Working within a remote team certainly has its upsides and downsides. And that’s just working within one, never mind managing one. Even if you have a background in managing traditional office-based teams, managing remotely based, widely distributed teams during a pandemic is a whole new challenge.
But, as things start to return to a new kind of normal, many will be thinking about a more hybrid way of working - retaining the benefits that come with flexible working, and the structure of an office environment.
Being able to balance both is tough, but it will be just as rewarding if you get it right. Here we’ll highlight the issues managers of remote teams and employees face and how you can overcome them.
How to Effectively Manage Remote Employees
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for employees, however, the novelty can soon wear off. While some people thrive when they’re working alone from their home, for others it can quickly become demotivating, boring, and unproductive. If your employees don’t have a team to talk to throughout the day, their morale can soon plummet.
Some tasks are perfect for a work from home environment, but there will always be tasks where collaboration and a chat with other employees is necessary. Even if it’s not work-related, chatting with your work colleagues and friends helps maintain communication, which ultimately improves morale and productivity.
How to keep morale and productivity levels up for remote workers
Show you care. It’s easy to see your team members as a digital commodity when you’re managing a distributed or remote team. So, make a conscious effort to ask them about their day, personal life or what they got up to on the weekend, and generally how they’re coping. Having that personal interaction with your employees can help them keep motivated and build strong employer-employee relations.
Encourage real breaks. It’s important for remote employees to have breaks, away from their computer screens, so encourage your team to take time for themselves, away from their work desk.
Stay connected. Remote employees need to know their line managers and team leaders are still there should they need help with anything, whether that’s a work task, a looming deadline or something else. Check in with them regularly, spend time discussing work, but here would be the opportunity to make the effort to ask about them.
- Do they have what they need? Make sure your remote teams have the equipment they need in order to work productively. Equipment could be hardware like a laptop or headset, or practical equipment like a desk, or office chair. If you are able to make life easier for your remote teams, you should.
How to Stay Connected When Working Remotely
As you’d expect, maintaining communication levels in remote or distributed teams can be challenging.
You have to rely on email, instant messenger and phone calls to communicate. This means even solving the simplest of tasks can take much longer than it needs to. Plus, emails and messages can easily be misinterpreted, whereas, when communicating face to face, you can bounce off each other’s reactions and body language to get to the bottom of problems and find a solution.
The best way to combat a lack of communication is by integrating efficient instant messaging apps. Some problems don’t warrant a phone call and an email chain would take too long to solve a quick fix. Slack is a great tool to keep your communication levels up to a high standard within your business. In our previous blog titled, The Best Remote Working Tools for your Tech Stack we reveal our favourite remote working tools that are great for improving remote team communication strategies - from visual collaboration software to project management tools.
Don’t overlook the basics though - before the lockdown, 56% of businesses said the phone call was their most powerful business tool - we’d imagine this to have increased significantly. Having the right phone system in place is so important for your customers or suppliers, and your remote employees. Cloud-based phone systems give the flexibility required for a hybrid or continued work from home approach to work.
How to Monitor Remote Teams
Keeping track of your employees, without them feeling like you’re watching their every move, is important. You want them to feel like they’ve still got the freedom to work to their best ability, but you also need to make sure you know what’s going on.
Planning is Harder. Keeping tabs on project planning within an office is hard enough, never mind within a distributed team. One effective way of knowing exactly where each project is up to and who’s accountable for which parts is by implementing a top project management system.
This allows you to see the progress on each project and give your clients a realistic estimate of when they’ll be ready. It also allows you to spot mistakes and where certain projects are falling down.
Regular team meetings. If you’ve never met somebody you’re meant to work with, you don’t know how you should talk to them, how they appreciate feedback and the patterns in which they prefer to work. Team meet-ups allow your team to bond and gel. Some people don't like the idea of team-building exercises and away-days, but they are proven to help. Virtual team-building events are great for when restrictions mean your teams can’t meet up.
When you don’t interact face to face it’s hard to form working relationships, both as a manager and between your employees.
The easy way to combat this issue is by scheduling team meet-ups regularly and giving yourself and your employees the chance to really get to know the people they’re working with. This will help your business grow and work more efficiently in the future.
Improve and utilise your Communication Channels. As we’ve established, the key to managing a distributed team effectively is to have strong communication levels. You can’t afford to let these slip otherwise your team will become demoralised and unproductive and it will result in your standard of work slipping too.
CircleLoop is a cloud-based phone system perfect for startups, growing businesses, and those that are more established. In order to keep your communication levels at the highest standard, it pays to have the best technology to stand you in good stead.
With powerful features like call analytics, for example, it’s easy to manage remote teams and see which employees are fielding or making the most calls. Other features like conference calling, and cloud call recording are also great for improving your communication strategy not just with your customers, but with your employees too.
We’ve put together an ebook that covers all things communication. Download The Agency Owners Guide to Team Communication and take the first step towards reaching the pinnacle of communication within your remote team.