In the last couple of months, the world has witnessed the unimaginable. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected businesses across the globe and prevented employees from traveling to their workplaces. Organizations that were prepared for a global crisis suffered nonetheless. Remote work is set to become the new norm, with businesses starting to operate from virtual offices. Many business owners and managers are now struggling to maintain their remote teams and may continue to face such issues. Albeit, managing remote teams is a simpler task than it may seem to some businesses.
Remote work is now a necessity for employers rather than an option. Business leaders and entrepreneurs need to adapt and find the best ways to manage remote teams. The task may look intimidating, especially to first-time managers or business owners who were not prepared for this sudden pause.
For some businesses, the customary remote-work strategies and tools may have worked. However, the sheer impact and unpredictability of this crisis requires businesses to find better strategies. A business must look for unconventional ways to manage remote teams and ensure seamless operations.
Remote Teaming Essentials
Build trust within your team
To build an effective remote working environment, it is important to make time for frequent, short activities with team members. By involving your team in regular activities, you’re able to subtly increase levels of trust among your workforce.
If you can build trust among new team members earlier in their working tenure, they are more likely to successfully transition into their roles and form effective partnerships with existing employees.
Connect your team outside of meetings
Without a proper communication strategy, it is incredibly challenging to keep remote employees engaged. Therefore, it is vital that companies prioritize employee relations as a means of maintaining a cohesive workforce.
Team members should be encouraged to connect with one another outside of meetings. Whilst traditional forms of communication like phone and email still have a place, modern tools that offer instant communication are more effective.
Technological advances have simplified remote communication and team collaboration. Platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom, and Slack enable remote teams to engage with one another in real time, much like they would if working together physically.
Adequately plan and make the most of group meetings
Think about what things really call for a team meeting, and design those meetings so people can participate actively. Make sure that you’re prepared with adequate resources and technology, and that the meeting has a clear, ‘on-task’ agenda. It is essential that you have any materials and team updates planned before a meeting has commenced.
Think about what things really call for a team meeting. Because time is a such a valuable commodity, you don’t want to be conducting team meetings that offer little value to your company or your employees.
To make remote work more efficient, these are the types of meetings you should consider:
- An initial meeting where you discuss the processes and procedures that your remote teams will be using to communicate and work together.
- A regular meeting that has a clear, published agenda. ‘Regular’ is any ongoing time that best suits your company. An example could be weekly for customer facing teams, or fortnightly for administration teams.
- Optional, one-on-one meetings for team members. This provides an opportunity for team members to discuss certain things with managers, at a scheduled time. For employees that don’t need to discuss any matters, they know that you’re open to a meeting, should they require one in the future.
Allocate appropriate time for meetings
Don’t try to cram too much into one remote meeting. Take your time, chunk it up, and remember everything takes a little longer to do well when it’s remote. For every virtual meeting, it’s vital to have a plan beforehand. This means that team members know what to expect and how to best contribute to the conversation.
Placing a time limit on meetings can significantly boost your productivity and help to extract more value in the limited time that’s available. As an example, you can set the meeting duration to 45 minutes and assign 15 minutes to each of the agenda points. This helps participants to stay focused and reduces the likelihood that the meeting will go off track.
Listen to opposing points of view
Meetings offer a opportunity to hear opposing views in a professional setting. You should avoid rushing the group into agreement, simply because of time constraints.
Moderators must encourage problem-solving and opposing ideas. Unfortunately, too many meetings are conducted with a lack of outside thinking and idea-sharing. Instead, meetings should be an opportunity to hear different questions and ideas, beyond the standard meeting rhetoric. Furthermore, attendees should be open to discussions on important decisions; and refrain from being judgmental towards the viewpoints of others.
Understand that ‘virtual’ is just as good as face-to-face
In truth, remote teams can be cohesive, thriving powerhouses, and virtual meetings can be productive and engaging. Virtual meetings allow team members to see and communicate with each other, in much the same way as a face-to-face meeting. This can be achieved without relying on on a set space, a common schedule, or even being in the same country.
Virtual meetings are ideal for professionals that may have a complicated schedule or many trips spread across their agenda. There are also considerable savings to be made in work time and travel costs.
