Whether you’ve been managing a remote team for years now or have just shifted to this work management set up fairly recently, the lack of face-to-face communication among workers to establish a healthy work culture can be a bit difficult.
Moreover, working from home means being exposed to more distractions and social isolation, which can negatively impact employees’ productivity. If you happen to be a small business owner managing a new remote team due to unforeseen circumstances, you can overcome small business challenges like this by reinforcing policies and models for smooth remote working experience.
To give businesses and managers some guidance and make their work from home setup effective, below are some ways you can keep your remote team productive and get things done smoothly. Let’s dive into it!
- Determine your remote work tools and services
It’s impossible to run a capable remote team without using virtual tools and services. There are tools out there for all the things you need to keep your remote team productive and aligned. These include time tracking, communication and task management tools, file storage and synchronization services, and even tools for team engagement activities.
Identify the work tools and services you and your team need to help you be more organized, keep everyone on the same page, and enforce clear processes. You can test the tools yourself first before you introduce it to the team.
- Establish an email list for better communication
As a way to separate personal from work-related emails, create an email list that includes your team members strictly for work use only so that you can share valuable information and files for easy and proper documentation.
Consider creating a shared folder on services like Google Drive, where your team can search, access, and save files from any device. For instant communication and collaboration, you can use chat rooms or send out text blasts for internal communications or work announcements.
- Implement strict processes to follow
The fact that you work separately and communicate virtually makes it all the more important to establish some ground rules for the team. This can minimize confusion and avoid misunderstandings.
Some examples include employees notifying the team when they need to take a quick break, emails must be addressed within 24 hours, and task reports must be sent before clocking out. Apart from daily reports and communication guidelines, you can also implement a process for task submissions and filing sick or vacation leaves (e.g., submitted via Google forms).
- Set a schedule
Working from home provides so much flexibility for employees, especially when you have both early birds and night owls in your team. But, to keep everyone in check, it’s still better to set a time frame within the day when you can expect everyone to clock in. This allows you to reach people and discuss tasks or projects without communication issues.
In the same vein, try to establish strict policies when it comes to working management. For instance, make sure that no work-related calls should be made after work hours to avoid unnecessary stress.
- Hold meetings for regular updates
To stay on top of your tasks and goals, stay updated with your team, and hold meetings whenever necessary. You can host team meetings via video conferencing. If possible, ask your team to enable their camera and microphone to participate in discussions so that, in a way, the team can connect on a different level.
Your team meetings don’t necessarily have to be conducted daily. Once a week is enough, as long as you get to update everyone about client and project progress and other critical internal discussions.
- Continue practicing workplace etiquette
Just because your team isn’t in a physical work setting and you don’t see how or where they work doesn’t mean they’re not busy. Before you schedule meetings or pass an urgent task to someone, check the calendar first, or approach them through chat.
Additionally, respect your colleagues’ schedule or downtime. Do not contact them after work hours, when they’re sick, or on vacation (unless they say that they can be contacted when needed), especially if it’s not urgent. Respect their downtime like how you would want them to respect yours.
- Track their progress
Delegate tasks to your employees with allocated hours they are expected to accomplish for each task. This should help calm your fears when it comes to project deadlines and provide your team with the proper flow when fulfilling their responsibilities.
This also allows you to monitor their performance and see whether they’re meeting the deadlines or not. If it seems like they’re working longer than usual and expected, maybe it’s a sign that they need a one-on-one meeting for some quick check-in.
- Emphasize communication
Ultimately, transparent and open communication is crucial when it comes to remote management. Communicate clear expectations, roles, and goals to your team to ensure that you are all working towards the same objectives.
Moreover, open communication keeps everyone on top of deadlines and opens them to collaboration and discussion of work challenges. The more comfortable your team is in speaking their thoughts and concerns, the easier it is for you to address them and help them work better.
More Tips on Managing Remote Employees
Apart from tools and services, streamlined processes, and strict policies, you can also take simple actions to overcome remote work challenges, create a healthy “work environment,” and build a winning team.
- Encourage a feedback-friendly culture
Working remotely takes away your opportunity to bond over small talk and discuss things about work culture, facilities, and opportunities, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. You can encourage your team to use survey forms like Employee Feedback to get their perspective towards employees’ productivity and satisfaction with their work.
You can also use surveys to gain insights into what they think about your processes and policies, assisting you in improving your work culture.
- Avoid micromanaging
You know how uncomfortable it is for employees to have their supervisors looking over their shoulders every five minutes to check up on their work. Constantly asking for updates every hour or so via chat and micromanaging employees through a time-tracking system that takes a snap of their screens every few minutes can disrupt their momentum and productivity.
Remote working heavily relies on trust and allowing your team to be self-organized. Remember why you hired your employees (for their skills and experience) and show how much you value them by trusting them to work with minimal supervision.
- Provide emotional support
This is crucial for businesses that went on an abrupt shift to remote work. Businesses and managers need to acknowledge the different levels of each employee’s stress, anxieties, and concerns and empathize with their challenges working from home.
You can hold one-on-one meetings to check-in with your team and listen to their struggles and concerns with work and at home. Since they work from home, it’s essential to understand their situation and reassure them that you empathize. In some way, this should help release their stress.
- Conduct team engagements
Get your team out of a rut of monotonous routines by hosting team engagement activities online. Promote a remote work culture where they can get to know each other beyond work by hosting trivia nights, playing online games, or simply maintaining a separate chat group to discuss movies, TV shows, and everything else.
- Celebrate wins
It’s important to recognize and cheer on milestones and successes—big and small—that would be celebrated in the office. This can improve employee morale and satisfaction, giving them a boost in productivity and performance.
You can reward them through bonuses or gift certificates. Alternatively, a simple acknowledgment of their accomplishment on the company intranet or town hall meeting can show how much you value them.
Transition to Remote Working Seamlessly
Proactive and engaging leaders produce equally motivated and engaged employees. Showing how much you care for your team’s sanity and performance in a remote work setup can drive your team towards success. To make your remote management effective, it all starts with a leader who cares.
Author Bio: Neil Paras is an IT director of a BPO, specializing in virtual assistance in back end operations including e-commerce content, application verification, and enterprise data management. They have been in operation for 11 years, with 4 branches in key cities. He has seen it from its first year of operation and has been key to fixing its infrastructure, and planning for its gradual increase.