Modern workplace trends are leaning more and more towards remote or hybrid working modes that provide employees with a flexible work routine and all the benefits that come with it. Since 2019, the global health mandates influenced society to shift its perception of working from the office in favour of remote work or working from home.
Increasing evidence goes to show that the flexible work routine is one that contributes to high employee retention and employee satisfaction.
This has led to companies the world over following suit and adopting the remote work system leading to employees and managers working from separate locations for the first time. Being forced to deal with these new circumstances, managers tend to find it difficult to adjust, especially if they aren’t willing to let go of the traditional in-house systems. Yet for those who are open to change and ready to adapt there’s no better time to get equipped with the future of work or the ‘new normal’ as they call it.
This guide is aimed at those of you who are on the verge of embracing remote work in order to support your transition while utilizing the correct approaches. It’s aimed at giving you valuable insights into remote team management and how best to lead and support your distributed team.
Challenges faced by remote teams
1. Fragmented communication
Due to the distributed nature, teams rely solely on communication tools in order to coordinate everything. Your forms of communication would not entail face-to-face contact and instead would revolve around various channels the likes of video calls, phone calls, emails or text messages. This results in no particular structure as your communication would be scattered and fragmented across varying channels making it difficult to keep track of what’s going on.
As a manager, you may feel disconnected from your team, and as employees, you may feel detached from each other and lose sight of the common goals that are to be met.
2. Feeling isolated
Not everyone reacts to isolation the same way. While there are those that embrace the lifestyle, independence and flexibility that comes with it, there may be members within your team that would find it a real struggle to adjust to the new system of working remotely. Especially when it comes to the extroverted team members that crave yearn for community, culture and social interaction within the office environment, the disconnect that comes with working on their own can lead to loneliness.
3. Inability to set boundaries
While some may argue that remote employees can slack off on work when they’re at home, studies show that it is in fact the opposite in most cases. A surprising number of employees report the inability to detach from work or to set firm boundaries for their work hours resulting in extended working hours that impact their mental health and social lives negatively.
4. Lack of visibility and access to information
Managers and supervisors that are used to the traditional system of having a close eye on their subordinates would find it difficult to let go of some control when their employees are working remotely. Likewise, employees that are not used to the system may require access to managerial support and may find the lack of supervision problematic.
This applies strongly to new recruits that may have questions for their coworkers regarding organizational processes that aren’t documented, hence the remote environment would be leaving them at a loss.
Tips for effective remote team management
Remote teams function differently from company to company. While some companies would be fully remote others may utilize a hybrid option. Yet overall, the management of a remote team is about setting up each individual employee for success that would in turn result in hitting organizational goals.
The following are some of the time tested tips and tricks of effective remote workforce management that if followed, can mitigate the challenges and optimize the effectiveness of remote.
1. Embrace remote fully
If you’re going into remote, make sure to go in fully. Do not try to hang on to the systems and processes that were in place in the office environment as they would be of no use within remote work cultures. In fact, they can hold you back from achieving the full potential of remote teams. Do not deny your employees all the benefits that come with embracing remote work. Do not try to dictate strict work hours and expect instantly replies to messages. Let them enjoy the life that comes with the flexibility of going remote as long as the work gets done and clear communication is in place.
In order to succeed as a remote team manager, you have to be fully transparent with your work and your intentions. Use public channels to communicate with your team and ensure to share your wins and losses with the entire workforce as they are all great learning opportunities. Not only does this allow you to lead by example, and ensure no one is left off of important conversations, it provides you with wider visibility of your organization.
3. Avoid micromanagement
The lack of visibility within a remote team shouldn’t be compensated through excessive calls and demands for constant updates. Learn to trust the team that you have selected and trust that they can get their work done without you having to check in on them all day long. Interrupting their work processes throughout the day through constant micromanagement would only disrupt their workflow, and extend the time taken to get a task done. In addition, this would make your team frustrated, demotivated and strain your relationship with them.
4. Lean into async
Asynchronous communication is vital for a productive remote team. Not everything needs to be discussed at a meeting. Identify what areas of your work can be fully async and what actually requires a meeting. It might be sufficient to simply conduct a 10-minute daily standup to discuss what’s at hand for the day before jumping in for the kill.
5. Establish structures
While you want to allow your team to enjoy the advantages that come with remote work, you do need to have some structures set in place to ensure success. Make sure that your entire team spends some amount of overlapping office hours in order to schedule meetings when needed. Conduct regular team checkups and weekly roundups and ensure the team is up to speed on what’s expected from them. Ask your team if they need help with anything and conduct a mental health check on your team members at regular intervals.
Tools for successful remote workforce management
We have listed a few tools that can be utilized to make the best of your remote work experience.
- Online chat tools – these are a must to stay connected when following a remote work system as your employees need to be able to communicate in real-time.
- Video conferencing software – in order to conduct effective meetings and promote strong connections within your team, consider the use of an effective video communication application.
- Project collaboration app – these are essential tools that can provide visibility to your project timelines along with what’s being done at present and what more is left to complete, thereby increasing project transparency.