Remote work has become more popular than ever over the past year and a half. More companies are making the decision to become partially or fully remote, in many cases permanently. If your organization is one of them, it’s important to manage your remote team efficiently and effectively in order to keep your company running normally.
Managing remote workers is easier said than done. Think about it: how do you keep track of dozens of remote employees (perhaps more), all working in their own homes, and make sure that the work still gets completed? It’s tough to maintain workflows, address standard workday problems, and keep up morale at the same time.
But it’s not all bad news. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to make managing remote teams easier. When done properly, having your team go remote can be a great thing—there’s evidence that it actually increases productivity and morale among many teams.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the inherent challenges of managing remote workers. Then, we’ll discuss tips for remote managers that can transform your operation even when it has gone partially or fully remote.
The Challenges of Managing Remote Workers
There’s no question that managing a remote workforce can be challenging. But remote work is here to stay, so it’s best to tackle it head-on and do it right.
Some of the challenges of managing remote workers include:
- No face-to-face supervision. This is the big issue with remote work, of course. You, as the manager or supervisor, can’t be there physically with your employees to guide them, to help them when a problem arises. Many things you used to do have now become digital.
- Distractions at home. Kids, pets, the refrigerator, the television. There are certainly a lot of distractions for remote employees. One of the challenges of managing remote workers is keeping them free from distractions in their own homes and getting them to focus on the work that needs to be done.
- Limited access to necessary information. Now that your employees aren’t in the office, it can be harder for them to access necessary information that they need. Job-related information, HR guidelines, company policies, and other crucial information will need to be moved into a digital format if it hasn’t been already.
- Declining morale/culture. No matter how you look at it, there’s a difference between being together in the office and being spread apart at home. Your office culture and workforce morale can take a hit when things move to a remote setup.
Tips on How to Manage Virtual Teams
You’re well aware of the challenges of managing remote teams. The question is, what can you do to make it easier? It’s not as difficult as you may think—with the right approach, you can keep your remote workforce happy and productive.
Read on for some remote work tips for managers:
Schedule regular check-ins.
Unless your team has been working remotely for a long time and is used to the process, it’s a good idea to schedule regular—perhaps daily—check-ins to keep everyone on the same page. Whether it’s an email, phone call, or a video conference, checking in with your employees regularly to see what they’re working, how they’re feeling, and what they could use to do their jobs better is essential. That’s part of being a manager, after all—taking the temperature of your team and finding out what you can do to facilitate a better working environment for them.
Check-ins are part of the frequent communication that managing remote teams requires, but it’s not the whole picture. You must keep up with things like performance reviews, departmental meetings, and periodic one-on-ones. Don’t let the move to remote work break down these regular channels of communication and collaboration.
Management-to-employee communication is important and so is employee-to-employee communication. Make sure your team has access to tools like Zoom, Slack, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts in order to collaborate and communicate with each other. It’s essential that your employees are empowered to talk to one another in order to do their best work.
Set and manage expectations.
Set expectations for your employees’ work and how they’ll do it. That might include things like communication methods, the tools used for certain tasks or projects, the chain of command, etc. When employees know what’s expected of them from the start, things will go much more smoothly. It’s important that you don’t assume your team knows where to focus their time and energy—otherwise, you might have an entire remote workforce doing tasks aimlessly without any real direction.
Checking in frequently and requesting feedback about the process is the best way to manage those expectations. Find out from the source what’s working and what isn’t, and adjust accordingly.
Provide necessary resources.
As mentioned above, one of the biggest challenges of remote work is providing employees with the necessary resources they need to get their jobs done. Make sure your team has what they need—account access, client information, communication tools, and more. Also keep in mind that hardware might be a part of the necessary resources for remote work, too. Your team might need new computers or laptops, better Wi-Fi signals, headsets, webcams, and other equipment. Factoring in these costs when budgeting for a remote team is very important.
Track your team’s progress.
This is part of managing expectations. Tracking your team’s work doesn’t mean hovering over their shoulders and second-guessing or double-checking everything they do. But it does mean making sure goals are met in a timely fashion. It’s your responsibility as a manager or supervisor to track the progress of the work your remote team is doing—that way, you can find out if things are going well or if they need to be improved. Identifying bottlenecks in the process is the only way to smooth things out and keep your operation running properly, even when your workers are remote.
It’s safe to say that the COVID-19 pandemic took nearly everyone by surprise. The shift to remote work happened more suddenly and in a more unexpected way than anyone could have predicted. That’s why it’s important to be flexible—we’re all figuring things out as we go. Staying adaptive and understanding during this shift to remote work is your job as a manager, and it will trickle down to your team members if you do it right. Keep in mind that everyone has a different home life, and adapting to the changing environments and pressures of remote work is simply part of the process.
Check for overload.
When you’re in the office, it’s easy to tell when an employee is overloaded with work. They’ll either express it to you directly, or you’ll see a drop-off in performance or an elevated stress level. In a remote setting, it’s not as easy to tell when an employee is feeling overwhelmed. If there isn’t a workflow management system set up to regulate tasks going to employees, it’s easy for too much work to end up on one person’s plate.
Keep a close eye on all of your employees’ workloads to make sure one person isn’t getting the brunt of the work.
Just as you would give team members a shout-out in the office for a job well done, or recognize an employee of the month, do it in a remote setting, too. It’s a quick drain on morale when you don’t recognize success and hard work when it happens. Whether you write a quick email to the company recognizing an employee’s recent success, or give them a shout-out in person on the next Zoom call, calling out successes and achievements when they happen is all the more important now that we’re working remotely.
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To learn more about our services and to get started on your talent search, contact your local PrideStaff office today.