Master Managing Remote Teams

Managing remote teams is becoming an essential skill. Effective remote management is in high demand. This may come as a surprise to current managers, many of whom have little to no experience of managing remotely. The shift in the work environment, whether temporarily or permanently, can be intimidating. 

Managing your team remotely has some unique benefits. It also has its challenges. How do you effectively manage people that are working from home? How can managers be effective when working from home? Succeeding means adapting as a manager and enabling your team. 

In this article, we are going to be discussing how you can effectively manage people working for you remotely, letting you know the advantages and challenges that come with working from home, and guidelines you can follow to effectively manage your remote team and ensure productivity.

Benefits of Remote Management

For managers, working from home can increase productivity, cut costs, and less organizational prices. Workers enjoy bonuses like flexibility and no commute to work. Parents benefit from flexibility like working from home when their kids are sick. Many people even boost their productivity because they get to work at their ideal times. According to Global Workplace Analytics, offering remote jobs is also a smart way for companies to attract creative talent. 

As a remote manager, it’s important to understand the benefits of working from home so you can utilize them effectively.

Remote Management Helps People

Technology has continued to make it easier and more beneficial for people to work remotely from their homes. Sometimes workers may be required to work from home due to a commitment. Workers may even be mandated by the government to work from home. In recent months, many organizations have not only allowed their employees to work remotely but some of them have also enforced work from home policies. 

Implementing a successful remote management strategy for remote work from home helps people in times of need.

Higher Motivation to Work

In a 2019 survey carried out by Owl labs, it was discovered that remote workers put in extra hours to work when compared to on-site workers, workers in the study said they were enjoying what they were doing and were less stressed working from home. And as a result of lower stress, they had higher motivation to work more.

Self-improvement

In another survey carried out by The MIT Sloan School of Management’s Executive Education Department, it was discovered that employees who work from home have better-perceived morale, engagements, retention, and collaborations leading to overall self and personal improvements by the remote workers. 

Challenges Managing Remotely

Managing remotely can be challenging. How do you manage a remote workload? How can your team collaborate? Although working from home has its benefits, it also has its challenges.

Management will have to overcome many challenges for a team to work effectively in a remote environment. Managers can improve their team’s performance by looking ahead to recognize problems and take proactive steps to overcome those challenges.

Distractions

Distractions as simple as noise can cause an inability to concentrate during work hours. 

Balance

The thought of working from home can be exciting! But, you still have to get to work on time. Many people think that working from home means they can spend less time working. That’s simply not the case. Additionally, many people are unable to maintain work-life balance, it may feel like you end up spending all day in front of screens.

Security

One of the challenges associated with remote working is that your company devices are exposed to greater risk as they leave the secure haven of the workplace. Thus, you may have to encrypt your company devices, log them out when not in use, use a strong password policy, and avoid leaving them in public display. 

Loneliness

Many workers feel lonely and miss the office environment. 

When there is a prolonged absence of regular face to face human interaction, loneliness sets in. An office space full of people prevents the isolation and loneliness employees might experience when working alone at home. This can be detrimental to your business as prolonged isolation of your employees can result in low energy levels and extreme cases lead to anxiety and depression. And it’s a manager’s responsibility to monitor the mental wellness of their team.

Communication Issues

Many people become frustrated by the communication gaps that occur in remote teams. Working from home seems really difficult to collaborate on various projects and also causes delays.  

Poor management, different time zones, unplanned meeting schedules and lack of face-to-face meetings can cause poor communication between you and your team. As a manager, it becomes your responsibility to adapt and enable communication. You need to tackle these challenges and provide solutions to effectively manage your workers from home. We’ve organized some of the most common guidelines you can follow to help manage your people from home and boost your business productivity remotely.

Managing Remote Team Communication

Our body language and tone of voice adds a lot to communication. Since remote workers are not standing in front of us, how can we communicate effectively with our team? 

Remote managers know that in-person face-to-face communication is irreplaceable. Teams that rely on heavy collaboration can be dependent on each other’s progress on a daily or even intraday basis. Complicating the problem, people tend to be more hesitant to initiate communication with their remote colleagues. Further increasing the costs and causing delays. Because of this, remote managers need to set clear communication protocols. 

