Remote team management is a term that has increasingly become popular after the dawn of the global pandemic that appeared in March 2020. It can be defined as managing team members who are physically distant from their colleagues and managers. Teleworking and remote management are related. Thanks to teleworking that allowed 40% of companies to remain open and continue their operations during the lockdown. This was the case with CoachHub. For more than a month, its work team went into full remote control. 26% of these companies planned to use remote work more often, either temporarily or permanently, in April 2022.
To effectively lead a remote team, managers need to cut their employees some slack and adopt ways to hold them accountable. Since they are not continuously monitoring remote employees, they have more time to focus on productivity, resulting in success. To achieve this, they need to become familiar with telecommuting best practices, which is a concept linked to companies’ digital transformation. Shifting to digital culture has led to the emergence of new HR trends whereby leaders provide specific guidance to employees, ensuring they get the emotional support to tackle this crisis and remain engaged as well as productive.
To get started, here are 9 practical tips to help business leaders manage their remote employees.
1. Emphasize communication
Communication ensures that the team is apprised of deadlines, challenges at work, available resources, and they meet the manager’s expectations such as work schedules. There are various means of communication from which the team should choose the one that best fits them, such as texts, phone calls, e-mail, and video chats. Two-way communication between leaders and remote staff provides everyone with the information and perspective they need. Successful managers are good listeners. They survey the workers to identify the challenges they are going through. After getting the feedback, they do something about it to ensure the needs of team members are satisfied.
2. Trust in your employees
When employers provide a supportive structure for the business, managers can put their utmost trust and confidence in their employees. Losing the constant visibility that managers had over their employees can be concerning and frustrating. However, they shouldn’t respond by trying to micromanage them. This will be adding salt to injury, and it will add fatigue and disengage the stressed team members. Daily check-ins are enough to help managers avoid micromanaging their remote employees. It also allows them to get feedback that goes both ways. Trust is key in managing remote employees. As long as your remote employees communicate clearly and meet their goals and deadlines, you can trust that they are being productive and doing an efficient job.
3. Increase recognition
In times of crisis and disruptions, employees’ urge to be recognized increases by about 30%, according to Kropp. Recognition motivates the recipient, and it sets a good example of the behaviors the rest of the team should emulate. Recognition can be in many forms, such as public acknowledgment, tokens of appreciation, low-cost perks, and development opportunities. With diversity in the workplace, leaders can track the output of each employee and find the team that needs to be recognized. This is a way of celebrating success. It will motivate other remote employees to do better and increase collaboration among the team.
4. Focus on outputs, not processes
It is one of the best practices for increasing engagement and empowering employees. Leaders need to define the goals and desired results and then let their employees complete their tasks in the most productive and easiest ways. Through agile project management, a leader can ensure that a project will be delivered on time from employees, enhancing transparency in the team. This encourages creativity and a sense of ownership. Thus the employees will take great pride in their work. The end justifies the means, and so long as your remote team completes its tasks, they are good to receive the recognition they so much deserve.
5. Encourage innovation
The disruptions caused by the pandemic have increased the levels of uncertainty, making managers and employees less likely to take risks. On the contrary, during disruptive times, risk-taking and innovation can contribute to the organization’s success. Managers can help improve innovation for the business by equipping remote employees with the resources they need to develop frugal innovation. Through innovation management, there should be systems to share the successes and have safety in case of failures.
6. Encourage remote social interactions
This new working environment makes workers feel isolated and disoriented, which can affect their productivity. It explains why managers should ensure building connections and collaboration with their employees. Whatever helps to bring normality to the remote team, keep it. To remove the feelings of isolation from your team, consider:
Setting aside specific days, times and methods for team interaction
Successful leaders know that remote teams need extra effort, such as communication, to encourage social interactions. Unlike casual workplaces where collegiality and teamwork are a norm, managers should have a way to include everyone in team activities for remote teams. It might not be easy at first, but you can ensure that team members regularly communicate with practice and encouragement.
Fostering connections and interaction
To ensure that your team is on the same page, encourage them to video call or use any technological means to have professional interactions. Also, online group interactions go a long way in fostering collegiality within your remote employees.
7. Be organized and flexible
Remote management involves having team members under unique circumstances in different home environments. Some employees have children, spouses, and pets. The manager needs to be very accommodating of every person’s unique situation and maintain consistency; he needs to allow his remote employees to work in their flexible hours. Being organized enables the members to follow a concrete plan which should have room for adjusting to strategies when needed. The leadership shouldn’t decide the days the employees can work, as long as they complete their work and are of high quality
8. Track your workers’ progress
Performance management for remote workers is key in tracking their progress because it ensures transparency and accountability. Your employees should give you their work schedule, the tasks they are expected to complete with a given timeframe. Not only will it calm your fears, but it will give your team a specific structure which they will need to fulfill their roles. A good example that organization leaders can use to track performance is software to track the progress of all individuals. Performance management is among the tools used by employers to identify the challenges and concerns their workers are going through.
To know what your team is doing, provide a shared document that will be used to track their activities. As a team, you should agree on acceptable behavior for virtual collaboration. This can include how quickly you will respond to messages or reach out when you need help.
9. Manage expectations
Teams and organizations have had to make significant changes which means that the employees may have new tasks. This affects their ability and motivation, and it may result in unexpected performance or outcomes. When setting out your project, providing guidelines, setting boundaries, setting clear expectations, and requesting feedback are key. To answer the questions that will arise, you should be accessible and clarify issues of concern. The workers should be updated on anything that will affect them, such as staffing changes and the company’s success.
