Remote working is a hot topic and not only because of the pandemic forcing teams to work from their homes. For years it’s been a much sought-after incentive and freelancing from home has also become a potential source of income for many households.
Remote work carries benefits for both the worker as well as the employer. However, it requires a unique management approach to make it work.
Failing at Communication
Effective communication is a given for anyone wanting to succeed at team management, right? We list it first here because it’s even more important when managing remote employees.
Managers’ communication mistakes include:
- Not anticipating how the communication setup will change
- Neglecting to implement new guidelines and policies for work-related communication
- Avoiding expenses to optimize communication systems
- Not realising your team’s need for feedback
How to Get it Right
With everyone at home, you no longer pass each other in the corridor to chat about a project or see someone’s facial reaction to what you’re saying during a meeting. You need to find new ways to continue passing important information on the go and prevent misunderstandings.
For starters, don’t assume everyone has the same priorities in terms of communication. At the office, you can talk about work in the hallways but now employees may not provide reports as often as you prefer. It’s up to you to set expectations around how often you want to check in with your team and what kinds of updates and feedback you need from them.
A remote work setup also requires new channels of communication. If you don’t invest in the following, messages are bound to get lost:
- A messaging app to easily interact and share files in real-time.
- Video conferencing software that supports screen sharing and makes it easy for large groups to collaborate.
- An infrastructure that promotes online access for everyone, while ensuring data security.
- Optimal use of emails.
It’s not only about obtaining these resources but guiding your team in optimising their use. Which tool should they use for what type of communication? You don’t want team members requesting video conferences for every little discussion, because that robs everyone of time. Create a policy to prevent confusion and tension among colleagues.
Managers also tend to forget to check in with team members they don’t see in person anymore. Being isolated, remote workers develop an immense need to obtain feedback. Don’t confuse this with micro-managing them. Simply book regular one-on-one time with individuals and confirm your viewpoint on their performance. To be confident employees at home, they need to know whether their work still aligns with your expectations.
Not Adjusting the Norm to Remote Working Alternatives
For years you’ve been following certain methods and habits. And it worked! But your golden rules may no longer apply.
When managing remote teams, these mistakes are common:
- Following the same meeting schedule as before
- Thinking your team members will automatically develop at the same pace as before
- Thinking you can measure work performance as you always used to
How to Get it Right
Unfortunately, you’ll need to take time and revamp many of your management methods.
Firstly, a virtual meeting is more dynamic with the minimum number of people joining in. Many of your regular meetings can rather become discussions on an online messaging platform.
Then, development is important for workers to feel positive about their career choices. However, your team members’ personal and skills development used to rely on their interaction with others. Now that they have less engagement with each other, you need to find new growth strategies for them. This can be mentorship from you or enrolling them for development programs.
Your measurement of remote workers’ performance also needs tweaking. In the past you probably looked at who arrives on time and leaves last every day. Now, rather start looking at actual output. Employees at home may work fewer hours or work outside normal office hours. However, they could be more productive since they love working from home and they’re not tired and tense from rush hour traffic and trying to find parking.
Placing Too Little Trust in Your Team
Lastly, by not knowing how to manage a remote team, many managers run the risk of creating an environment without trust.
Yes, it’s challenging to put your faith in people you don’t see daily. But without trust, you’ll create an unhealthy work environment, since your employees at home will start feeling incompetent.
Also, constant micromanagement increases your workload and prevents your team from learning autonomy. Trusting each other may take a learning curve for all involved, but it’s the only way managing remote teams becomes beneficial for the company.
Be careful not to do the following:
- Believing team members can only perform the tasks you hired them for when you’re around
- Micromanaging and asking for feedback on every step of a process
- Not asking for their input anymore
How to Get it Right
You’ll be surprised by how employees start performing when they’re allowed to take ownership of tasks. You need to encourage this and simply act as guide by asking for regular communication on progress.
Facilitate this process by providing clear expectations and then leave your team to find ways to meet those expectations.
It’s clear that managing remote employees requires a change in perspective. And, the remote workforce is here to stay, so it’s important to learn how to manage a remote team correctly. The success of the setup requires commitment from employees, but management carries the responsibility to take the lead and help their teams streamline the new norm.
When you know the pitfalls, you may be able to avoid them on your management journey.