It’s no longer news that thousands of businesses around the world are diving in the direction of remote work. More and more employees are also opting for remote jobs abandoning the conventional office-based jobs. This shift in work trend leaves most managers who’re normally excellent at managing physical staff struggling to adjust to supervising remote employees. The two setups are worlds apart and you’ll need special skills and new training to be able to manage virtual teams if you’re going to improve efficiency and productivity and continue with business as usual.
The most important challenge managers have with remote teams is having to manage people that they hardly ever set their eyes on. How would they check for efficiency or for productivity or scale employee performance or monitor punctuality, and employee presence?
First off, as a remote manager, you must know that remote work requires different skills from those normally expected in a physical work environment. A remote worker must be able to follow written procedures and communicate effectively using the latest information and telecommunication technologies. The rules that applied in the office can’t be used in the remote environment. The remote workers are masters of their time and can choose to work the way they choose. For this reason, managers must find ways to hire the right crop of employees who could serve in the business’s best interests and onboard them.
It is necessary that everyone is conscious of what is expected of them. Team members, for instance, are expected to know when to respond to communication, or when they should attend virtual meetings. This must be dealt with at the virtual onboarding.
Also, as a remote manager, you’ll need to maintain constant communication with your remote workers. They’re not in the office and you can’t count on taking a minute in the elevator to thrash things out with an employee or to commend him/her. You’ll need to develop different forms of communication to reach out and to keep work flowing smoothly.
This sort of communication is very important in building trust in your employees and spurring them on to give in their best. You’ll also be able to use it to kick out those employees who aren’t just fit for remote work. Some employees were just never created for remote work. They find it really challenging to work without someone supervising and turning the wheels. It’ll pay you more to release such employees if you’re to improve on productivity.
To effectively handle the many challenges associated with remote work management, here are procedures you must master to keep your business afloat and to keep gaining from your employees remotely:
Provide Ongoing Training
Remote training is the first thing on the list when taking in new remote workers for the expansion of your business. The onboarding software platform is what you’ll use to get both new and old workers up to speed on the latest changes and newly required skills. It’ll also help you keep team members fully conscious of company values and mission. From time to time, people working remotely will need to feel that they are part of the company in every way. You need to carry them along in every aspect.
As part of the ongoing training process, you will need to create well-documented procedures on how to accomplish several regular tasks. Remember that a remote worker won’t be able to take a walk over to the desk of an older, more experienced worker to ask for directions. Straighten things out for them in the document and ensure they have easy access to it at any time. Always refer workers to it when they are going astray.
It’s Your Responsibility To Find The Right Workers
Apart from understanding your role in applying the rules of the company fairly and consistently or ensuring that employees have access to the resources they need in case of an emergency, it’s also your job to find the right workers.
As earlier stated, not everyone can work well in a remote environment; just as not everyone is really up to the task of managing a remote team. As a manager, you need to be much careful when you add new members to your team. You need workers who value the importance of goals and deliverables and deadlines. They should be able to accomplish assigned tasks with minimal supervision and direction from wherever they may be.
A useful hiring tip to identify the right employees during the short time interview window is to hire several individuals on a short-term basis for a few projects. You will then assess their skills and make a selection of your permanent employees from that circle.
Create Flexible Structures
To boost discipline and productivity in a workplace, there must be structures in place to direct and control. Create flexible timetables for meetings. Spell out tasks of every available employee so that everyone knows the roles others are playing and then know the significance of their role in the business and how it affects the overall output.
One thing to note in creating meeting times for remote employees working in different time zones is to rotate meeting times. In other words, the meeting time mustn’t be fixed. The problem with fixing the meeting timetable is that the inconvenience caused by differences in time zones will always fall on the same employee. If it’s rotated, everyone takes part in the inconvenience when it’s their turn.
Emphasize On Regular Communication
Regular communication is key to a vibrant business. Make communication between you and your employees to be as seamless as possible. There is no way team members will know which time of the day to contact you. You will need to indicate times of the day when your workers can reach you. Imagine they’re supposed to reach you immediately for a very important input before they make a decision that is vital to the life of your business. If they can’t reach you, there might be unpleasant consequences. Always be clear about how you will keep an open line of communication and make sure you remove any form of communication barrier.
