Standard management strategies for face-to-face interaction don’t work when it comes to remote working, but the idea of working from home has become relatively mainstream in the past few years. Accordingly, companies without any physical office and who take on a remote work environment have tried to find ways to manage remote employees.
With the recent shift post-pandemic, many companies have taken to switch to remote setups. Now business leaders and team leaders are rewriting the rule book for remote team members to adapt to the great digital transformation while trying to stave off social isolation and disengagement. This involves providing emotional support without the in-person interaction, virtual social interaction, reliable commnication channels, virtual systems for a remote setting, and so on. So, what are some new ways of managing remote employees?
These tips & best practices will give you the right tools whether it's your first time doing remote employee engagement or your 100th.
1. Clear Deliverables
Remote work is a largely independent process. There are no team meetings or progress reports. For the most part, your workers are on their own. This strategy has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it has shown drastic increases in efficiency and productivity. But, on the other, things can get lost in transit, and there’s more room for confusion.
The best way to manage the issue is by clearly stating your deliverables for a task. That way, your employees know what you want and can work through your list. This removes the risk of a project going off track. One bonus tip to leave you with is this— a project management tool to keep track of those deliverables and ask your staff members to update their progress as they go along. This is a great way to ensure productivity in remote work setups. You can also use collaboration tools to keep lines open in between meetings. This avoids the need to get the whole team together for virtual meetings to solve a problem you can resolve over chat.
2. Communication Platforms
Since office meetings are not an option, just using email won’t cut it. You’ll need to introduce your employees to other platforms so you can keep track of the overall program. You can use apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams. It also helps to have regular video conferencing or check-ins through Zoom or Google Meets.
While you shouldn’t burden your workers with too many video meetings, having a weekly or bimonthly check-in helps company direction and a small team's morale. This is especially true if you’re working on projects that require members to work together. However, if your employees are on different schedules or in different time zones, you should take that into account. Try dividing them into smaller groups, so everyone gets a chance to speak.
3. Emotional Needs
The office buzzword for the past few years has been emotional intelligence, and for a good reason. As remote managers or bosses, you need to have effective communication and people management skills. Empathy and emotional awareness are leadership principles that must resonate in teams. Nowhere are these more important than in a remote environment. Anxiety and stress are common problems among people who spend most of their time working from home.
Part of managing remote employees is being sensitive to their needs, whether that’s extending a deadline or simply listening to their concerns. Doing so helps keep personal connections alive despite the lack of physical presence. It also plays a big role in affecting the team culture positively. Offering these small allowances will benefit your remote workforce overall. This leeway translates directly into a higher quality of work, company loyalty, and employee motivation.
We've published a great series of guides that you'll find very useful for coming up with ideas to engage virtual teams:
4. Results Over Process
When it comes to remote working, you can’t focus on the process too much. Understand that your employees have a lot going on at home. So, it’s unlikely they’ll be working on a 9 to 5 schedule or even consistently for many working hours. Most at-home employees work in shorter intervals spaced out over the day. That’s why it’s not a good idea to set a system that requires progress reports or updates on a preset schedule.
Remote working is a format that depends on employee independence and doesn’t leave room for continuous oversight. If your current business model relies on micromanagement, then you won’t have much success replicating it on a remote working format.
5. Encourage a Creative Approach
Since your employees have to rely heavily on their own judgment, encourage them to solve problems creatively. If they’re referring back to you for every issue, you’re wasting valuable time.
When you give them the room to try new things, your workers feel more strongly towards the company. It encourages company loyalty and often, they’ll go the extra mile to do things for the business so they can live up to the responsibility. It also has the added benefit of bringing new voices into the fold. When each worker is engaging in the workplace, the level of conversation and flow of ideas automatically increases.
If your company is working on two levels and has both in-house and remote workers, you need to bridge the gap between them. It is up to you to make your remote workers feel included. Because even if they’re working from home, they’re equal members of your team. Also, if your remote staff need to work in tandem with your office workers, make sure everyone is on the same page.
You should have combined online sessions and taken steps to ensure both sets of workers communicate effectively. The success of your company depends on everyone being on the same page in terms of brand identity, business strategy, and long term goals.
7. Avoid Multi-tasking
We’ve come far enough to know that multitasking isn’t good for productivity. This is a common problem in regular office setups where endless memos and regular meetings keep workers focusing on their tasks. Don’t let this problem carry over into your remote working strategy. Formal report-ins and email threads that require individual responses force a break in the workflow that hurts productivity. Also, avoid giving out multiple tasks at the same time. Let your employees devote their attention to one project.
8. Understand The Various Types of Remote Workers
Remote workers aren’t the same. Some people worst best without interference; others require assistance or the occasional check-in. Certain employees will break down a task and start working as soon as you assign it, while others need to ask detailed questions before they’re ready to begin. So these differences must influence remote team management styles.
This also translates into how your employees manage their time. The biggest challenge remote workers face is time management. When you’re working from home, it’s hard to separate your work time from your free time. Some workers solve this issue by planning out their entire day in advance. So, if you assign a worker like this the last-minute deadline, it’ll upset their entire schedule. The best trick to managing remote employees is by figuring out which category they fall into and treating them accordingly.
Overall, managing remote teams isn’t very different from managing regular employees. As long as you focus on communication and sensitivity in the workplace, you’ll get good results.