The COVID-19 pandemic changed the face of work all over the world. 6 in 10 Americans who have a job that can be done from home don’t come to the office anymore, making remote work the new normal.
Although it wasn’t an unheard-of concept before, many people haven’t dipped their toes into the world of remote working, let alone managing a whole business through this method. That can be challenging for management, who may have no idea how to keep their team productive when they can’t check in on their work by walking up to their desk and asking about it.
If you’re looking for tips for managing remote teams, let’s take a look at how to keep your business productive in the current climate.
1. Get Everyone on the Same System
The first thing you need to do is to establish the communication and work software that your team will use, ensuring everyone sticks to the same programs to keep work in the same place. That makes it easy to keep in touch with the team too.
Microsoft 365 deployment is the best solution in this case. Although there are many work-from-home solutions, it usually involves putting communication software with different programs for other needs and, as a whole, involves piecing together different developers and resulting in a rather disjointed system.
Microsoft 365, however, has many things under its umbrella that can fulfill your every need, from spreadsheets to communication through Microsoft Teams.
If you or your workers have never gone through a Microsoft 365 setup, it may involve providing some training and getting to really know the program before you dive into the work. This investment of time and money will pay off though because it’ll result in boosted productivity and a lot of confidence in your employees when it comes to getting their work done.
2. Keep Communication Frequent
Once you’ve gotten everyone set up on the same system, it’s easy to forget to check in. There’s no visual reminder of each and every one of your employees except for names on a screen, which can result in people getting lost.
This is why you need to ensure that there’s frequent communication. You have a few options for this.
You could hold daily or weekly teamwide meetings where everyone hops into the same call and takes turns to update people on their progress. They can also use this time to provide feedback or raise any concerns that they might have.
As an alternative, you could also have one-on-one meetings as a remote work solution. These are more time-consuming, but some people feel too nervous to speak up with feedback in a group setting and may benefit from a more direct chat.
A good balance would be to have short check-ins every day and one-on-one meetings around once a month but ultimately, this depends on what works for you and your team.
Just make sure not to overdo it too. 70% of all meetings negatively impact productivity because they aren’t necessary so while the checking in is important, meetings where no one has a chance to speak (and that could have been an email) may be a mistake.
3. Provide the Necessary Equipment
As a manager, you should not expect your team to do their work on their personal devices. Managing remote teams means making sure they have the necessary things to do their job, and using their personal phone or computer is bad for two reasons:
- They could be easily distracted by all of the personal content on those devices
- There’s more of a chance of business data being compromised
If employees have dedicated devices for business, it also provides a clear work-life balance. They can shut off those devices at the end of the day and come back to work feeling refreshed.
However, security is likely the biggest issue. People accidentally open phishing emails all the time or enter data into an unsavory site that then steals more data from their phones. There were almost 250,000 victims of these (through both email and text) in 2020, and the scams are only getting more elaborate and clever as people become wiser to them.
As well as the equipment necessary to do the job, consider other equipment that might make your employees more productive. Do they have a comfortable desk and chair to work at? Do they have the necessary programs on their computer to make their job easier to do?
Always be open to change. As your team grows at work, you may have to invest in more.
4. Set Expectations
Setting expectations is critical for managing remote teams. Too many managers give their employees all of the flexibility and freedom in the world but don’t set deadlines or expectations for when an employee needs to be contactable, which leads to resentment when the employee takes a while to respond to a message or isn’t present as much as their manager believes they should be.
When you first go remote (and when onboarding new employees), one of the first things you should do is set those expectations. Consider:
- When should an employee be at their computer? Is that at all flexible, or are the hours set?
- How long should it take an employee to respond to an email?
- Is there an emergency way to get in contact with an employee?
- How long should each part of their job take them to complete?
- How do they update you if they need more time?
Think about all of these things and lay them out at the start. That way, if expectations aren’t met, you can address them right away with no misunderstandings.
5. Ask for Feedback
Feedback is another critical key to remote workforce management. While the system you’ve set up needs to work for you, it also needs to work for your team — that’s how you get the most out of them.
While having an open-door policy and allowing employees to come to you with feedback whenever they have it is great, it’s often not enough. Some employees need encouragement to tell leadership how they feel, so make sure you utilize any meetings to ask for their thoughts — and it helps if you can ask about specific things, like, “What do you think about the implementation of X policy? Is there anything you would change about it?”
If you struggle with shy employees who still struggle to speak up no matter how directly you ask, consider an anonymous form. You can have one available all the time or create one after policy changes and new practices to make sure your employees are on board.
This stops resentment from bubbling up.
6. Check on Progress Without Micromanaging
Finding that balance between monitoring and micromanaging is key, and it might take you a second to get it right. Once you do, you’ll notice how great the productivity of your team becomes.
Remember that you hired these people because they’re skilled and you trust them, so give them the space to do their job. If you constantly send messages then you’ll only hinder their process.
Set those expectations for when a task should be completed by and only check in if the deadline passes. At that point, it’s fine to contact them and ask where they’re at — but for the most part, there’s no need to send them a message every fifteen minutes asking for updates.
You should also watch the work and ensure the deadlines you’re setting are reasonable. If all of your employees take longer to complete a task than your estimate, you might be asking too much.
7. Be Understanding
Being understanding will bring you a long way. This is a new world we’re navigating and it can be challenging, but we’re all only human — and if you’re empathetic and flexible where possible, your employees will appreciate it and it’ll shine through in their work.
There’s much more of a chance of interruptions when working from home. Deliveries, dogs who need to go outside, children who want attention, insensitive roommates — the opportunities are endless, and you need to understand that an employee who sometimes leaves their desk for ten minutes at an unannounced time isn’t the worst thing in the world if they’re still getting work done on time.
Utilize These Tips for Managing Remote Teams
If you take these tips for managing remote teams on board, you’ll find there’s a world of difference in the happiness and therefore the productivity of your employees. Give yourself and your employees grace, provide them with the tools they need to succeed, and set the expectations beforehand — you can’t go wrong that way.
Do you need some help setting your team up for success? Work with a specialist today at Remote Work Made Simple and let’s get your team more productive and increase your bottom line.