Managing remote teams to improve productivity requires you to communicate expectations and organizational goals in clear terms, as well as stay connected with members throughout the process. Whether at home or traveling, it’s important to develop the skills required to manage a team remotely. When you do, in-office processes will also see a positive increase in productivity. 

Effective communication becomes more necessary when your employees have to remotely work from home. Important communication that must be enabled by remote managers include availability, responsibilities, platforms, best practices, and ways to handle likely distractions.

Additionally, remote managers need to conduct regular one-on-one meetings with individuals in order to recognize points where communication can be improved. Discussions should aim to discover instances where time is spent waiting. Ask yourself, “Could this instance be improved with better communication?” 

Quick Tips for Remote Communication 

  • Adopt standard communication practices
  • Chat is for fun and socializing
  • Video conferences are for presentations
  • Email daily update to managers and shareholders

Successful Remote Management Requires Availability 

Availability is essential to successfully manage remote teams. Your colleagues will graciously wait for the best time to communicate critical information. That makes it critical that you maintain an up-to-date pre-specified availability. 

This is important for all members of remote teams. Everyone’s availability should be chosen carefully for maximum reliability. Trust is lost when someone isn’t available during their prespecified time. You must prevent this at all costs.

As a remote manager, you need to set guidelines on how to communicate availability. Weekly availability should be shared in a central location. Remote managers should set expectations and policies to make sure everyone’s availability is always up-to-date.

Brief Daily Progress Email

Since a physical meeting is impossible, it is necessary to communicate organizational expectations to them in clear terms. It can be difficult to stay on the same page. When employees have all different responsibilities, how should they report their progress? Often, requiring a brief daily email update being sent to a direct stakeholders can help significantly. 

Prevent Misunderstandings with Video Calls

Text and email can easily cause misunderstandings. People can misunderstand due to the lack of expressions. Phone and video calls can reduce the occurrence of misunderstandings among remote teams.

Be Available & Be Responsive

As a manager, you need to be reliably available to workers as much as possible. This will make your team feel like they are still in the office. Availability improves communication, ideas generation, and the time it takes to solve problems.

Collaborate with Video

It is essential when communicating with your team that you engage in video-calls and not just phone calls. Video enables you to see reactions and moods about a project or task. Additionally, this is an opportunity for you to exchange ideas and opinions on a project. There are many free inexpensive video call solutions such as Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.

Managing Feedback on Remote Teams

Performance Evaluations for Remote Managers

Employees that work from home need to be evaluated differently than their in-office colleagues. The focus should be on desired outcomes rather than time spent. 

Feedback Frequency for Remote Managers

Working remotely requires providing people with feedback more often than when working in an office environment. Insufficient feedback, both positive and negative, results in wasted time and loss of confidence. 

Manage remote teams effectively requires reaching out on a regular basis. A simple “job well done” goes a long way. As a remote manager, it’s your job to give employees the confidence and encouragement they need to succeed. 

Successful remote management requires being frequent and consistent with providing feedback. Identifying potential issues is more difficult as a remote manager. Consistently engaging in feedback sessions makes potential issues easier to spot. When someone’s work seems to be suffering, then providing early and regular feedback becomes even more important. 

Managing Critical Feedback for Remote Workers

Critical feedback is any feedback that may be interpreted as negative or offensive. Failing to deliver critical feedback effectively is detrimental to the team’s morale. Strategies for communicating the feedback effectively will improve team alignment with organizational goals in addition to boosting the confidence of the individual members on the remote team. 

As a remote manager, it’s important to be careful when delivering critical feedback to prevent misunderstandings. 

Phone and video calls must be used for critical feedback. These mediums better communicate the tone of what you’re trying to communicate. Video calls are the best because the person on the receiving side is exposed to body language and facial expressions.

Managing the Remote Work Environment

Remote managers are expected to help their teams manage their work environment to be the most productive. How do you manage access to computers, good internet connections, and dedicated workspaces? How do you help workers to develop their own productive work from home routines? How can you make remote working convenient for employees? What policies are essential for remote teams?

Managing the Digital Workspace for Remote Teams

The first step you need to take in effectively managing people that are working from home is to create and organize a digital workspace to facilitate your daily business productivity. 

