Not so long ago the prospect of having your team spread across the world would have seemed a chaotic and ineffective way to get work done. Times have changed. This article explains how to rapport with your remote workers.
Now remote workers are proving an efficient and effective business solution that lowers business costs, offers greater flexibility to staff and is actually more productive. With remote workers in different time zones, remote working also ensures businesses are operational 24/7.
Remote working is a growing business trend that is here to stay thanks to globalisation and technology. In fact, many say that remote teams are the future of work.
Managing a remote workforce is one of the biggest challenges to businesses right now, largely because remote workers have a very different set of needs compared to their in-office counterparts.
One of the biggest problems managing a remote team is in recognising when a problem arises so it can be nipped in the bud.
Without regular face-to-face meetings it can be hard to gauge when things aren’t going so well. It means small problems can escalate without the opportunity for intervention. Building a good rapport with your team is crucial.
This article takes a look at things managers can do to support remote employees and ensure communication doesn’t slide. Effective management of remote employees is essential for staff retention, productivity and success.
Supporting remote workers requires a different skill set to managing employees in the office. The biggest mistake employers make when they transition to remote teams is to treat workers the same.
- objective setting
- how to keep remote teams motivated
- how to retain some sense of a team
Managers need to understand the different dynamics of remote teams. Quite simply put, how do you manage a team when you don’t see them regularly? It starts with trust and a different approach to communication.
With 50 per cent of the workforce now working in some sort of telecommuting role, and an increasing number of workers working remotely some of the time, it can be difficult for managers to feel in control. Building trust can be challenging, but is essential.
Remote workers can easily feel out of the communication loop, but ironically there is often a problem with over-communication due to a lack of trust. Managers who lack trust in their remote employees bombard them with messages and emails requesting constant updates.
A lack of trust by managers is one signal of a toxic work environment. It’s demotivating to workers both in and out of the office, but seems to be more prevalent in the management of remote teams. There’s mounting evidence to show trust has a huge impact on productivity.
According to Buffer, (social media management app), employees working for high-trust organisations experience less stress, more energy, higher productivity, are more engaged and more satisfied with their lives.
Managing Director at iManage, Bob Bannister, explains that trust is one of the most easily damaged elements for a team who have switched from a traditional working space to remote ways of working.
This is largely because the level of relationship between co-workers and managers is changed (it is harder to build trust with people you don’t know that well). Also, co-worker credibility is easier to observe working alongside each other. Co-worker credibility is far less obvious in remote teams and can impact on levels of trust.
Adopting a remote working business model can mean bringing teams together for training is expensive and impractical. However, just as technology and the world wide web has facilitated remote working, they also offer innovative communication and training solutions.
There is now a huge selection of cloud-based communication tools. Slack is one of the communication tools most widely used by remote teams. Video conferencing and virtual hangouts can keep meetings and collaboration almost on a par with face-to-face.
There is also the issue of training remote workers. Just as with office-based staff, a lack of training and opportunity is likely to drive remote workers away. Video conferencing makes training opportunities more accessible to everyone.
Importantly, when it comes to communication with remote workers, managers need to be more proactive than they are with in-office teams where conversations can be had at the coffee station. Managers of remote workers need to reach out to their remote teams and make a stronger effort to keep in touch with and update employees.
Objectives and goals
With remote workers, managers don’t have the ability to pop into a worker’s space to check how things are going. It means remote workers need clear objectives with specific metrics and a structured timeline for check-ins and evaluation.
See some of the factors you will need to keep in mind when goal-setting and managing remote teams here.
Office banter and a quick chat about personal lives at the water cooler are lost when it comes to remote employees. It’s crucial that managers of remote teams still build a bond with their workers. Managers should take the time to discuss family life and shared beliefs. Start video meetings with icebreakers and personal chitchat. Company culture still needs to be translated and fostered.
Make a point of meeting remote workers in person every once in a while. Group training, team adventure days and annual get-togethers can help build camaraderie between remote workers and managers.
Building rapport with your remote workers isn’t as easy as it is in office, but it is essential and will ultimately define the success of your team. Managers need to be far more proactive with communication, and utilise the best cloud-based tools and phone apps to engage with remote employees.
Goal-setting requires careful management and objectives must be clearly communicated. Above all, managers need to build trust with remote teams and let their people get on with doing a brilliant job.
Remote working is evolving. Managers need to adapt too. It starts with building rapport.
About the Author
Dakota Murphey has worked with a range of established companies as a business growth consultant. Since becoming a full-time Mother she’s turned her hand towards sharing her knowledge and experience through her writing and connecting with other industry professionals. Follow her on Twitter.