According to Forbes 80-90% of the workforce claim they’d be far happier if they were able to work remotely and more flexibly at least some of the time.
Since 2005 the number of people working from home has increased by 140%, and it’s now thought that 16% of companies exclusively hire remote workers. Thanks to advances in technology these remote workers could be anywhere in the world.
While this is undoubtedly a desirable option for many employees, it can be a very challenging scenario for managers, mainly if you’re working with people in different time zones. Gaining that trust required to manage your team from afar can admittedly be a bit of a challenge.
However, since remote working is becoming a prevalent option for many businesses, managers and team leaders will need to adapt to this way of working in the future, and this article has been written to provide some handy tips and tricks to make this process far more comfortable.
Everyone needs to be on the same page
No two people will ever have the same idea of what doing something ‘fast’ or ‘well’ means – Whether you show your employees examples of how you expect work to be completed, or you share a highly concise Google Calendar with deadlines on when tasks must be completed.
The more prepared they are to undertake the tasks you offer the better the quality of the final product will be.
As with anything in life, success is highly dependent on communication – without it, you have no chance of running a successful team, whether local or remote. Silence is the biggest killer for businesses.
Use multiple communication channels to talk on a daily basis, such as Skype, Email, Slack, or even WhatsApp and text messaging. From here, you must also work out a regular face-to-face meeting to ensure that you uphold that personal connection. The frequency of these meetings will entirely depend on locations, and how often your working schedule or training programme may change, whether that’s weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually.
If you’re only able to see your team members on a quarterly or annual basis, then video calling is a good option in the interim.
Continuous communication and interaction will help remote workers feel included and in-sync with the goals of the organisation.
Build a trusting dynamic
Although there has been a rush to embrace the remote working dynamic, according to Owl Labs, 44% of companies don’t allow any remote working in any shape or form.
This is usually because there’s always that seed of doubt and ambiguity as to whether someone could complete a task to the same quality as they could if they were in the office. However, according to statistics from TimeDoctor.com, 30% of remote workers reported accomplishing more in less time, and 23% said they’d be happier to work longer hours with more flexible working patterns.
To begin building a base of trust with your employees, you could first start by drafting work-from-home guidelines, which could include:
- Emails need a response within 24-hours
- Text messaging will be used for critical matters
- Time zones (if you have remote workers in different countries)
- No calls between certain times (which again will differ based on time zones)
Once these guidelines have been established, it’s much easier to give your employees space and time they need to excel, while also giving you the scope to identify those who may not be performing, and how you might be able to address it.
Make everyone feel involved
As a manager, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of relegating your remote teams, particularly if you’re also in charge of a local team.
There’s nothing more demoralising for a remote worker than feeling a disconnect – no one wants to feel isolated.
This can be addressed by setting up a culture of group messenger conversations, virtual meetings with everyone in the team and staff partnerships.
Remember though, making everyone feel involved is more than the occasional virtual meeting or staff event, it’s also about how you work.
Establish the following:
- Clear lines of communication between staff members
- A culture of support, interaction, collaboration and the space to make mistakes and learn from them
- A clear set of standards – whether that be how you communicate with customers or the level at which work should be completed
- Celebrating wins and embracing the idea of change when things don’t go right
If you get these ideas into place, without the need for your constant input, then you’ve made considerable strides in making everyone feel welcome and involved.
Understand values, personalities and wants
Remote workers aren’t able to enjoy the day-to-day communication that goes on in the office, and therefore it can be challenging to get to know them.
As a manager, it’s your job to understand their values, personality and what they want to achieve from their role, while also showing them how their role impacts the business and makes a difference.
As you begin to understand and get to know someone you can start to pinpoint areas of the job they enjoy, things they don’t, what they’re good at and what needs improvement.
This kind of hands-on management is far more likely to keep your team happy and productive.
Tools at the ready
If your remote workers are unable to download files, hear properly during conference calls, and receive urgent messages in the early hours of the morning, you’re already failing them.
In order to make the collaboration possible, it’s crucial that you invest in the right tools to complete the job and develop a clear understanding of how these tools should be used.
After all, you wouldn’t hand a carpenter a spade and tell them to get on with it, would you?
Goals over activity
As the manager of a remote workforce, it’s crucial to manage expectation in order to stay aligned with your goals.
It can be easy to get bogged down in the details of what is being done when, but the most significant wins will come when you concentrate on what is actually being accomplished.
Once you transfer to this mindset, you will either see accomplished goals, or you’ll need to investigate the situation to understand why they’re not being met.
We’ve already covered how you will communicate with your employees, but what standards will you set for your employees to communicate with you?
Firstly, receiving progress reports is really important, whether that be daily, every few days or at the end of each week. From here, you can then use a task management system to divvy out tasks – some will prefer a few at a time, while others prefer an entire list – this will be up to you to decide based on the individual.
You can then see which tasks are with whom, so you can chase progress or provide more time for a task as you see fit.
We’ve already covered this to some extent in the previous point, but managing your workflow is absolutely crucial. The best way to do this is to view the entire process as a whole, and then look at each element holistically.
So, for example, you have X number of tasks that need to be completed and X number of employees to achieve them, and you need to answer the following questions:
- Who will take on priority tasks?
- Who will be better suited to a certain kind of task?
- Who’s workflow can I add things to, and who’s burden can I lighten?
- Are there any of my own tasks I could delegate to free up time for me to focus on more important things?
Once you’ve answered these kinds of questions, you can put together a workflow that suits everyone’s skills and abilities, while best managing time.
The working world has changed; working for a company for 30, 40 or 50 years, is seldom seen. These days the workforce is far more interested in learning, new skills and advancement, and not just in the working arena.
It’s essential to take a personal interest in the goals that your team wish to achieve away from the workplace.
For example, an employee is looking to save a deposit to buy their first home, and perhaps their current wage isn’t substantial enough to allow them to save the kind of cash they need to. You could offer a raise in salary based on the condition that they take up a role with more responsibility or offer them bonus payments based on goals achieved.
There’s less of a divide between work and personal life these days, and with employees working more in their personal time, employee engagement has never been more critical.
Establish a support system
It’s important to empathise and appreciate the lives of your workers; talking about their family, hobbies, and beliefs can go a long towards creating a strong bond.
It can be easy to focus on the losses and understate the wins, but it’s important that you also go some way to helping them achieve their goals and celebrate with them.
Encourage community using technology
A sense of community is key when developing a remote workforce. Use technology such as Facebook Groups, Skype chats and other dedicated spaces to celebrate special days, commemorate milestones and recognise above and beyond contributions.
Making intentional steps to create community will help develop a culture that inspires inter-connectivity, which can increase productivity.
Embrace cultural differences
This is mostly applicable with international teams, but it doesn’t hurt to consider it for your local team too.
Depending on where someone lives, their nationality, their religion or their values, people will have varying attitudes to their career, families and general etiquette.
Many managers may lack this understanding, and it may shock them how differently one person may approach life, compared to another, but once you understand and embrace these differences, it’s much easier to connect with them.
It’s also important to understand how public holidays, religious festivals and personal beliefs may impact your working schedule.
In this list, we’ve highlighted thirteen hints and tips to ensure that you can go into remote management fully prepared or improve your performance in your current position.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, and there are many other things you can try out, it’s important to remember that being a good leader is universal; so long as you try your best to inspire, motivate and above all, connect with those below you, you will have given yourself and your team a fantastic platform to succeed.
About the Author
Mary Gilbey is a foreign language and business expert and the Managing Director of the translation company anglia-translations.co.uk.