There’s plenty of digital products to help you communicate and collaborate with your team. Many teams already have existing software tools they use to collaborate when in the office. 

It’s a good strategy to make use of cloud-based document software that enables easy collaboration without sending files back and forth. Both Microsoft Office and Google Docs have tools for editing documents that are saved on the cloud. 

As a manager, you should set standards for communication platforms. For example, designating Skype or Zoom for video conferencing. Phone and video calls should be designated as the medium for delivering critical feedback to prevent misunderstandings. For delivering daily progress reports on projects or operations, email should be recommended as the best medium for communication. 

To maximize productivity, deciding which task management and time scheduling apps to use should be left up to individuals on the remote team. However, remote managers should provide resources to help with the decision making process.

Dedicate Workspace

Ideally to avoid distractions you should have a desk in a dedicated room. Although, many workers do not have this option. A dedicated room will help you to work effectively and leave your work at the end of the day.

However, many people would love to be in bed all day or be sitting on the couch with the TV on. As a manager, you need to help your remote team understand that this is a bad idea.

The best way to boost your productivity is to have a dedicated workstation. Employees that cannot dedicate a room need to focus on how they organize their work materials and how they will block distractions. Learn more about creating a functional home office to boost productivity

Family Matters for Remote Workers

Make rules that include you and your family members It’s crucial to make things clear. Set clear rules with your family or people you live with and be sure to carefully explain what they can do and what they can’t do during your designated work hours. Print a schedule and place it on the refrigerator if you’re frequently in meetings and can’t be interrupted. 

Managing Remote Policy

Remote working is a long term or short-term contract between workers and managers to work from a non-office place. A remote work policy is a contract that plans when and how workers can perform from places other than the office. Remote work policies also define who can perform remotely, effective practices to act upon, and the permissible rights of remote workers. 

While creating remote team company work policies, you must have to analyze that all workers cannot perform well without good management. You must also have to select those employees who are honest ethically and can also perform well without company supervision. While devising the policies, the manager of the company should also have to select appropriate means of communication. Data and device security should also be considered. Being a company manager, you should also analyze the budget to cover remote tools. 

Time Management for Remote Managers

Managing time can be extra challenging for remote managers. It’s a challenge in any work environment. However, when teams are working remotely, it can be even tougher. Distractions at home often interrupt our workflows.

Availability and meeting times are the most important to manage effectively. The reliability of both managers and colleagues will be heavily influenced by their timeliness during pre-specified times.

As a remote manager, you need to help the team define and align their goals and to-do lists. Daily stand-up meetings can be held virtually with widely available video conferencing apps.  Managers need to enable their teams to be in sync. 

At home, distractions can vary widely. Managers need to accommodate their team appropriately. All teams can benefit from focussing on tracking outcomes instead of tracking the time spent. 

Effective remote time management is best achieved on an individual level. Individuals build their reputation with the team by reliably delivering desired outcomes instead of shared time spent in the office. Remote managers should focus on sharing tips for remote work from home.

Remotely Managing Successful Outcomes

Remote success is determined by how well you can communicate expected outcomes. As a manager, you must give clear guidelines for communicating these outcomes.

In most cases, expectations regarding how much an individual should be working during the day are not clear among the team members and the managers. Failure to set clear expectations will result in losing team trust. People may begin to question the work ethics of others. Losing morale is an easy way to fail as a remote manager. 

When working from home, it becomes more important for remote managers to maintain direct communication with each remote worker. Expectations need to be discussed in terms of desired outcomes. Expected results need to be described and re-clarified regularly. Requesting a brief email, as little as a few sentences, at the end of each day can be very insightful into their progress and can be a great segue into clarifying expectations.

Managing Relationships on Remote Teams

How do you prevent losing the personal relationships you developed while working in the office? 

Schedule Time to Be Social

Remote workers may feel lonely when they miss out on the conversations around the water cooler. As a manager, you should generate some discussion among workers which is unrelated to their work. Try arranging some meetings with the entire team for non-work-related discussion. If possible, remote teams should be brought together quarterly so that they can participate in team-building activities together in person.

