Best Practices for Managing Your Remote TeamJuly 2, 2020
COVID-19 has disrupted nearly every aspect of normal workforce management, forcing companies to be more nimble in handling employee needs. Shifting to a remote team caught many organizations off guard, and forced them to learn through unfortunate experience that they were ill-prepared to support a remote workforce.
Business leaders – especially those used to managing their teams in terms of desk time and visual productivity – may struggle the most with the switch to remote work. However, as unforeseen challenges continue to change the way we work, the ability for teams to thrive in a digital workspace is more important than ever before, and employers must learn best practices for communicating, collaboration, inclusion, and encouraging positive culture with their remote teams.
In 2019, close to 25% of the workforce was already functioning as remote employees at least part-time, but with the explosion of COVID-19 cases,
that number has skyrocketed to include many who are working – and managing – remotely for the first time.
However, according to Deloitte, only 46% of workers trust their leadership teams. Since today’s world views transparency as the most valuable organizational currency, taking control of what you can in a crisis scenario – especially your remote team’s experience – is vital to overall success as a company. Going the extra mile to ensure all members of your staff have access to the information, tools, and resources needed to make the best of their current situation will not only improve morale, but also the employee’s outlook on leadership.
Think about the first time you flew on an airplane and hit a bit of turbulence. For some, this is scarier than others, and they eagerly await the calming voice of the pilot to explain what is happening and assure them they are safe. As a company, your employees are being jolted by turbulent times, and look to their managers for cues on how to react to certain changes and challenges the company is currently facing. Effective leaders will not only acknowledge the stress and anxiety we’re all facing, but also communicate the confidence they have in the strength of the team and the ability to come through the challenges stronger.
One way to be the calming voice during turbulent times may be to create a webpage with FAQ’s, video clips, and tips, or inspirational messages. Whether the page is directed at getting information out regarding the pandemic or offering tips, strategies, and behaviors of work from home experts, creating this is a way to increase trust in the leadership team while offering value to your employees.
Additionally, successful remote teams have managers who establish clear productivity standards and deadlines and provide the right tools for employees to meet these goals. These standards may set the frequency, means, and ideal timing that communication is taking place, and ensure information needed among team members is being shared. These ground rules could take the form of – ‘we’ll have a team video call every morning at 9 AM, if something is more urgent send an IM, and the best time to reach me for other questions or concerns is in the early afternoons via text.’
During daily check-ins, employees should consult with their managers regarding questions and concerns about their projects as well as identify roadblocks faced by the team, and work together to find solutions.
The annual State of the Digital Workplace report detailed that more than one-third of remote employees have a difficult time accessing important documents and information needed to get their jobs done, and 51% admit to not sharing documents with a colleague because they either felt it would take too long to find – or they tried and couldn’t find it at all. This is up from 31% of remote workers who felt this way in 2018.
However, effective collaboration is a win-win as knowledge sharing boosts the performance of the team as a whole, and helps employees socialize and connect with one another. Digital tools including Slack and Microsoft Teams increase the teamwork mentality, supports an inclusive culture, and simplifies collaboration and document sharing.
Keep in mind that micromanaging is not the best way to handle a remote employee. In fact, a 2013 Gallup State of the America Workplace Report shows that these employees work an average of four hours more per week than their onsite equivalents. The traditional 8-5 schedule should not be expected to be maintained as – especially with school being canceled and daycare options sparse, family caregiving commitments, and other pandemic-related stressed – remote workers need the flexibility to work around their commitments. This flexibility needs to be ever-present in a company’s collaborative measures.
Managers worldwide are also helping their employees have their voices heard by creating outlets to offer feedback and share concerns. These outlets can be as simple as a Google Form or survey and can be openly accessible – or even sent out through email on a regular basis. Not only does this method of management help to determine pain points and challenges related to transitioning to work from home, but it also helps leaders better understand their current culture and determine areas needing improvement.
In challenging times, keeping morale high is critical to the success of your team. While many have had remote workforces for some time, other companies had to take a leap of faith – all the while praying that productivity doesn’t tank, working habits go down the drain, and employees forgetting what the organization truly stands for and believe in. No matter which category your company falls into, as a manager, now is your turn to help your unique culture shine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that even the darkest moments can present opportunities to grow as a team. Managers can promote an employee-first approach to culture building, and ensure their newly – or established – remote teams feel connected to one another. A few ways to do this may include throwing virtual office parties – and sending pizza or a care package of sorts to the employees’ homes to enjoy during the ‘party,’ – hosting virtual game nights, and other activities that reduce feelings of isolation remote workers often face and foster collegiality and teamwork.
However you choose to approach managing your remote workforce, connecting with your team in meaningful ways will help everyone through the challenging times of remote work – and may make it easier should your organization decide to continue remote opportunities long after the pandemic has passed.
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