Working from home has its perks for sure. You get to avoid to daily commute to work where you may spend what feels like endless hours in traffic. You can also avoid the dress code and get to work in a more relaxed manner. Yet, there are also many disadvantages when leaders need to manage their remote teams. It may seem hard to keep the team and yourself motivated, communication may be harder and there’s a definitive lack of social interaction. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.
What is remote management?
Remote management is the process of managing employees who are working outside of a traditional office setting. This can include managing employees who work from home, as well as those who work in different locations.
What is a Remote Team?
A remote team is a group of employees who work together from different locations. This can include working from home, as well as working in different locations.
Here’s a list of the most common issues many team members face and how managers can support their remote team.
Common challenges of remote work
Distractions at home
When we used to go to a physical office there was a common environment built to keep your focus and with one notice in mind - to work. Now with remote working we are all confined to the home where there could be lots of factors that may be distracting. It may be the doorbell ringing many times, the sound of the vacuum or other members of the house on their individual calls. As managers it’s important to remember that every team member’s background is different and there exists a need to be empathetic to another’s circumstances.
Another issue many people face could be technical issues. Multiple devices are simultaneously connected to the internet and this may create a lag when they’re on a call. Or sometimes like in India, there may be a power cut, and with limited back up options it may interfere with work.
Lack of access to information
Before in office we all used to collaborate together. If someone had a question they could swivel their chair around and ask easily. Or walk up to their manager and clarify their doubts. Now we need to reply more on semiformal or formal modes of communication that may cause some apprehension or delay when it comes to accessing that information.
Lack of face to face supervision
In a physical set up face to face supervision existed where it was easier to know what your employees are doing. Supervision aims to provide accountability for both the manager and employee exploring practice and performance. This aimed to ensure growth of the employee, where time is utilised in a constructive manner and also helped managers and employees stay accountable on their deliverables.
Tips for managing remote teams
1. Have regular check-ins
Many successful remote managers establish ways for a daily call with their remote employees. This could take various forms. Such as one-on-one calls if your employee works in a more independent manner or even a team call. At Mesh, we’ve made conducting these calls super simple and you can know more about them here. The great thing about these check-ins is that they’re similar to the stand-ups you may have conducted in a physical office. They’re predictable and provide a definitive space for your employees to consult with you, where their questions and concerns can be addressed.
2. Provide communication channels
Emails alone don’t suffice. Work being done has evolved from waiting on a response on email. Nowadays there’s a need for instant and continuous feedback and collaboration. So it’s important to take note of the different technologies available to us today which provide the closest thing to a more face to face form of communication. Video - calling for instance is great to pick up on an employees body language, it may help you understand and probe places where they may face some apprehension or even excitement when it comes to doing something in a particular way. This also helps reduce much of the isolation one may be experiencing.
In some instances quick collaboration is also possible and at times even more efficient as you can quickly screen share, show how you’d like something to get done and your employee will easily be able to understand what you mean.
3. Define availability
Managers can also define how they wish to receive forms of engagement and their availability. This is especially useful as employees have a clear idea off when to reach out to you. You can try something like this “I’ll take a daily update of what everyone is working on in the morning check-in but feel free to book a slot with me from 3-5pm any day. I’ve allocated that time specifically to discuss on-going projects for this client”. This simple communication makes it easy for the employee to know that you’re open to discussion and that you will be available to discuss. It sort of establishes a “my door is always open” for the virtual collaborative set-up.
4. Promote virtual social interactions
One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office.
The easiest way of doing this is without setting up formal structures in place is to simply leave a few minutes in the morning call to discuss some non-work related topics. It could be as simple as “How was your weekend?”. This helps create a better bond amongst the team as they all learn a little more about each other.
Something we like to do at Mesh is a fortnightly session called ‘virtual-beers’. The activity we all love engaging in at the moment is Pictionary. The great thing about virtual events is that they help reduce feelings of isolation, and promote a sense of belonging.
5. Define roles and responsibilities
When managing a remote team, it's important to define each person's roles and responsibilities. This will help ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them and that tasks are properly delegated.
6. Create a system for tracking progress
With a remote team, it can be difficult to track everyone's progress. Therefore, it's important to create a system for doing so. This could include using a project management tool like Asana or Trello, or simply keeping a daily log of what each person has accomplished.
7. Encourage collaboration
Encouraging collaboration is key to managing a successful remote team. This can be done by using collaborative tools like Google Docs or Trello, or by holding regular brainstorming sessions.
8. Provide feedback
It's important to provide feedback to your remote team on a regular basis. This will help them know what they are doing well and what areas need improvement. Feedback should be given in a constructive manner and should be specific.
9. Offer support
As a manager, it's important to offer support to your remote team. This could include offering training on new systems or processes, or simply being available to answer questions.
10. Celebrate successes
When managing a remote team, it's important to celebrate successes along the way. This will help keep everyone motivated and engaged. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as sending out a company-wide email or holding a virtual happy hour.
11.Use project management tools
There are a variety of project management tools that can be used to manage a remote team. Some popular options include Asana, Trello, and Basecamp. These tools can help you track progress, delegate tasks, and stay organized.
Managing a remote team can be challenging, but there are also several benefits. By following these tips, you can set your team up for success.
Let us know in the comments your own tips for managing your remote employees.
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