Managing remote teams requires a different approach than managing employees IRL
Whether you are entering the brave new world of remote work out of choice or necessity, one thing is certain: managing remote teams requires a different approach than managing employees in real life. For both long- and short-term scenarios, here are ten tips for managing your remote teams better, more effectively, and more proactively.
1. Embrace the new normal
One of the biggest challenges of managing remote employees is the adjustment period that occurs when folks step out of the office and set up at home. Even with all of the benefits of remote work (more on that below!), it can be hard to leave the brick-and-mortar workplace behind.
The sooner you embrace the new paradigm shift of managing remote teams, the better—for you and your employees.
2. Your team probably isn't slacking off
The results are in, and they are remarkably consistent: remote work actually increases productivity. Hard to believe that employees are more productive when a manager isn’t hovering over their shoulder, but study after study shows it to be true. You have to trust that you hired good people who are accomplishing their goals.
Remember that a timeclock does not dictate how much an employee gets done. It doesn’t matter if the work is completed on the couch or in a cubicle, in pajamas or in business clothes. If employees are accomplishing their tasks for your team, it’s a win.
3. Craft goals driven by output not time at screen
Building off this, managing remote teams means adjusting how you set goals. Chances are good your employees are managing not only their personal workload but also new responsibilities at home (e.g., homeschooling or caring for sick loved ones).
Build goals based on what you want employees to get done, not the time they spend logged in to their work accounts (or when they spend it there). Set up achievable discrete tasks or quotes, and make sure they know what's expected of them.
4. Set up consistent check-ins
When working at home, it can be easy to let human contact slide by the wayside. But it’s human nature to want to connect with a person, even if only through a screen. Here’s where consistent check-ins can help.
Consider a morning asynchronous Slack check-in with the team, individual chats once a week, and team meetings at the beginning or end of the month, depending on your workflow. The idea here is to make sure employees feel supported and to give them opportunities to discuss any issues or challenges on their end.
5. Find more flexibility
The next step is to find more flexibility. One of the challenges of managing remote employees is allowing them to set their own rhythm with work.
Many employers realize that sticking to a rigid set of hours and dress codes (think requiring business dress on a weekly Zoom meeting) is impractical and frustrating. Consider not just that where we're working has changed, but also how we're working and how we're holding ourselves and our workers accountable. The same measures that applied in the office just don’t make sense when managing remote teams.
Does your night owl work better after the kids are in bed? Do you have an early riser who has met their goals by noon? You still need to have some firm deadlines or common meeting times, but in between, let employees dictate their own hours and schedule as much as possible. They'll appreciate the flexibility and be more dedicated to their work in the long run.
6. Ask yourself: is this worth a meeting?
How many times have you sat in a boardroom and thought to yourself: “This meeting could have been an email”?
It’s no different when managing remote teams. Many companies try to recreate the work environment remotely, with disastrous results. Scheduling an online meeting when an asynchronous communication (e.g., quick email, Slack check-in, text, or short video) could do the trick contributes to “Zoom fatigue” in remote work and may lead to open rebellion.
Limit meetings as much as possible, only scheduling them when dialogue is crucial to solving a problem or completing a task. When you do have meetings then, they'll be more focused and cooperative versus another dreaded task.
7. Build your community
Building a remote community is one of the unique challenges of managing virtual teams. If community is the social “glue” that binds a company together, then think of ways to strengthen those bonds, especially for newer employees who don’t have deep connections within the company already.
Use things like threaded chats, videoconferencing, and Slack channels to share not only work-related conversations but also personal updates. Allow time and space for online socializing. Sharing a laugh or talking about life outside of work goes a long way in building community.
8. Leverage technology
Technology is both a blessing and a curse when managing remote teams. Yes, you have nearly the same access to employees online as you did in the office, but it’s important to use it well.
Find task management tools that everyone enjoys using and that make intuitive sense. Community building apps and software like Slack can help improve remote work culture. Zoom is great for quick gatherings of the whole team.
9. Make sure employees have tech support
Arguably the most frustrating part of managing remote employees is dealing with technological challenges. If your whole operation has moved online, what do you do when software glitches or hardware fails? How will you train employees in new platforms so they can focus on their job, not on how to use the platform?
Build out guides and resources to troubleshoot common issues and develop work-arounds when there’s downtime. Give employees clear access to support if they are struggling with the technology their job requires. You may also need to provide employees with hardware to set up a home office.
Remember: you cannot blame employees for not meeting targets if they don’t have the resources and training they need to get the job done well at home.
10. Deliver better training opportunities
And speaking of training, are your employees ready to go from day one, or will they need new skills to work well remotely? It’s crucial to deliver training opportunities for remote employees that follow recognized best practices, including:
- Utilizing microlearning for just-in-time, on-demand training
- Optimizing training for mobile devices
- Balancing synchronous and asynchronous learning
- Documenting training to account for what is needed, and what has been delivered
The EdgePoint Learning team has been fully remote from the start, so we understand the challenges that come with managing remote teams. From development to strategy to our mobile microlearning platform, we offer comprehensive learning experiences for your team wherever they are in the world.
Let us help you lead better. Get in touch today.