With the advent of the pandemic, more and more businesses are operating remote teams. Unfortunately, managing them can be quite tricky.
They’re not in the office, so usual face-to-face interactions don’t apply.
The nature of remote teams is different from company to company. For some, it’s a natural consequence of their line of business.
They need independent employees or contractors in the field to serve customers (such as in the plumbing of HVAC industries).
For others, it has to do with worker demands for more hybrid working opportunities. After COVID-19, employees don’t see the point of being in the office every day, and employers are having a hard time convincing them otherwise.
In this post, we take a look at some of the pillars of effective remote team management that apply across all business types, whether you run a small firm, a large company, one that naturally employs remote workers or one that doesn’t.
1. Tell Your Remote Workers What You Expect From Them
Remote workers can sometimes feel cut off from the companies they work for, not just physically, but also culturally. Interacting with bosses on Slack or via email exchanges is a different experience from, say, actually having a meeting with bosses in an office.
For that reason, leaders need to clearly communicate what they expect from their employees. They need to spell out what they need to get done, and by when. And they need to set clear hours of availability, avoiding the scourge of long lunch breaks and early clocking off.
Don’t just communicate your values and requirements verbally. Write them down on a contract and then get your employees to sign it, verifying their agreement with the terms of working with you.
2. Look For Hires Who Can Manage Themselves
Bosses originally set up physical offices so that they could keep an eye on workers and make sure that they were pulling their weight. It was less about technological limitations and more about maximizing productivity.
You could argue we had the know-how for most knowledge workers to work from home from 2000, and certainly by 2010, but it didn’t happen because of employers’ fears that staff wouldn’t get on with tasks.
In a world where remote work is a reality, though, things are changing. Companies are now looking for people who can work tirelessly by themselves, never give up and always persevere to make the customer happy.
Therefore, when hiring looks for people who are self-motivated team players. Select individuals with a positive attitude who don’t require a boss breathing down their neck to do their job properly.
3. Allow Different Viewpoints
Managers also need to accommodate different viewpoints and allow other people to share their opinions in remote working situations. Diversity of ideas is critical.
The reason it’s so important is that it is hard for one mind to contain all the information required for effective company operations. It takes a team of open-minded people to arrive at the optimal solution in any given set of circumstances.
Remote team members who can’t voice their opinions are at risk of becoming ostracized. They’ll feel like they don’t have a stake in the company and, therefore, won’t act in its best interest.
To improve this, find managers and leaders who are willing to entertain all ideas before coming to a firm decision. Look for people who operate a big tent policy, allowing everyone to have a stake.
4. Use Automation Tools To Streamline Management Tasks
Managing workers in a conventional office space are challenging enough, but when they’re distributed all over the place, it becomes even more difficult. Employees in different geographies and time zones create all manner of headaches.
The trick here is to use automation tools. The core components of field service management software include things like task management, process checklists, time tracking, and community tools.
The idea is to dramatically cut down on the amount of administrative work required at HQ while making it easier for employees to understand what you want them to do.
Where possible, avoid app bloat. Look for platforms that offer all of the tools that you need in one service, or that integrate with your existing systems and processes.
Once you have software in place, communicate with your team how you need them to use it. Make sure that everyone understands their responsibilities and knows what’s coming down the pike.
Avoid wasting the manager’s time with unnecessary check-ins or frequent status meetings. Get employees to provide those themselves.
5. Set Your Communication Expectations
How employees in your company communicate with you is a matter of corporate policy. No single approach is best here. However, you’ll need to tailor your approach to your business’s needs.
When working remotely, employees may withdraw into their shells, sometimes for days at a time. What’s more, they may not be willing to put in the same level of effort in their PJs at home as they do in the office.
Corporate policy, therefore, may require everyone to join Zoom calls in the morning (to encourage people to get out of bed and get dressed). It may also require them to check-in at a certain time with their boss or team leader.
Communication can be particularly challenging if you operate across time zones. Employees based in Spain, for instance, may need to work late for calls to their Cincinnati-based head office.
6. Keep Team Bonds Strong
When some employees work from home and others spend time in the office, there’s a risk of cultural bifurcation. Workers at the head office may feel pampered and loved by senior executives, while those working in the field may feel neglected and abused.
To prevent this, you’ll want to look for ways to keep team bonds strong. Office workers shouldn’t become first-class employees, with those in the field considered second-class.
That’s not good for customers, and it’s not good for business. Instead, everyone needs to feel like it’s a level playing field.
To keep bonds strong, you might want to do things like:
- Organize a work vacation for you and your team, including in-house and field workers
- Offer creative days where all workers come together for group activities
- Host regular in-person meetings with remote staff in the office, perhaps once per week
- Organize monthly video calls where everyone can chat with everyone else and feel like a part of the same firm
Remember, the more that you can keep team bonds strong, the more loyalty and dedication you will get from your employees.
7. Train Your Remote Employees
Just because your remote employees are out of the office, doesn’t mean that training and development should stop. In fact, it should be the reverse. As a business, you need to try even harder to earn their loyalty and convince them to stick with you.
Remote training is easy these days. In many cases, you can do it through field management apps. If that’s not possible in your situation, simply offering e-learning can be a powerful solution as well.
If you have newbies at your firm, pair them up with team leaders. Hold their hand for a while as they learn the ropes. Failing to do this can leave employees feeling lost or, worse still, looking for another job.
8. Offer Support
Lastly, you’ll want to offer as much support as possible to your remote teams. When employees feel good about what they are doing, their results tend to be better, and you wind up with more satisfied customers.
If someone did a great job, always offer them praise on your communication apps. Compliment people and point out how they are supporting the company’s mission.