Ever since COVID disrupted our lives, remote work has gained quite an acceptance. However, it was also during this pandemic that companies expanded their technology usage, and with useful solutions, working from home has been easier than expected. Managing a remote team is pretty easy if you’re geared up with the right tools.
From team management to work management, everything needs to be done perfectly if you want to have a productive remote work culture. A recent study by Fortune concluded that 24% of professional white-collar jobs are available as fully remote. This shows how effective remote work can be and it is here to stay much longer than one might expect.
Even if everything goes back to normal, it’s highly unlikely that employees will support the idea of going to the office and working an ‘on-site’ job. Therefore, it is important to understand remote employees and how to manage them.
Keeping this in mind, let’s take a look at some challenges that managers might face along with 10 tips that will help you in managing a remote team.
5 Challenges Of Managing A Remote Team
Remote work has its fair share of challenges that might affect the productivity of teams. Here are some of the important challenges that need to be addressed:
I. Lack Of Communication
An on-site job’s biggest advantage is the capability to communicate with your team easily. Sometimes working with a remote team might cause communication gaps and your work can suffer as a result. In pre-pandemic days, if you wanted to ask questions to a colleague, you could just do it in mere seconds. But now, you need to rely on a Slack message, an email, or a Zoom call to ask a question or discuss anything.
In order to ensure proper communication across the team, you need to share resources, provide updates, and document instructions on how work is supposed to be done. This will help in reducing confusion among team members. Ultimately, this comes down to how proactive you want to be especially when managing a remote team.
Further, managers don’t need to be just good with words, you also need a strategy and a plan on how to make your teams work. Communication tools can help your team to be on the same page. This is only possible if you set clear guidelines on how everyone is supposed to communicate.
II. Lack Of Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is important in every workplace since it opens up new opportunities and ideas. An on-site workplace increases overall employee engagement since everyone is physically present and can voice their ideas or opinions easily. In contrast, when you’re sitting at your home, working, the energy levels are not the same.
The office provides a productive and engaging atmosphere. This is why remote teams often face low employee engagement and it might just be due to mismanagement of remote teams.
The responsibility to provide an engaging and active workplace lies in the hands of managers and team leaders. To improve employee engagement, you need to be accessible online and show your team that they can come to you in case of any concern or simply to ask for help on a project.
There isn’t much that you can do online, but you can still conduct some surveys or perform online team-building activities and even conduct regular meetings so that your employees remain aligned with their personal and company goals.
III. Weak Onboarding Process
When new employees are hired in an organization, they are given proper onboarding in order to get them acquainted with the company, its values, morals, goals, and workplace culture. When organizations do not conduct a formal onboarding session, new employees are left in the dark. They are unaware of the processes and are expected to learn everything themselves. This approach might work in an on-site office, however, remote work is a different story.
Further, your job to manage remote employees will become much more difficult since they will continue making the same mistakes. All of this could be avoided with a formal employee onboarding program in place that prepares them for the work expected of them.
The price to pay for ignoring this is too high since it can also result in employees leaving the organization - increasing the company’s employee turnover rate. Here are some features of a good onboarding program:
Well thought and systemized onboarding
A personalized experience for employees
Getting to know colleagues
Understanding the company and what it stands for
IV. Differences Between On-site And Remote Work
It is easy to forget that not everything applicable to a traditional work setting can be applied to a remote workplace. Managers must account for differences between these two methods of working and act accordingly. For instance, the skills that are needed to succeed in a remote setting vs a traditional setting is probably the biggest difference.
When searching for employees to work in a remote setting, managers must value good time management, the ability to communicate well, and tech-savviness as essential skills to have. Since working remotely can result in network issues, software issues, or even internet issues, employees must be able to work around these and fix their problems.
V. Juggling Different Time Zones
Another challenge that remote teams face is the ability to be online - at the same time. Since remote work has allowed companies to hire global talent, this means companies now have employees working from different time zones. This means harmonizing schedules is almost impossible.
The issue of multiple work schedules comes up more often than you might think. But, the truth is, you cannot expect to have real-time communication with coworkers since some of them might be living in a country having a time zone opposite to your own.
So how can you deal effectively with these challenges? Let’s dive into the tips for managing a remote team.
10 Effective Tips For Managing A Remote Team
Remote work can be truly rewarding and with the tips we're about to give, you’ll be able to make your remote team very productive. You can judge the importance of remote work since software outsourcing is conducted remotely as well.
