With the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees and their managers found themselves working from home, separated from their team members for the first time.
Although close to a quarter of the U.S. workforce already worked from home before the pandemic, being ready to go remote and knowing how to manage your remote teams is essential for not only the survival of the company but to boost employee engagement and ensure your teams are thriving in challenging times.
In preparing for a post-pandemic world, it’s also essential to understand the ins and outs of managing a remote team. With more and more businesses hiring top talent from the global talent pool, managers must support their teams and ensure employee satisfaction.
But what is the best way to ensure your team performs, delivers on expectations, and truly feels like they’re part of a great company? Here’s a look at the five fundamentals of remote team management.
How to Successfully Manage a Remote Team
#1 Hire the Right People
While some people thrive in remote positions, others need office-based setups to flourish. This is why it is essential to select the right team members for your remote workforce. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone. Skills and experience are excellent, but you need the right people for the job, people that can commit to a nontraditional way of getting things done.
The best candidates are self-motivated and self-disciplined. Dig into an applicant’s intentions when they apply for the role. Are they merely considering the remote opportunity because they want to see if it’s for them? Your ideal candidates will be the ones that are focused on making adjustments in order to achieve the best work-life balance, not the ones looking to give a new opportunity a run for its money.
#2 Guide and Support Your Team
Once you have the right people on your remote working team, you need to commit to guiding and supporting them. And this is precisely where the importance of an excellent remote team manager comes in. Without a driven and dynamic manager, even the best remote worker’s talents will be wasted.
Ensure you’re providing your team with adequate and organized training, and don’t simply count on the fact that your new remote team will come with all the skills and experience they need to get the job done. Ideally, you need to provide your team with formal orientation for every new project to ensure they understand their responsibilities, the protocols and procedures, and the company’s mission and vision.
Also, try your best to make the setup work. Help your employees reach their optimum performance or become efficient with their tasks. If you did your best to ascertain that you hire the right people, it shouldn’t be a waste of time exerting the effort to help your remote employees perform better. For example, if some of your employees frequently commit errors or deliver below-average output, consider doing one-on-one or group discussions with them to examine their work process and spot the problem areas. The problems could be easily fixable with the assistance of a manager/supervisor or peer.
#3 Address Communication Issues
Most failures in the management of a remote team can be traced back to miscommunication. It goes beyond errors in transmitted messages and correspondence that fail to reach its intended recipient. Miscommunication can occur when faulty assumptions are made. For instance, they may think that a task is not supposed to start in the absence of written communication, or they may think that silence means yes. Such issues are certainly not irremediable, but if
no prompt correction is implemented, the problem can worsen and create unnecessary friction between the manager and employees.
Misinterpretation is another communication problem that can derail a remote team’s productivity levels. In addition to the possibility of managers or employees wrongly assuming things, there’s also the potential problem of misinterpreting verbal and non-verbal communication. An email from the management that tries to infuse humor may be taken wrongly by some employees. Conversely, an overly friendly tone when communicating with bosses may be considered rude.
Unintentionally offensive habits when conversing via chat, telephone, instant messages, or email open various opportunities for misinterpretation. It’s easy to misunderstand or miscommunicate when there’s a sense of disrespect perceived by either party. Hostility, even at its subtlest, can make people suspect or misinterpret messages.
Rudely worded emails and the repeated failure to meet deadlines can create friction that demolishes trust or prevents trust from being established. On the part of the management, the failure to address employee complaints can be disrespectful that makes employees feel that they have the “right” to offend their bosses in response. These create a toxic relationship that is sure to result in the failure of a remote work setup.
A lack of accountability, discourtesy, and even the inappropriate use of social media all fall under communication issues, issues that can easily throw a remote team out of balance. It is absolutely critical to establish communication standards, protocols, and rules to help eliminate or reduce the amount of miscommunication within the team to ensure the team is appropriately managed and understands expectations.
#4 Leverage New Technologies
Telecommuting is much easier than it was a decade ago. Thanks to the Internet age, remote team managers now have access to a selection of convenient tools that can help them better manage their teams. What’s great about modern tech for telecommuting is that you don’t need to spend a lot on them. You can find numerous free tools for teleconferencing or making free calls online.
There are project or task management platforms you can use on an ad-supported or freemium basis. You can even find free collaboration (usually “freemium” software) for online collaboration that includes advanced features such as desktop sharing, file sharing, and in-app messaging or conferencing.
Make use of software platforms, apps, and online services that enhance the remote working experience. From Zoom to Slack and everything in between, there’s a world of technologies that can help remote teams collaborate, share, and communicate with each other, so it makes sense to use these technologies to your advantage.
#5 Focus on Engagement
Employee engagement entails a sense of involvement and not just participation within a team by designation but part of something bigger. Remote working can often leave team members feeling isolated, which is why your team needs engagement that stimulates personal interaction.
Having people to discuss things related to the job or otherwise prevents the feeling of solitude or sadness. It can also help bolster a sense of responsibility as it instills the idea that others expect something from you, people who appreciate your role in the team. Some teleworkers do well without engagement, but they don’t represent most people who work remotely.
From discussion boards to contests, chat groups, and regular acknowledgment of accomplishments, there are many creative ways to boost employee engagement.
It might be a little trickier to manage a remote team than it is to manage a team of office-based employees. Still, you can counterbalance the drawbacks of telecommuting by focusing on the advantages of remote working.
The best managers coach more than they manage. They’re mentors more than strict managers. And they understand the (sometimes not so subtle) nuances and differences between leadership and management. By hiring the right people, guiding and supporting them, clearing up communication issues, using tech to your advantage, and promoting employee engagement, you can ensure that your remote team thrives regardless of which challenges the world throws at it.
Each of the tips you saw here is simple but not easy. They require time, attention, and consistency to really make a lasting impact. But if you deploy them, your team will thank you for it. Your company will benefit from it. And you’ll be better equipped with the gear required to navigate the waters of change.