With more work becoming remote, there have been additional challenges for managers looking to keep teams productive and happy. Successfully managing remote workers can be challenging, but it can be incredibly rewarding and lead to a happier team if given the right tools and resources.
That’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide to managing remote workers to help businesses owners ensure their teams are engaged and productive.
The Paradigm Shift Towards Remote Working
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and differing lockdown rules, companies have had to shift to remote work completely to adapt to the 2021 remote work trends. This has meant an increase in home offices, video conferencing tools like Zoom, and general changes in working patterns. And it looks like the trend is here to stay – 97% of employees currently say they do not want to return to the office full time.
As companies adjust to the new normal of remote teams, increasing employee engagement and productivity while still attaining work-life balance is the key priority. That’s why it’s so crucial to develop strategies around successful remote management. This includes fostering a supportive work culture as everyone works from home.
How to Manage Remote Workers Successfully
While every company has its own unique management methods, some general concepts can go a long way in developing better relationships with a remote team. Managing remote workers is all about encouraging collaboration and making it easy and convenient for employees to work in the way they feel most comfortable. And the 2018 remote work trends, as well as the 2020 remote work trends, highlight the changes taking place in the workplace.
That includes clear communication, taking the time to understand goals and priorities, and creating avenues for employees to reach out with needs.
16 Useful Tips for Managers
We’ll look at some of the most useful tips to manage a remote team to ensure both employes and employees are happy and feel able to reach max productivity levels.
1. Hire the Right People
While remote work is definitely catching on, it doesn’t mean that everyone enjoys it equally. Therefore, when interviewing people or evaluating team members, it’s important to identify whether they like this style of working, how they like to work, and how collaborative they are.
If employees are not happy in the role or do not feel like they are part of the team, they just won’t be the right fit at the end of the day. That’s why hiring the right people can make a huge difference in team management and why it’s worth spending more time on when working remotely.
2. Understand the Challenges of Remote Working
While remote working has its pros, it’s also a challenge for many. Understanding what your remote workforce struggles with and how you can improve it can go a long way. Some of the key challenges of remote working include:
- Home office space issues including old or uncomfortable equipment
- Easy distractions if not in a work environment
- Feeling disconnected from the larger team and difficulties in collaboration
- Trouble juggling tasks and general time management issues
- Struggling with mastering technology and collaboration tools
- Missing team interactions and general office chit-chat for a casual work break
While some of these challenges may require a bit of creativity to solve, even doing simple initiatives and well-being measures can help alleviate challenges for the team.
3. Make Sure Remote Employees Know Your Expectations
There is no doubt that communication can be a challenge when working remotely, especially regarding expectations and workload management. That’s why it’s incredibly vital to prepare employees for the remote workforce culture and communicate expectations early on.
That can include establishing best practices for working, general expectations around how often employees need to be online, general check-ins, and periodic team meetings to ensure everyone is comfortable and happy. The more employees know what is expected from them, the better the end work product will be.
4. Equip Your Team with Resources and Technology
As we’ve mentioned above, one of the major issues that many remote employees feel is that they lack the resources and technology needed. Access to an office is no longer possible, which means they don’t get the perks of equipment and other resources that they might have in person.
The best way to counteract this problem is to equip your team with the resources and technology the team needs the most. Business owners can provide:
- Company laptops
- Peripheral equipment such as keyboards, mouses, additional monitors if needed
- Standing desks, chairs, and other low-budget office equipment
- Professional development courses, particularly areas where remote work proves challenging, include time management, workload prioritization, etc.
- Coworking space passes/budget if team members are not near an office location.
- A small stipend to cover remote working expenses and purchasing items and equipment for employees to use per their own discretion
5. Allow Your Employees to Work Flexible Hours
One of the key benefits of remote working is that it offers more flexibility than being in the office. One of the best perks you can offer is flexible hours to keep remote team members happy and engaged.
As long as employees don’t take undue advantage of the flexibility, you’ll find that work gets done just as well – if not better, and happier employees.
Flexible hours also ensure that employees can establish work life balance and look after their mental well-being, providing added benefit. Encourage employees to communicate with one another around what hours they’re working via email and when they plan to be offline so that deadlines are maintained and collaboration is not compromised.
6. Know Your Team Members’ Goals and Aspirations
Managing remote employees is about planning for short-term and long-term career growth. The more you can plan and work with each team member around their aspirations and goals, the more likely they are to stay.
Measures like this go a long way with employee retention and create a better work culture that can sustain itself remotely. Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins and pulse surveys across the wider team. This will make sure you have a clear idea of what employees want from their professional development and career growth.
7. Do Not Overload Employees
With everyone working remotely, it’s often difficult for business owners to assign workload appropriately and ensure workers have equal amounts of work going on. It’s tempting to overload and assigns employees with lots of different tasks, but that doesn’t benefit.
Overworked and overloaded employees won’t get through all their work and may have trouble voicing when they are overwhelmed. Try not to assign too much to people too soon, and make sure to leave channels of communication open, such as email, so they can voice concerns and talk through tasks if needed.