Virtual meetings are more agile, which allows employees to react more quickly to any unexpected changes. And in today’s business landscape – which moves at a rapid pace – speeding up processes has the potential to speed up results.
Stop asking if “everyone agrees”
Instead, use effective tools and methods for exploring options and making decisions that everyone can commit to.
Asking if “everyone agrees” is a problematic question. This is because many people confuse collaboration with consensus. Collaboration is about engaging team members and having them working and discussing ideas together. The best teams – and certainly the best workplaces – are collaborative.
Workplaces should not be weighed down by consensus. Instead, team members must be encouraged to express their opinions authentically. There isn’t much to gain by having team members blindly agree to every idea that is raised.
The most dynamic business leaders do not end meetings by asking if “everyone agrees”. A much more effective question to ask is: “Does everyone know what they need to do next?”
Read more about keeping your remote workers motivated at How to Keep Remote Workers Motivated and Engaged.
Tips for Managing Remote Teams
Here are some tried and tested tips for managing remote teams and ensuring productivity and positive results for the business:
Ensure End-to-End Security
Managing remote teams requires a robust Information Technology framework for the business. Similarly, maintaining the security and quality of the IT infrastructure is equally important for the business. This includes alerts against phishing, fraudulent messages or emails, data storage, and secure data transfer. It is critical for a business to establish secure channels for sensitive data transfer within the company and with clients. Additionally, the business must have the right security tools to identify legitimate data attachments. Password-protected access is another way to ensure that data is accessed securely.
Leverage Technology for Managing Remote Teams
Another effective way of managing remote teams is to consistently stay connected with employees. Finding the right technologies to maintain a constant flow of communication between the company and its employees is crucial. Video calling tools, cloud data storage, and task-assignment tools are some options that can be considered for a remote office.
Consider Network Troubles of Employees
Employees may face power cuts or network issues that can disable them from staying connected to the employer. This may affect their ability to deliver the employee’s high expectations since their overall activity may be lower. An employer must, therefore, find alternative ways to connect with the employees via telephonic conversations. Daily goals can be set to receive work reports at the end of the day to estimate employee productivity.
Keep Workflow Simple
It is also essential to keep the workflow simple and achievable, without any unnecessary red-tape. A company can maintain its applications on the cloud for easier remote access by the employees. Another way is to use a task assignment tool to assign and track the work that an employee needs to do in a specific period of time.
Prioritize Results, Not Activity
While activity tracking tools are rampantly used by employers, it is advised not to use such tools to calculate an employee’s performance. It may be impossible for an employee to maintain a high level of activity or working hours while working from home. Additionally, the nature of the work may also prevent an employee from maintaining a high percentage of work activity throughout the day. It is recommended that employers focus on the results achieved at the end of the day, rather than device activity.
Brace For The Long Haul
Nobody can predict how long the coronavirus travel advisories or lockdowns may last worldwide. It is important to prepare a business for the long term by adopting technologies, reporting tools, and remote work policies. A business must leverage digital communication tools and update its management strategies if it hasn’t already.
Be Available For Employee Support
The sudden disruption in the workflow may affect not only managers but also their employees. It is essential to establish a free flow of communication to allow employees to list their concerns and issues before the company. Employers must also make sure that employees are able to voice their opinions and anxieties relating to the remote work or any other work-related issues.
Lead By Example
An employer must lead by example. A company needs to ensure it is going in the right direction to keep its employees happy and efficient. For this, optimism and encouragement can help managers to boost the confidence and productivity of their team. Working from home may be a tad more difficult for certain individuals who have to juggle between their personal and professional lives. A company must empathize and understand the employee’s problems, and allow them to work in a more accepting environment.
Trust The Workforce
A company must also trust its employees and believe they can work in synergy with the goals and mission of the company. An employer must, therefore, learn to efficiently manage its workforce without constant surveillance and allow flexibility and freedom in their work.
Hire Remote Workers
The most efficient way of managing remote teams is to hire employees who would be comfortable with working remotely in the long run. A company can opt for remote workers and hire individuals who are on-board with the idea of a virtual office rather than a physical brick and mortar room. This would also allow a company to hire professionals from distant locations and leverage the global recruitment market to hire quality talent.