Managing remote employees training
To ensure that your workers are effective and efficient, they need a remote training program. CoachHub is a company that offers entire courses or co-development services to help workers grasp the best practices of working remotely. They are taught to use collaborative tools, their communication and listening skills are enhanced, and everything else that will help to be well engaged in a virtual setup.
Challenges of Managing Remote Employees
Below are some of the challenges that supervisors and business owners experience when they manage a remote workforce.
1. Surrounding distractions
In remote settings, there are numerous distractions, and most often, remote workers are encouraged to have dedicated workspaces and adequate childcare before they work remotely. Some of these distractions are inevitable such as unexpected parenting responsibilities, and managers should show empathy and understand that remote work is the opposite of corporate culture.
2. Lack of face-to-face supervision
Face-to-face supervision is key in our daily exchanges, and supervisors track productivity and dedication using these encounters. Lack of face-to-face interaction draws concerns from both sides whereby supervisors worry that the employees are not working hard and employees lack managerial support and communication. This makes team members feel that they are not supported or helped in getting their work done.
3. Social isolation
Remote work is fraught with loneliness because there is a lack of informal social interaction among the workers. Isolation affects each person and in different ways. When an employee is isolated for a long time, they will feel they are less wanted and can cause them to leave the company.
4. Communication breakdowns and bottlenecks
When working remotely, you cannot peek over the cubicle and ask for help or check with your supervisor to see if they will answer your question. Digital messages can go unnoticed, and lacking access to information can hinder progress and frustrate teammates. In remote culture, interpersonal interactions are easily lost because digital replies lack that connection between coworkers. Also, communication breakdown can cause some workers to lack access to information, which may interfere with work.
How Can Managers Support Remote Employees
Below are quick and inexpensive things that managers can use to ensure a smooth transition. They include:
1. Establish rules of engagement
Rules of engagement (ROE) are essential in matrix management because they ensure that workers collaborate with other colleagues from other divisions. To produce efficient and satisfying tasks, supervisors must set expectations and ideal timing and means of communication for their teams. Through objectives, clarity is created, and every person knows what is expected of them. Rules of engagement should be established soon, particularly when it comes to expectations regarding communication. This can include videoconferencing for daily check-ins, the best time to reach the manager, and when the leader will reach a team member. Peers sharing information as needed should also be a part of the rules of engagement.
During the disruption, workers might start losing their role definitions, and this may derail their focus. ROE ensures that workers are focusing on their goals and their leader is focusing on what is to be accomplished.
2. Provide encouragement and emotional support
The abrupt shift to remote work can cause stress, anxieties, and mixed reactions among workers. As a leader, you need to listen to them and empathize with their struggles, especially in a holacracy system where they can lack someone to talk to. Try to elicit important information by asking general questions like “How is the remote situation working out?” An effective leader uses the two-pronged approach, acknowledging and providing affirmation of their confidence. Neuromanagement leads to better collaboration, innovation and idea generation.
3. Create opportunities for remote social interactions
Workplace diversity is a common occurrence in companies, and leaders can structure ways for each employee to interact socially and freely. An example of fostering social interactions is at the beginning of team calls to call for non-work items such as virtual parties, which help with social interactions. This enhances diversity management because every worker feels included and a part of the team.
4. Schedule daily check ins
Successful supervisors use video conferencing to establish face-to-face interaction with their teams. Though texts, phones, and emails may have sufficed, video conferencing has become key in management trends.
If you have independent employees, it could be one-on-one calls, whereas a team call is enough if they are highly collaborative. Daily check-ins using calls are regular and predictable. This forum allows workers to consult with you or have their concerns and questions be heard. It is important to adapt the length of your meetings, the lengthy office meetings may not work remotely, and instead, you can have short virtual videos. This strategy should be applied in the whole process of management.
5. Provide several different communication technology options
Having different technology options will give your workers more opportunities to communicate and collaborate effectively. Video conferencing is a technology that offers participants visual cues similar to when they are face-to-face. Visual cues improve mutual knowledge, and they help to reduce isolation among the team. Technology helps promote a liberated company, and video calls are useful for more complex conversations. For simpler and less formal discussions messaging functionality such as Zoom and Slack can be used.
Final thoughts on leadership
Developing a leadership style as a manager will yield great success with your team and reduce your chances of becoming a toxic manager. In recent years , female leadership has been accepted and is key for businesses to encourage more females to take over the helm. For a company or industry to remain operational, the employees are essential, and they need to be inspired and confident. It explains the importance of managerial coaching plans to local managers. It makes them acquire valuable skills such as communication and listening, integrity, humility, and global and strategic vision. Diversity and inclusion are also encouraged to accommodate every member of the team and their needs.
At CoachHub, we provide a professional coaching solution and among our many programs is remote management. Our coaches are certified, and we use a 100% online action plan to motivate remote teams.
Decentralizing your workforce has its pros and cons and amid the global pandemic managing your employees remotely is crucial. Setting up a remote work program is no easy feat, and it requires deliberation, planning, and technology. From defining the work and expectations, technology, testing remote work, to building remote into your culture. Management training is crucial, and thanks to CoachHub, we help drive your organization towards success by ensuring individuals are well-coached regarding remote working.