8. Provide Several Communication Options for Your Remote Employees
Jumping off the last point, the more employees feel like they easily talk to you, the more comfortable they feel. With remote work, it’s easy to feel left out, and many find it difficult to initiate conversations. Having several options for communications helps every person feel like they are part of a team and that employers can answer questions when needed.
Some communication options that employers can use are:
- 1-1 phone calls
- Conference calls
- Video calls and video conferencing,
- Instant messaging platform examples such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace, etc.
9. Focus on Organization
Keeping teams on track and focused is often difficult when managing remote workers, which is why it’s incredibly important to have best practices in place to keep things organized and projects on track. A collaboration tool can be a huge benefit in that respect, giving everyone in the team the structure needed to manage their remote work while also giving business owners more visibility into the remote workforce overall.
Some great collaboration tools that managers can use are provided below:
10. Always Continue Monitoring Productivity
Everyone struggles when it comes to productivity, whether in the office or while working from home. To get workers motivated and ensure they are working comfortably, monitoring productivity is vital. Regularly checking in, such as doing a quick team conference call or one-on-one phone call, can help to engage employees.
Managers can also use tools for time tracking, such as HiveDesk, which monitors activity levels so that teams can easily identify cases where more communication is required with team members.
11. Treat Employees as Individuals
Every employee is different and will need different things to feel and work their best. That’s why it’s important to balance business needs with individual needs and ensure that employees feel seen and heard.
Treat them as individuals, and take time out to understand what will help them work their best. You can do a survey or informal chats to identify issues and brainstorm solutions to make employees feel part of the team.
12. Encourage Innovation
As everyone continues to work from home, encouraging innovation should be a big priority for business owners. It’s a new way of working for many, so there are many opportunities to improve processes, find new ways to relate to one another, and collaborate in different ways.
As you learn more about employee issues and needs, encourage the workforce to brainstorm solutions and innovate ways news of working together as they deal with the pandemic. Great solutions can come out of the process and can help teams work together even better.
13. Promote Dialogue Between Employees
One of the elements that often gets lost in remote work is spontaneous conversation and dialogue. With so many pre-planned meetings and Zoom conference calls, it can be difficult to make room for more relaxed and informal dialogue. However, without that regular dialogue and support, collaboration and tasks become more challenging. This is because remote workers feel isolated.
Promoting more dialogue between an employee and others on the team can make a huge difference in their engagement and motivation to work. Casual coffee breaks, informal chats, and meetings, camera-off hangouts – these are some simple ways to help employees connect better.
14. Provide Regular Feedback and Support Workers
A remote workforce needs just as much feedback and support as they would in the office. Because it’s difficult to communicate with each other across different channels, having structured feedback and support sessions is crucial. Employees feel more at ease when there is transparency in place and turn to managers for extra support and guidance.
Make it a point to schedule regular sessions with the wider team and individuals to give them positive feedback (or constructive criticism) and provide avenues for support to feel more comfortable with their workload overall.
15. Demonstrate Trust
Remote working is very much about trust between managers, the business, and the team itself. Without trust, it’s easy for communication to break down and makes it difficult for employees to feel truly comfortable – and that, in turn, leads to a loss of motivation and productivity.
The most crucial thing for managers to do is show that they trust their remote workforce. When tasks are assigned, resist the urge to micromanage and show team members that you trust they will complete tasks at the deadlines assigned and in time. You can offer regular meetings or checks if they feel it’s important, especially if they have questions, but try to make it as collaborative as possible.
16. Celebrate Milestones
Achievements need to be celebrated, and that is no different when it comes to remote working. It is incredibly important to keep track of internal milestones, celebrate great client work. And you can praise team members for their work with the organization.
That can come in the form of a quick email, a celebratory video call, or another way to recognize great work by remote employees. For managers, you can keep a document somewhere with notable milestones and accomplishments. You can then do a wrap-up at the end of the month so that teams get a nice reminder of all their hard work at the end of the month.
What makes a successful virtual team?
To have a successful virtual team, several factors go into the process, such as:
- Promoting collaboration among teams
- Providing workers with flexibility in respect to working hours and time
- Fostering a culture of open communication
- Treating employees as individuals and addressing needs
- Celebrating milestones and accomplishments
- Using organization tools for project management and communication
How do you manage remote staff training?
Organizations can handle remote staff training in two ways. You can run live sessions that team members can join in at designated times and encourage them not to book other meetings and responsibilities that could clash. Alternatively, you can provide pre-recorded sessions or video recordings of live training after remote staff can watch on their own time.
How do you motivate a team remotely?
You can motivate a team remotely through communication and organization. Some ways to motivate a virtual team include:
- Celebrating achievements and milestones in monthly meetings and calls
- Using organization and time management tools to ensure employees know what they are working on and their deadlines
- Promoting dialogue and collaboration between team members
- Understanding each team member’s goals and aspirations
- Allowing employees to work flexible hours
How do you manage employees during Covid 19?
There are many ways to manage employees during the pandemic. To manage remote teams during COVID-19, you can do the following:
- Open several channels of communication for employees to ensure everyone is clear on their tasks
- Equip your team with the right resources and technology
- Understand and address individual challenges that team members may have with working remotely
- Encourage innovation among team members to find new ways to work together
- Ensure remote teams understand your expectations and can communicate when work is unclear.