Create a communication strategy to fix the number of meetings you will have with your team in a month and to render a smoother communication experience. Your strategy should address the issues of background noise and decorum during meetings. You can also create meeting templates for reuse.
Practice Equality, Recognize Excellence And Have Trust
As a manager, there is a possibility you are co-managing remote employees and regular office staff at the same time. Sometimes, there is the tendency to be more generous with one group and partial with the other and vice versa. You have to consciously avoid that inequality trap and make sure that all benefits enjoyed by remote workers are also received by regular workers and vice versa.
While prioritizing equality, you must do well to recognize excellence too. You should mention during team meetings the exceptional performance of certain workers. You can specify the whats and the wheres so that others can be inspired to perform likewise. Besides, you’ll have succeeded in boosting the morale of the concerned employee(s). It’s a win-win situation since your business will actually benefit from the renewed work spirit.
If you have done a good job during the selection process for your online staff, then you should trust them. When you continually worry over the output of a remote employee, it means you haven’t been clear about the output and the deadlines.
Focus On Outputs And Don’t Overload Employees
The focus in remote jobs is on what is delivered rather than time spent in an office. The regular workers have a duty to report to the office and may be idle the whole day and still get paid, but the remote worker is only paid for what he has been able to achieve.
Given the fact that a task that should take an hour to complete can be stretched over a 24-hour period by a remote worker, it is necessary to clarify tasks to be accomplished and fix deadlines for completion.
You could schedule meetings to follow up on the progress of the task. For jobs that require you to track the time that a remote employee took to complete them, you may need to use time tracking tools like TimeCamp, Hubstaff, Toggy, Paymo, or Tick.
In assigning tasks to a remote worker you must take care not to overload them. Considering the fact that you can’t actually see the employee and decide that one is overloaded or not, you will need to find out their availability and know if they can get the work in at a new deadline without affecting the original deadline of the other tasks they’re working on.
Provide Emotional Support
Different workers experience different emotional challenges. While a look of depression can let the cat out with your regular workers, you can’t possibly know about such with your remote workers. Apart from the feeling of loneliness that is common with a lot of remote workers, another emotional issue your online staff experiences is time management. They struggle to keep up with deadlines and run to the grocery stores and pick the kids from school and prepare the meals.
As a manager, you may also be the source of your employee’s problems. Yes, this is if you are fond of treating them as some 24/7 robot response machine. You have to keep communication within reasonable hours most preferably day so that they are calmer and more relaxed for better productivity.
To provide emotional support, try to always be in communication with your employees and know if there is something they need from you.
It’s important for you to provide prompt feedback since your remote employees don’t have the opportunity to interact with you informally in the same building. The fact that they don’t have a chance to see how others are doing things can make them become apprehensive regarding their ability to meet the company’s standard. For this, be deliberate and factual when providing feedback.
Clarify The Rules And Determine What’s Best For Them
Avoid using fuzzy language when dishing rules to the remote team. Always be clear about what the message is conveying. Terms like “neatly” and “perfectly” may confuse workers about what is expected. Talk more in numbers using descriptions like “zero spelling errors in the email” and “filling up the 20 fields in the worksheet”.
In setting work procedures and defining expectations for your remote team, it’s always a good idea to invite the team to participate in creating these rules. This is important to avoid stating conditions that aren’t achievable considering the specific situations in the remote settings of your online staff. In the remote staff’s area, they alone know how best to get the work done.
For instance, assuming you want to set the principal method of team communication to Skype, you will want to involve employees to know if it works well with them. If you are up to date with the world news, you will have found out that countries like Bangladesh, Morocco, China, and the UAE to name a few don’t allow the free use of Skype. Workers in these regions could suggest another means that is suitable for them if they are part of the planning.
The tasks you’ll need to master and effect to get the best in the remote hiring experience are many. But you don’t have to know everything. When you diligently abide by the procedures mentioned here, you’ll surely get the most out of your online team and your business will definitely do better.
Apart from being an organized and flexible manager who has set his expectations and is ready to track workers’ progress, other rewarding things you can do is to create team-building activities and allow physical meetings whenever it’s possible. Find a way to connect your company’s goals to the employee’s aspirations and encourage collaboration. Consider the new cultures of the different workers you’ll be integrating them. These would surely add to improving efficiency and productivity in your team and business.