1. Work-Related Tools Are Your Best Friend
Remote teams cannot survive without good tools to strengthen theirteam’s work. Further, another purpose of collaboration tools is to improve communication between team members and make them feel part of the company. For instance, for an online sales team, having call center apps will help them work faster and be more productive. Similarly, an office chat app will prove to be useful for better communication between your colleagues and manager.
Tools like Slack and Zoom have become a necessity rather than a luxury for remote teams. Slack is a go-to platform when it comes to team management and providing a remote ‘office environment’. Zoom, on the other hand, is a platform that allows meetings and interviews through audio and video calls.
To add more value to tools like Slack, there are a lot of integrations that can further automate the work you do as a team. You can integrate Slack with another collaborative tool that can work well and provide more value to you and your team. Add team members from different departments to manage projects.
Here are some examples of team collaboration tools and how they can improve the quality of work that remote workers can do:
Automation tools that perform repetitive tasks and save time.
Collaborative tools for employee contacts and calendars.
Work management tools to find out what other employees are working on.
Digital whiteboard tools to conduct brainstorming sessions and come up with creative ideas for projects.
Email management tools to easily send mass emails, check clickthrough rate and other important metrics.
2. Have Healthy Communication With Employees
When you communicate regularly with employees it helps in making them feel included. The idea of open communication is to allow coworkers to talk and bond with one another - this is a great way to improve team performance. It might start healthy competition in your team to see who performs best which works in the company’s favor since the result is maximum productivity.
However, without proper communication, your remote team will suffer. Communication is really the ‘secret sauce’ that helps make remote work a success. When your communication is cut off, employees are not informed promptly regarding priorities, deliverables and goals, and regular feedback.
As a manager, your goal should be to manage the performance of every employee, however, communication efforts should not be spared at all. Try to set up events that foster team building and require the entire team to communicate and get to know each other.
Socialization has done wonders for the on-site job settings and it has the same effects in a remote setting. When you have good communication among the team, problems get fixed quicker, employees work with each other not against each other, and team morale is higher along with trust.
3. Build A Digital Culture
Employees who work remotely are often working independently or attending numerous meetings, discussing projects on group chat, and using digital tools for better collaboration. Still, most organizations fail to realize the importance of setting up a digital culture.
In most cases, you don’t need to completely rebuild a culture from scratch, however, shifting from a traditional work setting to a remote one, you’ll need some adjustments and improvements. Your employees should be able to understand the importance of remote work and the opportunities it can bring. Without a digital culture in place, your employees will always see digital transformation as a threat rather than an opportunity.
Your digital culture should have the following qualities:
Innovation: The company should always strive hard to push constant innovation in the digital sphere and improve team efficiency.
Agility: Gear your team to be prepared for experimentation in terms of finding the right digital tools that work well for you and the team.
Efficiency: Drive higher efficiency with new digital solutions or platforms.
Social Media: Use internal social media platforms to their full capacity.
Personalization: Create employee accounts with personalized profiles and directories.
4. Recognize Employee Efforts And Success
Similar to on-site jobs, remote employees need rewards and recognition. Whether the rewards are monetary or not depends on the company itself. However, employee recognition has proven to be extremely useful in improving employee morale and increasing productivity.
It won’t do you any good if your team is burning out and excessively working all the time. There must be a program set in place which values employee contributions. Recognition also helps the employee feel valued and appreciated. Now let’s talk about the different ways you can reward employees.
Since you’re working remotely, you can use this opportunity to provide perks and discounts. There are solution providers that form partnerships with companies and allow their employees to avail special discounts, cashback, and offers. Digital gift cards can also be used as an alternative. They can buy anything from branded footwear such as KURU footwear, accessories, or even a decorative fire bowl using the digital gift cards issued by the company.
Some other examples include:
Publicly announce outstanding employees and showcase on the company’s official website.
Special rewards such as extra paid time off from work or bonuses.
Create a peer-to-peer recognition program that highlights employees who go above and beyond to provide quality work.
5. Never Underestimate Feedback
Feedback - when used properly, can be a huge asset for any company since it provides an opportunity for growth and learning. As a manager, you should ask for your remote team’s feedback because there is only so much a leader and the HR department can do to predict the needs of a remote team.
Managing a remote team can have many complications and asking employees directly simplifies the process of providing employees with what they need. When you ask employees their feedback, you’re making them feel involved and valued in the matters involving the workforce.
You’ll learn what employees feel about the culture and the work. You can also find out whether they need more collaborative tools to perform their job effectively. Moreover, some employees might ask for regular training to advance their careers. You might get countless other suggestions or requests, some might be good, others not so much, however, you can manage remote teams easier with regular feedback.
