If this is the first time that you as a manager are in charge of managing remote employees, it can be scary to navigate and ensure employees are productive, engaged and thriving.
Here are a few techniques to help you better manage remote teams;
SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Working from home can be extremely difficult, especially if you’re completely new to the concept. As a team leader you can lay the ground rules for the team members to follow, so as to simplify the transition. Outline each team member’s job lists and availability. This can help ensure you reach them when required. Keep your team up-to-date on any company successes, policy changes, new joiners or even tips to help them be more productive whilst working remotely. It is also your responsibility to establish guidelines when it comes to after office hours as well. Avoid unnecessary emails and calls after work hours. This will help your team maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent them from burning out. Be sure to be accessible and provide clarity on priorities, milestones, performance goals and any queries your team may have.
HAVE A SYSTEM IN PLACE
Without systems, your business can fall apart. With a remote team, each person is working from their own home with endless distractions all around. So it’s best to have a documented, standardized way of working that you’re constantly refining. You can find out the right workflow management systems for your team to help boost productivity. With the right workflow software you can not only avoid the trap of micromanagement but your team members will be able to set goals and be more productive while avoiding the mundane tasks.
BE A FLEXIBLE LEADER
Since your team members are currently juggling work and family commitments at the same time, give them a choice to complete their work in ways that are easiest and most productive for them. Talk to your team about what you want them to accomplish and set guidelines to follow if required. Avoid micromanaging and try to schedule meetings at a mutually agreeable time. Lean on virtual tools wherever possible. Staying available through virtual tools can also help the team to stay connected and at the same time, they can chat and resolve any sorts of upcoming issues. By providing your team members such flexibility you are empowering them to complete their tasks in their own way and giving them sole accountability. This will in turn boost their productivity.
TRACK TEAM MEMBER’S PERFORMANCE
As much as it is important to provide them flexibility, you should not completely leave them on their own. It is also very important to implement a structure of tracking the performance of remote employees whether your team is virtual or not. To create transparency in the work environment, streamline your communication with your remote team members. This can also help you know which team member is productive and who is lacking behind.
Since remote team management is all about collaboration and working side by side, the ability to place oneself in the shoes of another person plays a major part in smoothing out dents in team work. There are plenty of examples when empathy helped achieve better results. So be empathetic of the situation and your team members while taking any decisions.
USE THE APPROPRIATE FORM OF COMMUNICATION
This is a hard one because on the one hand you need to make sure everyone is communicating enough, but on the other hand it can get distracting and overwhelming. Depending on your needs, choose the type of communication that works best for your team;
- Email – For quick interactions.
- Skype or Google Hangouts are great for quick instant messages where you need real-time interaction.
- Google Meet, Zoom Video chat would be even better as it gives you more visual cues of what is going on with the other person. This is excellent to use in case of town hall updates or important issues that need to be discussed.
Tip: You can also have a fun company chat room open for non-business related chat. This creates a bit of a water cooler effect where the entire team can chat about anything they like. Working remotely can get very lonely and this chat room can maintain a feeling of social connection.
CONDUCT REGULAR TOWN HALLS
You can host three types of virtual meetings to help you manage your team much better. First, consider a daily meeting within each team just to say hi and discuss the goals for the day. Secondly, a weekly meeting can be conducted to sort through issues that occurred during the week and thereby reduce the back and forth mails. Lastly, an end of the month town hall for the entire company. Keep it short, between 20-30 minutes to discuss any changes and to get on the same page.
One common method of managing teams, especially when it comes to remote teams, is by building trust. Your team members need to trust that you are looking out for their best interest. On the other hand, you need to have faith that your employees are engaged and motivated at work. The best thing you can do as a team leader is to suspend your disbelief and put utmost trust and confidence in your employees that they will do the right thing, which they will if you provide a supportive structure.
Working remotely can give you a certain degree of freedom, but it can also breed negativity and loneliness in the minds of your team members. A great way to deal with this is by using positive reinforcement. Research shows that employees who feel valued are more likely to be strongly involved in their work and feel happily engrossed in everyday tasks. You can show appreciation by recognizing every small win of your team members. The main aim is to make him/her feel valued. Effective recognition will not only motivates the recipient, but also serve as a strong signal to other employees of behaviours they should emulate.