Managing Social Connections with Remote Teams

Remote working tends to make members feel easily disconnected, which can have a negative effect on performance and productivity. Even as managers, you may be too work-focused to the extent of losing a personal connection with them. A weekly checklist can help keep track of who you need to meet with to manage effectively. 

Before the need for having to work remotely arose, each team had an already-existing in-person foundation. As their manager, you need to enable building that foundation. One of the effective ways of doing this is a casual conversation. Make time to discuss well-being. Your conversations shouldn’t be only about having a task completed or having a goal achieved. 

You should also be concerned about their state of mind and working conditions. Empathy is one of the most difficult soft skills to nurture when managing a remote team. You have to be considerate while communicating your expectations to your team. Allocating a few minutes during each meeting for a few questions can go a long way towards managing your remote team.

Effective managers are also good listeners. This shows you are a part of the process. Ask them about what they have done, their current task, and where they need help. As their manager, it is your job to make team members feel valued. You must make them more interested in their work. 

Also, you have to create a platform where members can interact with one another. One of the ways of achieving this is through video chat and conference systems. Through this, they can have access to productivity tools they require to achieve organizational goals. They can also share experiences that could inspire other colleagues.

The fact that everyone is working remotely does not rule out the possibility of judging the effectiveness of the team. Remote workers are expected to be assessed numerically. Though you may not be able to do this based on the number of hours worked. As a manager, you must develop new success metrics, which should be outcome or results-based.

Managing relationships with remote colleagues

Loneliness and disconnection can be a real problem. Maintaining social relationships actually plays a role in your productivity by helping your mind to relax and perform better. Make sure you keep interacting with your coworkers and maintain those general conversations as well.

Routine Operations for Remote Managers

Assign Roles and Responsibilities 

You then need to assign roles and responsibilities to your team to ensure productivity and to be able to advocate accountability from individual efforts in your team. By assigning roles you are allocating work to everyone on your team according to their capabilities. This not only keeps everyone on track, but it also keeps employees engaged and focuses more on their work.

Schedule Meeting Times

Meeting scheduling is one of the crucial factors of effectively managing people from home as it determines collaborations and communications between you and your team. It is important you schedule meeting times and dates which your employees can stick to. You must be reliable to be an effective manager. It’s your responsibility to notify people. Tip: schedule at odd times, for example, 9:33 instead of 9:30, to increase timeliness in attendance.

Team Planning

Many teams utilize “stand-up” meetings to synchronize on a daily basis. 

Individual Planning

It’s essential that individuals are enabled to plan daily. It’s also essential that they include breaks. Many people already have a problem maintaining work-life balance, so when you work from home it becomes even more important to plan your day and schedule it. Enjoy the flexibility and schedule breaks when you need to but stick to your plan. It is the most effective way to boost your productivity while still enjoying yourself. Failing to plan breaks will lead to burnout, even in remote workers.

Remote Management Career Outlook

Managing remote teams is a valuable skill. Working from home is a growing trend and requires remote managers to enable success. Managing remote teams pose certain unique challenges. Successful remote managers are willing to take on these challenges in order to keep their teams motivated, productive and effective.

The ability to manage remote teams is becoming increasingly valuable. Remote management has become an essential skill and will continue to grow in demand for a long time. Developing remote management experience will increase your future job prospects. 

Manage the Remote Future

Managing people from home is not an easy task. Being a remote manager requires patience and understanding. You must recognize the benefits and challenges that come with working from home. By implementing these guidelines outlined above, you are that much closer to the effective management of your team.

Global trends, the constant change in technology, and even pandemics continue to impact how we work. Working remotely isn’t new to the world of work, and it does not, in any way, decrease productivity. As a manager, you can find ways to increase remote productivity. Though switching from office working to remote working could be a bit challenging at first, it seems to be the direction of many organizations.

The need to effectively manage people for remote working is becoming more common. Currently, remote work is playing an important role in healthcare. It also helps to boost creativity and productivity. In an unexpected global situation, remote work is the only way to operate.

What’s your #1 question about Remote Management?

I want to know what questions you have about managing remote teams. Please leave your question as a comment. I look forward to answering your questions. Thanks!

Brian

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