5 Ways to Effectively Manage a Remote Team
Did you know there has been a 159% increase in employees working remotely since 2005?
Or how about the fact that 70 percent of people globally work remotely at least once a week? While there are many benefits to work-at-home jobs for both employees and employers, there are also some things to consider when managing a remote workforce. Managing remote employees varies slightly compared to traditional office employees. While no two companies take the exact same approach to remote work, there are several basic tips you can follow if you’re tasked with the responsibility of managing a remote team.
1. Establish Clear Processes for Communication
Communication is the key to success of any relationship, so it should be no surprise that it’s the first topic that comes up when talking about remote employees. Thanks to the magic of technology, there are many ways to stay in touch with employees, you’ll just have to decide what works the best for your business. The top methods include:
- Video conferencing (Skype, WebEx)
- Instant messaging (Slack)
Additionally, because there are so many communication methods, you’ll want to narrow down which ones you are using, but also how you should use them, so everybody knows the best way to get in touch. There are times when a text or instant message is all you need, typically for something that’s a quick question or heads up message, like you’re running to a doctor's appointment.
For topics and discussions that may require more detail, however, an email could sum everything up, but it might also be a good time to hop on a phone or video call. While technology makes quick communication like instant messages easy, the tone of messages can also get lost (i.e. sarcasm), which could complicate a situation. This is why it’s important to choose the right method. Creating a simple document outlining what communication method is best may also be helpful. After all, you don’t want to be the person who is always creating a meeting that could have been an email.
2. Design and Follow Work Flows
After communication, the largest concern around remote jobs is managing productivity. Luckily, thanks to the magic of technology, this aspect of home-based working has simplified this concern greatly. Some companies fear that employees won’t produce as much work if they are home compared to an office. However most of the time, employees report being more productive as there are fewer distractions at home. To help track your remote employee’s productivity, there are tools like Trello or Mintent that can be used to track various tasks or projects to ensure employees are getting their work done. For example, with Mintent, you can create workflows for specific jobs that will define due dates and tasks to be completed on each step of a project. Trello can be helpful for creating both long and short term tasks which makes performance tracking even easier.
3. Meet Up When Possible
Despite the fact that technology has made it easier than ever to work remotely, there’s no replacement for face-to-face meetings. While people usually say they are more productive at home due to the lack of others being around, many have reported increased loneliness from working remotely. Just because you don’t see members of your team on a daily basis doesn’t mean you should never connect in person. Here are a few ways to make that happen:
- Ask local team members to come into the office (or meet at a coffee shop, if you don’t have a brick and mortar business) one day a week
- Plan monthly, quarterly or annual retreats – make them fun, educational, or focus on team-building.
Creating some time to meet as a team when possible can help increase employee engagement and strengthen workplace bonds, which leads to increased productivity and benefits to your small business.
4. Keep a (Semi) Regular Schedule
The beauty of working from home is the increased flexibility. It can greatly simplify one’s life: employees spend less time commuting, have an easier time making important personal appointments or picking kids up from school, and also brings the ability to choose a work schedule that plays to a person’s personal productivity cycle. It’s possible that your remote team has some of these events sprinkled into their schedules, or you may have an added layer of complexity if your employees live in different time zones.
When it comes to managing remote employees, you want to know that they are working and reachable, but also leave the door to flexibility still open that will allow them to adapt their hours to fit their individual lifestyles. Having employees follow some type of schedule can be crucial for everyone involved but doesn’t have to be restrictive. For example, if your team is partially remote, this could be asking for people to stick to the same work from home days as much as possible. In the case of differing time zones, you may want people to send out reminders of when they will be working so important deadlines don’t get missed because somebody shut down for the day in another state and forgot to tell someone.
5. Follow a Performance Review Schedule
Even though your employees are remote, you should still maintain a consistent process for evaluating their performance. There is the complexity of not spending as much in-person time with your employees, but you should still have a good idea of the type of work they are performing. Because you are working remotely, following a schedule like weekly one-on-ones can be really helpful to ensure that everyone is on the same page. For larger performance review conversations, there are many options you can follow outside of the standard annual performance review, like quarterly or bi-annual reviews.
When managing a remote team, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. However, the tips above can ensure that you are effectively managing the team and that employees are happy, engaged, and hitting goals. As with any process, you may need to reevaluate at regular intervals to see how effectively things are going and work towards making any changes. Additionally, don’t be afraid to request feedback from your employees; it will make them feel like their opinion is valued and help develop a more positive work environment overall.