Here are a few ways you can ask your employees for feedback:
Interview everyone in your remote team
6. Communicate Growth Roadmap
One of the best ways of getting your remote team on the same page is to show them your plans for their growth. Employees love training and career development activities (such as digital marketing certification) that can prove beneficial going forward in their careers.
To include your employees in training and development, make sure you invite them for a few on-site experiences as well. However, since they are ‘remotely’ working you can conduct most training online.
Here are a few things you can do:
Leverage technology to your advantage.
Help improve employees’ knowledge even if it is through a guide to podcast software.
Make mobile-first courses for easy access.
Giving on-demand training.
Document every training.
Whether it is a course or a development service, you should set flexible times for everyone since your remote team is in different time zones. Further, you can record and let employees take the training module whenever their work time begins. This way, every employee will be able to take part in the training and development activity.
7. Start Virtually Onboarding Employees
Onboarding is essential for every employee and the organization as well. Managing a remote team, you’ll need employees that are up to speed with the work as fast as possible. This is where virtual onboarding comes into play. A virtually administered onboarding program can have many benefits for both parties involved.
For employees, virtual onboardings are a way to get information naturally at their own speed. HR managers can choose to upload videos of the onboarding sessions and deliver the content to new employees which can include training webinars, company information, and the nature of their work.
Employees taking virtual onboarding at their comfortable pace will be able to get more information compared to the traditional method. The biggest advantage of being virtual is the ability to explore and navigate easily whether it’s to search documents, videos, and images that are company-related.
Additionally, the overhead associated with physical onboarding can be avoided. These costs include time, travel, instruction material, and productivity.
8. Be Flexible Whenever Possible
One of the biggest advantages of remote work is - flexibility. Remember, when managing a remote team, you need to stop micromanaging their behavior or work. Give flexibility to your team, explain the tasks, establish goals and deadlines and trust your team to get the job done on their own schedule during the day.
At the end of the day, your focus should be on achieving the goal and not controlling every little aspect of the job. If you fail to provide the flexibility which every remote team needs, your team will not be able to work effectively.
Here are some ways you can avoid micromanagement while still making sure the work gets done:
Leverage workflow tools and stay on top of the deliverables
Schedule regular meetings to address any concerns in the project and to check everyone's progress.
Setup shared calendar with upcoming meetings along with agenda
In the end, it comes down to you being able to trust your team to come through and deliver work on time.
9. Manage Employee Workloads
A good manager knows how much work to give his subordinates. If your team is overburdened with work, it will backfire and make them lose productivity and morale. Putting too much work might get you results for a few days but eventually, they’ll quit and you’ll repeat the same mistake with new employees.
Get an idea about the amount of work your team can handle in a day without feeling exhausted or compromising on quality. This is the best strategy to get the work done since you’re considering their limitations before assigning work.
To manage your team’s workload effectively, you can:
Use time tracking software and learn how long it takes for your team members to finish certain tasks.
Ask employees about the amount of work they are receiving and whether they feel comfortable with it.
Try to give employees a little breather once in a while by reducing their workloads.
10. Be Prepared For Technical Problems
Employees need to be tech-savvy for remote work but it’s more important for managers to be well-versed in tech. Remote work can have several issues that hinder the ability to work at all. In that case, a manager should have a plan set in place to escape situations like that.
The issues your team might face can be something trivial, for instance, the microphone is not working or it can be something major like electricity shut off in which case your employee is unable to work at all. To resolve such issues, there should be a set of rules and appropriate steps that should guide employees on how to respond if they face such issues.
Examples of how to handle technical issues:
Have a group dedicated to technical problems which will be used by employees when they encounter such issues.
Be patient towards employees since anyone could go through technical problems.
Get timely updates and try to get the problem fixed (if possible).
To sum up, you need excellent management skills to ensure the success of your remote team. Follow the tips above to improve your team’s performance and provide them with the space to work, learn, and grow as professionals.
Pay extra attention to virtual onboarding, as the cost of hiring employees is too high - make sure you get it right the first time. Come up with an onboarding program that helps you convey all important information in the best way/format possible and allow employees to learn in a self-paced environment.
In this post-pandemic state, every company in the world is looking to leverage remote work and find a quality global workforce. You need to stand out in the market by going above and beyond for your employees and turning them into loyal assets for the company.
It is essential to learn the challenges that come with managing a remote team. Find the type of work-related tools that can make your life easier, automate processes and improve team efficiency.