Remote Team Management: 7 Best Practices
Managing a remote workforce comes with unique challenges, including the need for employers to provide the right tools and services for staff members and finding dynamic and involving ways to communicate.
Business owners accustomed to monitoring productivity based on pure worker visibility can easily struggle with remote employee management. Employees, too, may feel out of sorts in the beginning while they adjust to significant changes. However, being proficient at managing these workers is increasingly vital, and requires mental and procedural shifts, especially for those used to working with a team physically.
Both employees and workers need to understand the pros and cons associated with this fast-spreading dynamic. Some like more flexibility where they work, while others thrive on traditional structure. Both these approaches are understandable. So, here are some best practices to implement for better management of a remote team.
1. Understand common telework challenges
Employers and business owners alike face three common dynamics when working with a remote team:
Lack of face time
Workplace encounters are, of course, significantly lacking in a remote workplace. Some employers regard face time with employees as an important chance to assess productivity and dedication, and they, as well as employees, might also simply enjoy the visceral sense of community. Having little or no chance to see someone face to face can also make troubleshooting as well as sensitive conversations more difficult to engage in. Employers used to communicating with workers in person will certainly need to adjust for this lack of "presence factor."
Being away from a physical workspace can mean employees will work in an environment with more distractions and interruptions. This may, among other effects, result in longer turnaround time for projects. Employers used to workers' physical presence may experience some uneasiness when they find out that someone might be moving around the house or playing games during break time. An understanding, adaptive, and professional approach between both parties is critical.
Often, when workers and employers communicate by phone or video chat, what is heard and seen may not be the same. This can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication, especially in emotionally charged topics. There can also be problems in translating messages from text to speech, since nuances and emotions are missing.
2. Be clear about productivity
It's essential to set clear guidelines when it comes to productivity in a telecommuting workplace. On the employer's side, it’s important to have accountability for performance through benchmarks — achievable by setting standards on projects and then using reports or analytics that show how employees perform against these measures.
For employers used to managing a team physically, this can be tricky, not least because they can less effectively assess an employee's body language or work area. On the other hand, employees might find it challenging because they perhaps won’t always know if and when their bosses are around to check on them. So, it’s crucial for both sides of the working relationship to understand and embrace communicating goals and skills through regular check-ins.
3. Provide the right tools
Employers and employees must be equipped with the most effective tools for remote work arrangements. A bedrock requirement is a reliable internet connection with an appropriate amount of bandwidth, and a laptop or desktop that can support video calling applications like Skype or Google Hangouts.
The right software tools are also needed, including the following types: Time tracking, which ensures that everyone is on track and projects are moving forward as expected; mood boards and asset libraries, with which employees can find images and other graphics they need for presentations, designs or infographics; and project management software — great for keeping track of what needs to be done, who is doing it, and what time remains for completion.
4. Set time for remote team interaction
If possible, remote workers must interact with employers at least once a week through video conferencing, screen-sharing or in-person meetings. These sessions should be used to go over project goals, expectations, challenges and progress. They are also great opportunities to conduct "one on one" as well as team interactions —times for employees to ask questions and the employer to solve particular problems of individual staff members.
5. Follow up regularly
Even with weekly (or as often as possible) check-ins, it may still be difficult for employers and employees to monitor progress. Following up regularly is essential to ensure that projects are on track, which can be done through email, weekly reports generated by employees or in phone conversations.
6. Create a tip sheet for employee suggestions
Many teleworkers may feel they cannot make suggestions to employers because of physical distance. Addressing this issue is no further away than creating a tip sheet for staff members to submit to management. It should include instructions on how to effectively provide input from a remote location, along with suggestions on what types of issues teleworkers might have and how to solve them. It might additionally contain guidelines on the dos and don'ts in making requests and expressing concerns and suggestions.
7. Remote work is not cheap
Among the challenges of managing a team remotely are costs involved in providing teleworker tools and services. These include fees for the bandwidth needed to transmit data, file storage space, software licensing fees and more. Managers should be aware that these costs can add up and should be considered when planning projects and budgets.
Managers of such teams must also consider the cost of taking employees out of their physical office and bringing them to a teleconference room, video conference location or other meeting space if needed. This can rack up travel expenses and cut into company profits.
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