performance. It’s vital to make sure your teams are on the same page, and that expectations are communicated and agreed upon. It’s also your responsibility to provide the tools needed for efficient teamwork and communication.
Knowing how to manage remote teams is a must-have skill for every manager. Here’s what managers can do to boost remote employee engagement and productivity.
In light of the pandemic, it is now indisputable that the idea of work is changing. More than 100 countries experienced some form of lockdown by the end of March 2020. This ensured millions of people were confined to their homes and forced many companies to ask their employees to work remotely.
Effective management of remote teams comes down to the right tools, planned processes, and empathy with your virtual workers. Here are 7 doable ways to manage remote teams effectively and get the most productivity out of them.
- Determine Your Responsibilities
Each team member has varying degrees of independence during a remote working situation. This variation in responsibility means you need to outline your responsibilities clearly.
Are you just responsible for the tasks that need your direct oversight, or are you also responsible for ensuring tasks are being done? Are you expected to make decisions, or are you expected to just report back on decisions made by others? Do you need to set strategies for an effective leave management process?
Every person must know where they fit in and what their boundaries are. Being a manager means taking on various roles, including that of a teacher, coach, motivator, and role model. Managing a remote team requires even more skills, such as being proactive, empathetic, and adaptive.
- Hire People That Can Manage Themselves
Companies’ big mistake is hiring people who can’t handle working from home. The reality of the remote workforce is that it is composed of people with a wide range of professional backgrounds. Some team members have experience managing themselves professionally, whereas others have not.
If you hire people who can manage their workload and work independently, they’ll likely be happier, which will probably positively impact their performance. A positive employee experience is the bottom line.
A poor worker in a remote environment is like a dead fish; they won’t last long. So, take your time to review each candidate and understand their skillset carefully. Also, ask them about their personal organizational style and how they like to be managed.
- Get Everyone on the Same Page
There’s a big difference between someone working from home and someone telecommuting. When you’re home, you have to deal with your immediate surroundings, such as your home environment, family, and chores.
As a virtual worker, you’re at your workplace, but you have the flexibility to choose where and how you perform your duties. When everyone is using the same tools, they communicate better, improving productivity and workflow.
When everyone works from the same platform, there’s no confusion over where files are saved, how projects are organized, or how communication occurs. The differences are subtle, but they make all the difference.
- Set Clear Expectations And Communicate Them Regularly
The best way to manage expectations is to state them up front. For example, if you expect members of your startup to complete all assigned work within deadlines, let them know.
On the other hand, if you expect them to communicate regularly, discuss their expectations. Let them know how often they should contact you, how many emails they should send, and what methods they can use to contact you.
A clear set of expectations will ease everyone’s mind. As a leader, you can set expectations for deliverables, time allocation, and your leadership style. Your staff can set their own goals and their own expectations of their managers.
As a team leader, you need to clarify your expectations with those you manage. Start by outlining your work ethic and desired level of professionalism. Communication should be timely, polite, and constructive.
- Stay in Touch
Remote employees have a lot going on. Without regular contact with their managers, it’s possible that they feel isolated, neglected, and lost. So, make sure you stay in close touch with your freelancers, contractors, and outsourcers.
One way to do this is through scheduled calls. Another is by carrying out one-on-one meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and problems. Remote employees rely on email, chat, and other forms of digital communications to stay in touch with their team.
It’s natural for your team to want to connect with you, so be responsive to their requests. Encourage them to communicate openly and freely and ask questions. If something goes wrong, ask about it.
- Set Up Team Activities
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when working from home. Your daily schedule is predictable, and you’re probably spending most of your day in front of the computer. It only makes sense to try and have a fun, relaxed atmosphere like any other workplace. Virtual team-building activities can help foster a sense of camaraderie within your group.
So, it’s best to organize activities for your offsite and onsite personnel. This enhances morale and helps your people get to know each other. A great way to build team spirit is to set up a weekly meeting.
Discuss upcoming projects, and ask for input. Provide feedback and praise. Let the team know that they can always count on you for support.
You’re more likely to retain your best people if you make them feel valued. Conduct frequent informal surveys to determine how satisfied your employees are with their work. Share the survey results with your staff and discuss what actions you should take.
- Be Proactive and Gain Their Trust
A lack of communication is a huge cause of friction among employees. Remote leadership gets tricky because, unlike traditional, in-person leaders, you can’t simply walk over to an employee’s office to discuss your concerns.
With more and more time passing between you, your management team, and your employees, it becomes harder to keep the communication channels open.
As a manager at a growing company, you need to be a visionary, a communicator, a planner, and a micromanager. You need to be an expert in getting things done, and you also need to be an expert at building bridges with your staff. You need to have systems that make it easy to trust each other.
The Bottom Line
It can be overwhelming when you’re in charge of a team of remote workers. You can effectively manage your employees and boost their efficiency with the right approach.
Don’t just hope things will work out. Instead, take the steps needed to ensure your team is productive and happy. These tips will help ensure that your business thrives no matter what.