In these unprecedented times, having staff working from home or even further afield has become increasingly common. With businesses looking to navigate how they operate over the coming months and even years of industry change, questions have arisen when it comes to managing remote workers. Knowing how to manage your remote workforce and establishing processes to understand how to support your team have become essential.
This post is going to outline different aspects of managing your remote workforce and provide suggestions on achieving success in this field.
It’s normal to be concerned about how your team is working remotely and also, how you are doing as a manager trying to manage them. When everyone is in the office your job is naturally easier. You have direct contact with your employees and you can tell how someone is doing or how a project is ticking along through non-verbal queues just as much as the verbal ones.
Of course, all of that changes when you’re having to log in to video conference calls and you've had to drastically change how you work. If you didn’t have processes for remote working before, you’re having to invent them on the spot with other managers and more senior staff in the business.
It's become easier to also think that your staff may be underworking or underperforming, but that’s not the case. In fact many recent studies point to an increase in productivity for those working from home. Stanford Business School did a study over a nine month period and discovered that there was a “13% increase in performance – almost an extra day of output per week – plus a 50% drop in employee-quit rates.”
Communication is going to be key in these new remote worker times. Let’s take a look at how you can get the most from your team and give you peace of mind as well.
Strategies and tools for managing remote employees
Companies have employed a series of different tools and techniques to help managers get the best out of their remote employees. It depends on what your end goal is, naturally, but you want to have something that can help organise and better communicate objectives or results at the same time.
Some of these tools include;
- Slack - one of the most used tools for remote workers and office places. Silicon Valley giants such as Zapier & Buffer consider slack as their “virtual office place”. Slack allows teams to meet up one-to-one or in groups, share work and get instant feedback.
- Zoom - Zoom probably needs no introduction - who didn’t spend on Zoom at the start of the year? - It allows teams to get together and managers to schedule important meetings, it’s a reliable virtual conferencing tool that can be used to share presentations, chat and even hang out.
- Trello - Trello is a great project management tool that businesses of all kinds can use. From assigning people to projects or phases in the project whilst setting reminders to allowing employees to see the status of their work and when the next deadlines are. A powerful tool that is easy to use and quick to learn.
- Google Drive - from storing documents to creating shareable work that can be managed anywhere in the world, Google Drive has made remote working a lot easier in recent years. Because of adaptability and ease of use, Google gets the job done fast and easily, plus, anyone can spend a few minutes getting used to it making it highly accessible.
The key is how you use these tools and what it is you do to manage your employees with them.
Establishing routines and time management around these new procedures is what will make them work even better. For example, having a set time of the day for a scheduled team call or hangout. Then there are things that you could do to ensure that new jobs and tasks are communicated through different platforms and importantly don’t just rely on email. Make sure that your team is regularly updated and that you've scheduled in time one-on-one to make sure that they are ok and have everything they need.
Out of sight: how to manage remote teams
You may be surprised at how well some of your team may take to remote working. For some, it could be thanks to having that little longer in bed - yes, that’s a thing - or spending less time commuting to the office. It could also be that they are less distracted at home. This doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy coming into the office, because there are advantages and disadvantages of both remote and in office working.
But just because someone is out of sight doesn’t mean that they aren’t working. In fact, managers at this point can start to micromanage which can lead to employee burnout or unnecessary stressors at work and anxiety for the employee which is not the result you were looking for.
This is where it’s important to engage in a few key areas;
Show your team trust from the outset. Set expectations for what you want the team to work on and importantly, let them get on with it.
2. Schedule regular meetings
Make sure you’re not on conference call all the time with the team, or even asking to see what is on their screen. This will erode any trust they have with you. Instead, schedule regular meetings and catch-ups. Show them that you are there for them when they need it but also, set the expectation that work needs to be done. This is all the more important when onboarding your remote team.
3. Get the team together
Use the team as a de-facto responsibility sharer. By creating social time for the team to communicate, this allows everyone to feel part of something that is bigger- which is commonly lost in remote working.
How managers can support remote employees
Employees may also not enjoy the experience of remote working and this is where as a manager you need to step in and put together a plan to ensure that they can work safely and find enjoyment working from home, even if it can feel difficult at times.
Loneliness and social isolation is a major issue for many new remote workers - especially in recent times. Addressing wellbeing at work on an individual basis with regular calls and chats can help greatly in this case. Also, ensure that they have regular contact with other team members - even virtual drinks one night after work hours can help make people feel connected.
Another major issue can be lack of equipment or appropriate working areas. Find out how everyone is situated at home. It may be that they need a laptop to get on with work or possibly a desk or chair which can be brought from the office. Finding a way to help anyway you can and ensuring that the employee feels comfortable is essential at this time.
The key to all of this is communication and being able to be as accommodating as possible will make the transition into remote work easier for all parties involved.
Manage your remote workers more effectively with Thomas
Are you communicating to your remote workers in their preferred styles? Do you know how to keep your people engaged and motivated while remote? Do you understand the management style your employees respond best to?
The Managing Remote Workers report for the Thomas Behaviour assessment helps you to better understand your people’s communication styles to keep them engaged, motivated and avoid work-related stress.
Remote working has become for many, the new norm. Many businesses are trying hard to make it work for everyone involved. Whilst you should try your best to make it work as a manager, it’s completely OK to know that many are in your position and finding certain aspects equally challenging.
The key takeaway in all of this is to ensure that the team is regularly communicated with. Show trust, set routines and regularly check on staff as you would with friends and family to make sure that they're coping with these changes as well.
It takes time but with a few things in motion you can achieve great results with remote working. If you would like to find out how our solutions can help inform your remote working strategies, please get in contact with one of our team.