Managing remote workers became a new challenge for many companies during the pandemic. Yet, since then, many remote teams have not only survived but thrived in an evolving working world.
Managing teams that are not physically in the office – and sometimes not even in the same country – comes with its own set of challenges. If you’re a manager who’s new to hiring and overseeing a team of remote workers, read on.
1. Know What You Need Your Employees to do
When it comes to managing remote teams, you’ll need to be crystal clear on your company’s goals. This is possibly the most important step. You need to know what you want your remote teams to do and whether they’re meeting those expectations. You’ll also need to understand their skillset and how it aligns with your business needs.
For any employee—remote or on-site—to succeed, they must have clear direction about their role. For example, you’ll need to make it clear:
· What tasks your remote workers will complete
· When those tasks should be completed, and,
· What resources are available for them
2. Schedule Regular Meetings
No one likes to be stuck in endless meetings, but coming together over Zoom or Microsoft Teams is essential for managing remote teams. Not only will a regular schedule of meetings help keep your team engaged, it’ll also allow you to check in and make sure they’re on track with their workload.
- Be consistent. Try to meet at the same time every day or every week. Having a consistent schedule will help prevent any feeling of disconnect with your remote team.
- Keep your meetings short and sweet! Don’t take up too much of someone’s day. After all, your remote workers have jobs to do. Try to keep meetings to half an hour or less. Focus on discussing upcoming projects, celebrating successes or clarifying challenges within the business.
3. Provide Feedback to Your Remote Workers
Feedback is one of the most important aspects of employee development. You can’t grow if you’re not given information about how to improve. And, it’s your responsibility as a manager to provide your remote workers with this information.
The best time for feedback is right after an employee has completed a task or project that’s yielded positive results. By proving feedback at this stage, they know what they did right, what could have gone better, and how they can improve. When giving feedback in person, make sure it’s timely. Don’t wait days or weeks to tell someone they could have done something better.
4. Use Technology to Collaborate
The world of technology has come so far, especially since the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, collaborative technology took a massive leap forward. We no longer need to be sat in the same room as our colleagues to communicate.
These tools are excellent for collaborating with remote workers.
- Video conferencing tools, like Zoom.
- Online messaging such as Microsoft Teams
- Online collaboration tools, such as Google Docs and Trello
- Project management tools such as Basecamp and Asana
5. Build Trust with Your Remote Workers
Trust is a key element in any relationship. It’s a two-way street; if you want your employees to trust you, then they have to be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when things don’t go as planned. And you have to be willing to do the same.
A recent survey confirmed that two-thirds of employers don’t trust their staff to work remotely. Yet, only 19% have reported a decrease in productivity since their employees began working remotely.
Whilst it’s true that remote working isn’t suitable for every company, building trust is something that every employer should take seriously. Trust is built on honesty and transparency. If you’re not honest about what’s going on, your remote employees won’t feel comfortable approaching you with their concerns. And that can lead to all sorts of problems down the line.
Trust is also built by demonstrating empathy and compassion. Just because you have remote working employees, doesn’t mean they don’t have the same concerns as office-based staff. Your trust and empathy will keep them working hard even when they’re feeling tired or discouraged.
Finally, building trust means demonstrating reliability and consistency. Being consistent with your actions will help establish credibility over time. And this makes it easier for everyone (including yourself!)
6. Focus on Individual Needs
You can’t treat everyone the same all the time.
Employees, whether remote or office-based, have different needs and working styles. It’s important for you to know what these needs are before trying to motivate your staff.
For example, one employee may be highly logical. Another could be fantastic at generating ideas. If you don’t know what motivates each of your remote workers, or if you don’t understand what skills they have, your motivational attempts will fall flat.
7. Ask for Feedback from Employees
Just as providing feedback is an important step in managing remote teams, asking your staff for feedback is equally important. By listening to their concerns and suggestions, you can improve the way things happen in your company. This feedback will also provide valuable input into how you manage your remote workers.
For example, they might feel they’re being micro-managed and you don’t trust them. By providing them with an open (or even anonymous) opportunity to give feedback, you have the chance to change your management style. Adapt the way you manage remote workers before you start losing good people.
8. Encourage Virtual Team Building
If you have a team of remote workers in different cities or even different countries, virtual team building can be a challenge. Virtual team building encourages employee engagement. This is a measure of how motivated your employees are at work, and it’s critical to understand.
Virtual team building can take many forms, depending on the working style of your remote teams and your company. Here are some ideas for encouraging employee engagement:
· Host virtual employee wellness sessions, led by a professional, such as yoga and mindfulness
· Set up a random chat channel on your company Slack or Teams – encourage communication that isn’t solely work-focussed
· Set up a company intranet so all employees can access important company information at the click of a button
· Play a virtual escape room or a murder mystery event to encourage camaraderie
9. Create a Positive Remote Working Environment
Workplace culture and a positive working environment are vital to your success when managing remote teams. If employees are happy and motivated at work, their results will improve and your company’s productivity will increase.
· Stamp out negativity and back-biting before it starts. Once negativity takes hold it will circulate and you’ll have a toxic workplace before you know it
· Be present. When your staff need you, make sure you’re there. If you can’t be there, then make sure they know who they can turn to for help
· Show your appreciation. Employees – especially remote workers – feel more motivated when their work is appreciated. This can be something simple like ordering take-out for the whole team, or setting up an incentive scheme where points are awarded for hard work.
· Communicate often. Strong communication will always combat negativity. Foster an environment of openness and trust, so you know your team will bring their whole selves to work.
If you’re just starting out as a manager of remote workers, the most important thing is to be prepared! Make sure that everyone has the right tools and equipment, so they can do their jobs well. Then make sure that you have regular meetings scheduled with your team.
Finally, remember to keep communication lines open so you all feel comfortable asking questions or giving feedback when needed.