Working arrangements have dramatically shifted since the pandemic, with hybrid and remote teams going from obscure concepts to the “new normal”.
The world has embraced the future of work, and remote employees look set to become the status quo.
This creates significant new challenges for managers and business leaders as they aim to maintain productivity in the remote working world.
Image Sourced from Miro.
Managers are expected to maintain team performance, despite the changes in the working environment.
(Related: What Is Activity-Based Work?)
Two questions arise:
- Is managing a remote team more difficult in the post-lockdown era?
- How can managers get the best out of their remote employees?
How To Effectively Manage Remote Employees?
The pandemic has forced businesses to implement basic remote work practices (such as switching to an Australian virtual mobile number) – while remote employees struggled to achieve any semblance of work-life balance.
But a successful remote working model calls for more comprehensive transformations.
The following four pillars offer a good starting point for effectively managing remote employees.
Managers should not only focus on providing direction and improving employee efficiency but also on offering mental stability.
Some ways they could do this are:
- Set up more frequent one-to-ones with remote employees.
- Encourage team members to contact managers by phone, email, video call, or instant message by opening multiple communication channels.
- Build a sense of team spirit by offering virtual social events such as yoga classes.
A remote environment adds to the challenges of communicating across departments and finding one’s way through the company.
Small, cross-functional remote teams with a maximum of 9 individuals with well-defined, outcome-based goals reduce the issues caused by larger, siloed teams.
Some tips for breaking up silos:
- Set clear expectations and communicate them to all employees. This way, everyone will understand what they are working towards.
- Provide incentives that are aligned with team KPIs. This will motivate remote workers to participate more in achieving the company’s goals.
- Encourage collaboration across teams. Assign liaisons or arrange cross-departmental social events to improve relations and communication.
(Related: Create A Winning Talent Management Strategy).
Remote workers often have more flexible hours, making communication harder. Do your best to set up a weekly team meeting where every remote employee is online simultaneously.
This could involve creating a remote worker guide with information on approaching different issues. For example, how to organise meetings when participants are based in different time zones.
Aside from the bare necessities (like sufficient bandwidth or a toll-free number for Australia), managers are responsible for providing their teams with:
- Project management tools to keep your projects on track and improve communication.
- Cloud computing to remove versioning issues and provide access to all resources.
- Unified communications to increase productivity and encourage collaboration.
Remote teams are particularly susceptible to internet security issues. Hackers can steal employees’ passwords and log into your company’s CRM, ERP and HR systems. Prevent data breaches by encouraging your team to use a premium Australian VPN.
How To Build And Scale Remote Teams.
The following suggestions can assist you in building a solid enterprise digital footprint and effectively growing a remote team:
1. Create An Effective Onboarding System.
Design a manual for employers who are working remotely. Include the company’s:
- Vore values
- Culture (how to build a positive culture?)
- Best practices
Offer additional guidance and support to remote team members with a disability.
2. Set Well-Defined Goals.
Remote teams are prone to having blurred lines between the office and the house. This makes evaluating their performance and productivity harder.
Here are some tips to help you do this:
- Set clear targets for each remote employee.
- Set strict deadlines. This puts the focus on task completion rather than the hours worked. It also allows employees to work at a time that best suits them, regardless of their time zone.
- Break large projects into smaller sprints. This will make it easier for you to keep momentum and judge progress.
- Create a task management system with firm due dates. Plan follow-up meetings to avoid any slippage in productivity.
3. Ensure Productive Team Meetings.
Keep your meetings on point by setting up clear rules and boundaries. An example of this type of framework is EPIC:
- Empathy: All meeting participants try to understand and empathise with their colleague’s difficulties.
- Perspective: Take the time to see issues and projects from another’s viewpoint.
- Insights: Being open to the opinions and advice of others.
- Connection: Take the time to get to know your coworkers and form a genuine connection.
By applying this framework to meetings, your remote team members can communicate better and solve problems faster.
How To Address The Challenges Faced By Remote Workers.
Your team will face several challenges with remote work. You can manage remote teams more effectively by being aware of the following red flags:
Feelings Of Isolation.
For those who have become accustomed to collaborating with others in an office setting, the shift to remote work can be disorienting.
Some ways to alleviate the monotony of working from home are:
- Provide incentives for employees to use coworking spaces.
- Organise group activities such as visits to fitness clubs.
- Offer discounts on things like gym memberships or evening classes.
- Hold in-person getaways and take part in team-building activities.
Image sourced from Buffer.
Blurred Line Between Work And Personal Life.
When there is no clear distinction between home and work, some remote workers find it difficult to unplug.
Some ways to address this are:
- Motivate remote workers to take vacation time and reconnect with their families.
- Be flexible and try to work around their personal obligations, like childcare.
- Encourage workers to set boundaries around their working hours and respect them by not contacting them when they’re not online.
(Related: Home Office Furniture For The Ultimate WFH Setup).
Lowered motivation and output are possible symptoms of a lack of structure and direction.
- Give workers more control over their schedules so they can work at times when they’re more productive.
- Provide them with the necessary training to work more autonomously.
- Offer incentives or introduce an element of gamification to make work more fun.
- Reduce the number of video calls, so employees have more time to focus on their tasks.
Distractions In Personal Spaces.
Even the most self-disciplined employees might have their productivity severely hampered by distractions such as pets, children, roommates, and other unknowns. To help your remote teams work:
- Provide a stipend for a home office. Creating a dedicated workspace will reduce distractions.
- Offer money towards coworking spaces if a home office isn’t possible.
- Encourage flexibility to help employees work around personal tasks and domestic duties that they may feel pressed to attend to.
Working from home has its challenges, but recognising and addressing these will help your employees embrace the many advantages of remote work.
Managing employees isn’t easy. Managing remote teams is even more challenging. But remember that the people who work for you are your company’s greatest asset.
For you, as their manager, the remote working environment presents a huge opportunity to grow as a leader.
Gerard D’Onofrio is Australia’s Country Manager for Dialpad, a VoIP solutions platform and AI-equipped business communications systems provider for better communications at work. Gerard is experienced in discovering world-class developments and turning them into effective business advancements, wherever he goes. Some of his written works have also been published by Spa Industry Association and Agility PR Solutions.
Check out his LinkedIn.