Remote work management involves managing remote workers with diverse skills outside the company’s physical location. Managing teams remotely requires a mix of communication, collaboration, and technology to succeed. The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to remote work in many industries. Gartner’s global survey revealed 88% of organizations mandated their employees to work from home in 2020. Another study by Owl Labs revealed that 80% of full-time employees expect to work remotely post-pandemic.
Remote work has now become an essential part of global commerce. Companies need to transform their operations to accommodate remote work to retain top talent and maintain workplace satisfaction. Employees now prefer to work remotely.
(Image source: Buffer)
Managing teams remotely has its benefits as well as challenges. To succeed in remote work management, companies need to create a managing remote workers toolkit that includes training on transitioning to remote work, the technology required, and best practices for both employees and managers.
Challenges of Working Remotely
To successfully manage teams remotely, managers need to understand remote work challenges. Understanding potential bottlenecks help them know what to look out for in advance and apply solutions.
Distractions in your Home Environment
Having home offices is not an option for most people, so the chances of distractions are high. Disturbance could be in the form of children showing up during online video meetings, pets wanting to play with you while working, or even loud roommates and neighbors. You can also get distracted when you change your work schedule by waking up late or failing to plan your meals ahead of time, where you end up prepping food during work hours.
The Covid-19 pandemic has isolated employees from interacting with their co-workers. This situation has led to feelings of loneliness which has affected their sense of belonging to the organizations. Due to the increase in psychological outcomes associated with isolation, organizations need to provide online counseling services and remote interaction opportunities.
Working with team members in different time zones can cause challenges such as synchronizing meeting times, check-in calls, and work delivery deadlines. Planning well in advance with team members in other locations helps prevent missed meetings and project deadlines.
Working remotely on a project with other team members can be challenging due to limited access to team members and project documents. The best practice is implementing project management tools that everyone can participate in, post updates, and view progress in real-time.
Tracking Employee Performance
Without proper tools tracking employee performance can be difficult. Remote working apps help managers monitor screen time and hours spent working online. This solution still poses a challenge because some employees may feel that such tracking software is invasive. The best practice is to establish an environment of mutual and focus more on deliverables rather than processes.
Culture influences work practices and habits. Some cultures embrace long working hours that restrict the time employees spend time with family. Some cultures restrict working during certain times and days for religious reasons. Managers need to be sensitive to and accommodate diverse cultures.
Tips for Successful Remote Work Management
These tips are great for managers to manage their teams remotely and improve their remote work experience.
Create Regular Check-in Sessions
This approach can be in the form of one-on-one calls with team members or group calls. Regular check-ins give your employees a channel to raise concerns and resolve issues. Check-in calls are also an excellent way to connect with your team and build stronger work relationships translating to more engagement and better results.
Frequent communication with remote teams clarifies expectations on tasks and projects. Clear communication of expectations streamlines operations across teams in different locations. Ensure communication is professional and within working hours. Remote interaction can easily blur the lines between work and home. In as much as frequent communication is good for team spirit, setting boundaries on when that communication happens is just as crucial to your team’s productivity. Employees need to know you respect their leisure and family time; therefore, set working hours and ensure work communication is within these hours unless necessary.
Equip your Employees
Establishing a home office is costly to your employees. You should ensure they have the appropriate technology required to do their jobs. Equipment such as laptops, desks, work phones, cameras for virtual meetings, power backups, and broadband internet connection are just some of the basics that employees need to work remotely. This equipment doesn’t come cheap. Throw in remote working software, and the initial setup cost can cost a pretty penny.
Also, equip your managers and employees by training them on how to work remotely effectively. Workers need training on setting up their remote work environment and accommodating different living situations, especially during virtual meetings.
Preparing your workforce to work remotely is not just about providing tools; it’s also acquiring soft skills to manage a remote work environment.
Build Trust in your Workforce
Trust and confidence in your workforce is an essential prerequisite to building an effective remote team. It may be tempting to micromanage your team, given that you don’t have physical access to them, but this will only lead to disengagement and average results. As the manager, you need to create a supportive environment where employees are trusted to do their jobs, communication is open, feedback is constructive, and workers are equipped with all necessary tools.
Remote work also brings with it anxieties about job performance among your employees. Emphasize your trust in them by giving positive reviews about their performance, encourage them to speak up on issues, and celebrate individual and team achievements.
Emphasize Quality over Strict Processes
As a manager, focus on the quality of work your employees put out rather than the volume. This new paradigm is a difficult pill to swallow for most traditional managers. It means allowing your employees to complete their work in ways that are most productive to them, rather than insisting on strict and rigid schedules. You can agree with your team on the best times to hold check-in calls, frequency of updates, and virtual meetings. Also, communicate clearly that your main goal is quality results. This approach gives your employees a feeling of control over their work and reduces the pressure to meet unnecessary demands.
