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Managing remote workers is a 21st century challenge for managers with international teams and information technology enabling more workers to work from home. It is also a new challenge for businesses having to work from home during the coronavirus lock downs and stay at home orders.
Factors that can make remote work especially demanding and result in declines in job performance and engagement include lack of face-to-face supervision, lack of access to information, interpersonal challenges, social isolation and distractions at home.
So how can you manage remote workers and maximise their engagement and productivity? Here are some tips and strategies that may help you:
Equip your team with the right technology and telephony. To work from home you and your team will need both technology and telephony so they can be effective in their roles. Consider computers, telephony, email, video conferencing and other forms of app based collaboration, as well as peripheral equipment like webcams and headphones. There may also be additional requirements specific to your business.
Arrange structured daily check-ins. Successful remote managers establish structured daily check ins with their remote team. This usually takes the form of a daily team call and one-on-one calls with the team members. The calls need to be regular and predictable, with an opportunity for team members to consult with you and raise their concerns and questions.
Focus on communication. Communication with remote workers is key. Think about how you communicate with your remote workers and your own communication skills, as well as improving the communication skills of your team members. Remote communication is more challenging than if you are all in an office together. Communication needs to be proactive, structured, regular, clear and concise and inclusive, so team members feel fully involved and motivated and you fully understand how everyone is getting on in achieving their goals, objectives and plans.
Set processes and procedures. Be clear with remote workers regarding processes and procedures for working remotely. This may include the frequency, means and timing of communication, how information should be shared, how work will be carried out at home, reporting and review processes. It is easy for remote workers to do their own thing, which can negatively impact efficiency and productivity, so be clear about standard processes and procedures.
Set expectations and establish boundaries. Set clear expectations to keep team members working towards the same goals, including working hours, availability, communication, meetings and response times. Also establish boundaries so team members can separate their work from their personal life. There may be team members working from different time zones so work schedules and actions by each team member need to respect those of others. This will help in building positive relationships between team members and with you.
Provide opportunities for remote social interaction. With a remote team it is vital to provide opportunities for remote social interaction. This can be done by allowing some basic social interaction at the start of team calls just for non-work items, for example, how was your weekend? Or other social interaction like virtual team social catch ups, quizzes or coffee get togethers. Encourage your team to organise and run these themselves. Virtual social contact can help reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging.
Offer encouragement and emotional support. Remote working is quite different to working together in one location. It is important for managers to acknowledge stress, listen to team members concerns and empathise with remote workers. Team members will not necessarily tell you if they have concerns or issues and it is much harder to realise how a team member is feeling when they work remotely, so as a manager you need to ask appropriate questions. Simple questions like: How are you? What is going well? What is not going so well? can work but you also need to listen carefully to your team members and if you notice something use comments like 'It sounds like you are feeling stressed...' to open up a conversation.
Don't forgot all the standard ways of managing and motivating your team. When managing a remote team don't forget all the standard ways of managing and motivating a team such as making your team feel valued, communicating regularly in an open and honest way, sharing the company vision, goals and plans and setting clear team and individual goals and plans, reviewing progress and performance on a regular basis, running regular team and one to one meetings, developing trust and teamwork, encouraging learning and development and empowering your team through coaching and mentoring. You can find many tips and strategies on these areas in the Articles section of our website.
Hopefully, this article will have given you some ideas to think about when managing a remote team or if you are part of a remote team.
Author: Liz Makin
Published: April 2020
Makin It Happen has a range of personal development online courses to purchase, created by Liz Makin, including communication, resilience, time management, stress management and coaching. Liz Makin also provides personalised business coaching, business mentoring and stress management services to business owners, directors, managers and professionals.
Please call Liz on 01780 765270 or email Liz@makinithappen.co.uk
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