In today’s age with the extreme advancement of technology, it’s becoming more and more likely that you will find yourself managing a remote team. Technology has made it much easier for people to work from home and maintain the same quality of work as before, while offering great benefits for many workers. As a manager, you will need to be able to get the most out of those teams, and your management style might have to adapt a little.
Perhaps even more so than traditional bosses, remote managers may be called on to set the example of what it takes to be a successful virtual worker. Leading a team of remote workers will require you to have superior communication skills and the flexibility to oversee employees working from different environments, with a variety of roles and disparate working styles.
Here are 5 tips to help you as you manage a team of remote workers.
1. Communicate Often
Communication is key to any team, but it’s all the more important for a distributed team that’s trying to accomplish shared goals from different virtual locations. Depending on your organization’s needs and the communications systems it has in place, you’ll want to make the most of any means of workplace communication available to you and your team.
You’ll want to focus both on the technical aspect of your team’s responsibilities, as well as on the personal side. Share information as well as provide leadership. This way, your remote team will feel like they’re in the loop and confident that your guidance is helping the organization meet its goals.
This also without saying, but always offer support to your employees. Whether your team is working remotely due to the coronavirus crisis or you are working remotely for other reasons, as a manager, it’s extremely important to offer support at all times!
Whether you organize weekly one-on-ones via zoom or you choose to schedule a phone call at the end of each day, scheduling conversations enables your employees to speak up about any problems they are having and reach out for any help. They may also be experiencing problems that are non-work related, so knowing that you as a manager are there for them, will help significantly.
2. Establish Clear Expectations
When someone starts working in a physical office, they typically go through an onboarding process that clearly sets out expectations. Unfortunately, when people start working remotely, they don’t always get this vital step. It’s sometimes assumed that working remotely should be just like working from the office apart from simply doing it at home. However, this is not the case, and clear expectations need to be set out, just as if someone were new to the office.
When working remotely, an effective way of helping your team to work productively on their own is to encourage them to set goals and objectives. This helps them learn how to work well independently. By setting realistic goals and objectives you can help your team become a lot more effective than just assigning mountains of tasks or even measuring their productivity through their activity.
3. Make Resources Available
You want your remote workers to have access to as many resources as possible. They may not be working in a central office, but that doesn’t mean you can’t offer them a similar level of support.
If your business is heavily invested in remote workers, then it should be creating resources that will make these employee’s lives easier. The more you can do this, the more your business benefits from increased output. Working remotely isn’t always easy for people, but if you can make good resources available, it becomes much simpler.
Typical resources you can provide employees with that will help your team become more productive are things such as a desk (if possible, many employees prefer standing desks), a working laptop, multiple monitors, a headset or a good pair of headphones, and good access to wifi. By taking care of some of these upfront costs the employee might have to pay to work remotely, you’re showing them that you genuinely care about providing an ideal work environment for them.
4. Value Outcome Over Activity
When people are working remotely, you’re not going to know what they’re doing every minute of the day. Instead, you have to trust that they’re taking the right actions and will achieve the desired outcomes (and that if they can’t they will seek help). Choosing to monitor your team’s productivity through their activity can lead to micromanagement and become extremely problematic. Instead, consider starting the week by setting goals and objectives for each employee to work through and review this at the end of the work week. This will help you measure your employee’s performance more effectively.
Again, remain focused on outcomes, and help your team find the ways that allow them to get the most of their time rather than actually policing them. If you see a team member is consistently struggling to meet their goals, consider having a conversation with them about what’s going on. They could simply struggle with time management (something you should be able to help them with, or they potentially may not be enjoying their job and are a bad fit.
5. Be Inclusive
As a new remote manager, keep in mind that it’s easy for virtual team members to feel a sense of isolation from the overall team. Watch for signs that your virtual employees may feel left out. You’ll want to try your best to eliminate the potential of feeling isolated from happening in the first place, but if it does, move quickly when you recognize it’s occurring.
A change in how a team member communicates with you and other colleagues may be a signal that they’re not seeing themselves as a significant part of the team. A downturn in the quality of their work may be another sign. It’s your responsibility as a manager to reach out, stay in touch, encourage them to talk about work-related issues, and boost their morale by explaining how integral they are to the team.
Whether working remotely is temporary or long-term, there are lots of effective ways to manage your team and the communication between them so that you can support their goals and their performance. It’s especially important, now more than ever, to help your team feel valued and secure and to keep the spirit of your teamwork alive while you are all working from home.