5 Tips For Managing A Team Of Remote Workers
Image credit: Max Pixel
Remote working was the path of the future, but the years swept by in the blink of an eye, and now it’s a well-established present-day reality. Used well, it’s a win-win-win: the employees get spared lengthy and expensive commutes, the employer saves money on equipment and office space (and gets to pick from a much broader pool of candidates), and any clients or partners benefit from the increased productivity that stems from work satisfaction and flexibility.
Note that I said used well, because not all remote working arrangements are effective from the outset. They often need a lot of work to optimize, particularly when it comes to management. How are you supposed to corral employees dotted throughout the world? You can’t exactly bring them into your office. Well, it’s doable — and here are 5 tips for achieving it:
Use Video And Audio
When all the communication in your business takes place through text, there’s a huge amount of contextual data that gets lost. Text is notoriously terribly for conveying tone, for instance, and then there’s body language which further complicates things. But the loss of vital information isn’t the only issue: sticking to text also makes it harder for people to feel connected.
Going into an office for five days each week gets you used to the faces of your colleagues, which helps you feel connected to them. While you can’t replicate that experience over the internet, you can use video and audio chats to make business discussions more effective, efficient, and engaging for everyone involved.
As I just noted, you can’t replicate in-person meetings with online activity, and they bring something special to the table — so you should make every effort to arrange them. I’m not talking about getting everyone together every week, every month, or even every quarter, because it depends on far apart everyone is. Just do whatever is realistic for your company.
Even if you can only get the entire team together once each year for a day or two, it’ll make a significant difference, lifting morale and making people more eager to collaborate on projects. And even as they return to working remotely, they’ll continue to think of each other as “real” friends (“online” friends can feel insubstantial to some).
Work On Cohesive Systems
Every remote worker needs the right tools to get their job done: tools that manage all the actions that would otherwise be handled in person, such as sharing files or discussing notes. This part isn’t generally too tricky, because there are plenty of free remote working tools on the market, and any given worker can simply pick whichever ones they think will help them work best.
But while you should allow people to use their preferred tools to some extent, you need to ensure that everyone’s on the same page and using the same software foundation. If you implement a solid intranet and require all your remote workers to use it as their working hub, you can protect data, keep everything together, and enhance productivity.
Talk To People Directly
It’s one thing to be there in a general sense — to ostensibly have open lines of communication — but the daily grind doesn’t typically justify stopping to have overarching discussions about where the business is going or how someone is coping in their role. So if those discussions are going to happen, you need to make them happen.
So start adding 1-on-1 chats to your schedule: not to cover specific work topics, but just to catch up with the members of your team. How are they, professionally and personally? Is there anything you can help with? What are they looking to accomplish in the coming months and years? When employees know they’re supported, they feel better and they work harder.
Focus On Results
Many business owners and managers have issues with control. You can understand why: they’re heavily invested in getting the businesses running as smoothly and effectively as possible, and the only way they can know that things are being done correctly is to inflexibly define the structure that remote workers must follow.
This approach doesn’t work. It mainly serves to frustrate employees and make them want to go elsewhere. Why? Because what they realize is that the results matter far more than the specific methods, and if an employee is getting results, you should leave them to it. Everyone has a different working style: some prefer the 9-to-5 structure, working in lengthy rigid blocks — others like to pick at work over time, starting early, taking huge breaks, and finishing late.
Two things matter here: that work gets done in a timely fashion to a good standard with no communication being disrupted, and that employees are optimally happy with their arrangements. So set deadlines and requirements when needed, but outside of that, let people work how and when they want to — it’ll lead to even better results.
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Written by Kayleigh Alexandra
A writer and small business owner, Kayleigh is an expert in all things content, freelance, marketing, and commercial strategy. Favourite charity? All things microfinance. You can find more of her articles at www.microstartups.org.