The role of remote work has grown rapidly in recent days. The global situation caused by the COVID-19 virus has forced companies to switch to working remotely.
To lead a remote team well, managers may discover they need to loosen their reins a little while finding ways to continue to hold employees accountable. Without the ability to continuously monitor employees in a shared office space, they may find success by focusing more on what gets done and whether it meets well-defined quality standards. It’s helpful, too, to be willing to experiment a little with technology and how meetings are conducted.
In other words, successful pivots to virtual work, whether planned months in advance or in response to a natural disaster or a global pandemic, require that managers be willing to recalibrate how they lead their people.
Below are our top tips to help business leaders when it comes to managing remote workers.
Remote work stops working when you can’t trust the person on the other end of the line. If you continually find yourself worrying what someone is doing, then you are spending brain cycles focusing on something other than the product or customers. Trust is key.
People learn a lot from context, and the less time they spend in the office, the less context workers have about their manager’s expectations. So, managers need to be explicit about what the remote worker must produce. The parameters, deadlines and metrics of tasks must be crystal clear, but so should the manager’s personal feelings. If a manager needs weekly progress reports, for instance, or prompt replies to emails, the manager must say so and hold the employee accountable.
As a manager, your job is to keep your team connected. Communication tools are a simple way to keep everyone engaged. While email and text messages might be a short-term solution, tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams are far better suited for collaboration and communication.
Your employees know what is expected of them and have the right tools to facilitate their work. Then again, this isn’t where your remote team management ends. You should also provide regular, detailed and meaningful feedback to your employees about their work.
What goals has each of your employees set for the day/week/sprint? What have they done to achieve those goals? What have they done outstandingly? And what can they improve? Without feedback from managers and team members, it is difficult for employees to move forward and improve their performance.
Set up a process of providing feedback, whether it is a weekly one-on-one virtual meeting or using a feedback app, a combination of both, or another method.
Our work environment is changing. Remote working is now easier than ever, even in times of a crisis; thanks to the internet, the massive growth of mobile, and the rise of the cloud. With the remote benefits of flexibility and always being connected, come the challenges of a lack of face time and productive team collaboration.
And while these tips don’t cover all of the issues associated with managing remote employees, they do give you a pretty decent foundation to work with.