Although remote working was relatively rare a decade ago, it's now much more common and the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has caused home working to become the new norm for many people.
In businesses new to remote working, some managers might be worried that allowing their employees to work from home could result in lost productivity and poorer quality of work, believing that employees will be too easily distracted at home - but when remote working is managed effectively, the outcome can be positive for employees and employers alike.
Flexible working practices are hugely popular with employees, putting pressure on companies to offer telecommuting options to workers if they want to keep employees happy and engaged. Remote working can also benefit a business’s bottom line, providing the opportunity to reduce office overheads and to save on the costs associated with absence. Additionally, given the high perceived value of remote working arrangements, offering employees the option to work from home can also enable companies to expand their talent pool and recruit better talent.
How do you support and supervise your team effectively when they are not in the office? Are communication and team relationships negatively impacted by remote working? Here’s some useful tips for managing remote teams effectively.
Engage with your team regularly.
Keeping communication lines open is an important means of keeping your team engaged. Give remote workers as much access to you as possible - local workers can stop by your office, catch up with you over a coffee break, or join you on lunch, and as remote workers don’t have that same access they may start to feel distant from the rest of the team. This can soon start to have an impact on motivation, job satisfaction and productivity. Respond to them as quickly as possible and don’t automatically prioritise office-based members of the team. Keep a regular team meeting in place, along with one-to-ones for feedback and coaching. Where possible, have a regular face-to-face meeting with remote workers at least once a month, and if that’s not practical, video calls are the next best option.
Take advantage of technology.
There are a wide variety of tools to stay connected with remote workers, such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts. If employees can’t access files or are struggling to hear during conference calls, you are not setting your team up for success. Get the basics right by investing in reliable tools, and your employees will thank you for it.
Set clear expectations.
Regardless of the working environment, every employee will have a different idea of what working ‘well’ or ‘quickly’ is, and issues can take longer to spot when employees aren’t office-based. To ensure a productive environment and an engaged and motivated team, managers should make sure employees know what is expected from them. This includes defining tasks, deadlines, and deliverables. If you want employees to check in with you every morning to go through their goals for the day ahead, let them know - and if necessary, diarise key tasks to ensure you’re on the same page.
Use a project-management system.
Project management software can be used to manage, track, and assign tasks and to ensure deadlines and budgets are met. Having project-management software in place can be especially valuable when it comes to remote teams, as it gives managers better visibility over their remote workers’ activities. This should not be used as a way to ‘check up’ on remote workers, but to identify areas in which they may need support, as well as tracking their progress and successes.
Maintain your team culture.
Not every aspect of your company culture will seamlessly translate to a remote team setting, but it’s important to keep your remote workers as closely connected with your culture as possible. If your company has a strong thank-you culture for example, there are still plenty of meaningful and fun ways to show your appreciation to employees and boost morale, such as eCards. If you pride yourself on having an open and honest working culture, show remote workers that you trust they’re doing a great job, rather than trying to micro-manage them from afar.
Remember that one size does not fit all.
Every employee is different - some workers feel isolated while working from home, while others thrive in a remote setting free from distractions. Some employees love working early, and sticking to set office hours, while others prefer the freedom of managing their own time. As a manager, you should try to understand the individual needs of each employee and accommodate them as much as you can. For example, you could give employees more freedom to choose their working hours. Introducing a more flexible, inclusive approach will help employees to work towards a better work-life balance, which can in turn improve engagement, job satisfaction and retention.
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