The remote working landscape :
In the U.S alone, around 4.3 million people work remotely. 72% of HR professionals agree that work flexibility will emerge as an important factor in hiring and retention, in the coming years. With more and more companies allowing remote working as part of their policies, one thing is for certain- this isn’t a trend that is going away any time soon.
Having said that, remote working has its own challenges for both employees as well as managers. Managing a team remotely is far from easy. There are communication issues, trust issues, and most importantly, feelings of disconnect that can crop up to hinder the long-term productivity of the business. So, if you’re someone who is new to this or are struggling with it.
Get to know your team mates – This is important. You have to take out time to know each and every member of your team. Since you don’t get to see them personally, it is even more important for you to make efforts to understand them individually. So, indulge in small talk, ask them what they like, their strengths, their hobbies etc. This will make them feel valued and respected, and help you build a rapport.
Focus on deliverables, don’t micromanage – One of the biggest reasons employees prefer working remotely is that they can manage both work and family life well. Respect that. Allow them the flexibility and freedom to work as per their own time and pace. This way, employees will be able to manage things in a way that is most productive for them. As long as you’re getting things done, it should be fine. Moreover, if you are managing remote teams, you have to shed the nine-to-five routine. Focus on the output rather than the process. Micro management doesn’t help here.
Communicate a lot – One of the biggest challenges remote workers face is the feeling of loneliness and isolation. They often feel left out and this can hamper their productivity in the long run. The only way to deal with this is to communicate regularly and often. From video calls and chats, to emails and phone calls, use every mode of communication you can to reach out to your employees and encourage them to do the same. Make yourself accessible. This will give employees the confidence that they are not alone and support is just a call away.
Establish a daily routine for virtual meetings – Fix a time for meetings. Use video calls rather than conference calls and chats. Video calling allows face-to-face interactions, which are very important and a lot more personal. The agenda is simple. As it’s almost like an office meeting, talk about the agenda for the day, tasks to do, provide feedback, seek clarifications, etc. There is a wide array of video conferencing apps and tools available that can make it possible. Apps like Uber Conference, Zoom, Skype etc. are especially helpful.
Invest in collaboration tools and software – For remote workforce management, all your team members should be on the same page and aligned with your company’s objectives. It’s your duty as a manager to make sure that your team has all the resources, tools, software etc. to do their jobs efficiently. All-in-one communication and project management software solutions can help with collaboration, schedule and planning, resource management, budget management and documentation. These can help you streamline the entire workflow, so that you and your team don’t end up wasting precious time looking for files, sending different emails to different people, etc. Trello, Zoho, Asana, and Jira are some of the project management software solutions that businesses can use.
Reward and recognition – This becomes even more critical when you’re managing remote teams. Remote workers don’t see or meet you in person every day. They are just working for you from afar. It’s natural for them to feel low and isolated at times. They need motivation from time to time to give their best. So, encourage them, offer help, review their work, and appreciate when necessary and give suggestions or offer help wherever required. Small perks like an appreciation email or a monetary incentive can help. You may not recognize it at first, but these little gestures go a long way in boosting the morale of the employees and fostering a feeling of mutual trust and respect.
Final words :
What you need to know is that, there is no special skill required for managing remote workers. In fact, it’s quite similar to managing people in an office. However, each remote team is unique, and has a different set of challenges. So, understand those and take efforts to mitigate them. Remote working is quickly becoming the norm, and the sooner you prepare for it, the better it will be.