Spearhead Social Interactions
Remote work does not signal an end to social interactions among employees. As their manager, take charge of planning fun interactions that do not center around work like games and happy hour. You can do this virtually on the same platforms you use for work. Such activities take the pressure off work and liven up the work environment, even if it happens remotely. Once pandemic restrictions are lifted and with proper guidelines in place, organize a team-bonding retreat where employees can converge.
The sudden shift to remote work has taken a toll on many employees; it’s crucial to encourage and be empathetic to your teams as much as possible. Managers need to listen to their worker’s concerns, ask questions about their well-being, and help them manage crises without overreacting. Managing teams remotely requires emotional intelligence on the manager’s part to handle issues tactfully.
Transitioning to Remote Workspace
The steps below will help you plan your transition to remote work smoothly.
Step 1: Evaluate your business needs.
As you start transitioning to remote work, it’s essential to evaluate your business and see which functions can operate remotely. Some roles are not suited for remote work and will need to be on-site while remote workers perform other functions.
Step 2: Set expectations.
Once you decide which tasks to send to remote workers, outline expectations for individuals and teams. This approach prevents confusion, miscommunication, and missed project deadlines. Set these expectations with the individuals and groups and seek their feedback. Discuss and agree on official working hours, communication frequency, number of check-in calls, submission schedules, and work deadlines. Such a discussion sets you and your teams up for a smooth transition to working remotely.
Step 3: Set communication guidelines.
These guidelines determine how often managers communicate with their employees and what platforms to use for communication—also, state communication times to avoid disruption while working.
Step 4: Clarify goals and success metrics.
Clarify individual and team goals so that employees know the results they’re aiming for—also, providing the metrics for success helps them structure their work productively.
Step 5: Discuss Compensation
Staff members may have concerns about their compensation computation when they switch to remote work. If work hours change, make sure to discuss any changes in compensation and record them in writing. Compensations matters also involve updating their contracts to reflect the new working hours, work expectations, and scope.
Step 6: Draft a remote work policy
A remote work policy will streamline expectations and set the foundation for remote work management. The policy should address things like working hours, accountability, communication channels, and meeting time.
Step 7: Equip your workforce
Once goals, expectations, and success metrics are established, proceed to equip your staff with tools needed for remote working. This approach demands that you prepare a budget, purchase, and ship equipment to their locations. Please discuss with your staff beforehand so that the equipment is specific to their roles. Also, equip your staff with software and cloud-based applications for task management, project management, communication, creative work, etc., and pay for subscriptions before they start working remotely.
Best Tools for Remote Work Management
The tools you need for successful remote work management should be easy to use, easy to install, and scalable across teams in different locations. The managing remote workers’ toolkit should cater to communication, storage, project management, task management, HR, and financial management needs. These tools include:
Setting up a remote work environment requires essential tools such as laptops, mice, keyboards, headsets, USB docking stations, and power cables.
An office suite provides basic work applications like a word processor, presentation app, and spreadsheets. Microsoft and Google have their Office Suite, which is easy to install and set up.
All remote staff needs to be connected to reliable broadband internet access. However, in some locations with poor or nonexistent fiber networks, you may need to consider fast, reliable Wi-Fi deliverable through pocket-sized dongles and subscriptions to 4G mobile data that workers can tether to their computers.
Team Communication Apps
Facilitate quick updates and conversations among employees by using apps such as Slack or Discord. Team communication applications are an excellent way for team members to stay connected without resorting to emails.
Meeting Scheduling Applications
Meeting scheduling apps let you track multiple meetings easily and give recipients the option to select their preferred time slots. The apps also sync with your calendar on mobile and desktop, ensuring you do not forget to attend a meeting. Consider using scheduling apps like Calendly, Doodle, or 10to8.
For easier collaboration, establish secure cloud storage that employees can access and share folders and files from various locations. Companies like Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, and many others offer affordable cloud storage that’s secure and easy to navigate.
Project Management Software
Projects need specialized software to accommodate tasks, updates, and workflows from multiple users and teams. The software needs to be customizable to your project’s needs. Consider software such as Trello Remote Work, JIRA, Scoro, or Basecamp used by globally distributed teams to handle small to large projects.
Video Conferencing Applications
Tools such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft teams are ideal for large capacity meetings and are easy to install. Zoom can accommodate up to 100 participants without paying for a subscription which is perfect for medium-sized companies. These applications also have features such are break rooms, screen sharing, live chats, and whiteboards. Google Meet has live Captioning, which is a win for accessibility.
This software handles recurring HR and Finance tasks such as payroll, invoicing, requisitions, budget tracking, employee records management, and PTO applications. Consider using software such as Sage, Citrix, or Workday to automate your administrative tasks.
Remote work management is the new normal. Organizations must embrace this paradigm shift and take proactive steps to guarantee continuity in this new reality.