Looking back no more than a year ago, the thought of working with remote teams may have seemed like a strange idea, something that would never be viable for your company. But here we are in 2020 where people have been faced with so many challenges and unthinkable situations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and remote teams are no longer unusual; for many industries, they have become normal. And what started out as a short-term solution now seems to be turning into a much more permanent set-up as employers realize that these remote teams can be just as productive and efficient as an in-house team.
Of course, it’s not all smooth sailing. Managing these remote teams can be tricky. After all, you aren’t able to just walk up to employees, check on them, and monitor progress. With that said, there are some tips you can use as a manager that will help you stay on top of your remote team, make sure that all is operating smoothly, and that location doesn’t matter at all.
Ensure Employees Have the Hardware and Software They Need
One of the most important things you'll want to do is ensure that employees have all the hardware and software they need in their home office. You cannot expect them to be productive; nor can you properly manage them if they don't have the tools needed to do their job. They may require specialized equipment or programs installed on their computer and even some tech support in order to get things up and running.
While looking for tech, make sure that there is also an emphasis on cyber security. With people working outside the office, suddenly you’ve got these outside computers that are accessing sensitive information and documents, so you want to be sure it’s done in a safe and secure manner. In other words, the entire IT department may need to be re-imagined so that it's now dealing with a remote workforce.
Make Use of Technology to Stay In Touch with Employees
These remote teams are made possible because of technology, and now is the time to take full advantage of it and explore every possible option it has to offer. Staying connected to your remote employees will be important, and while emails can certainly do the trick, they shouldn't be the only source of communication.
Making use of video conferencing tools will make a huge difference and can help to create that sense of teamwork and camaraderie that can wane with a remote workforce. Even if it’s just a weekly check-in meeting that you schedule, with all staff taking part, this can still be enough to keep that connection strong and ensure that everyone is communicating and is on the same page.
Take All the Confusion Out of the Process
Because everyone is working remotely, it can be hard to stay on the same page at all times. This is why it's important to streamline as much as possible, and ensure all processes and procedures are as simple as possible. The easier it is to follow, the more likely it is that everyone will be on the same page.
How to Hire a Team in a Remote Environment
One obstacle you can encounter is how to hire a remote team when you too are working remotely. You aren't meeting with people in person for traditional interviews, so what is the best way to go about things and find the right people?
New Horizons is a company that specializes in global PEO and staffing, among other things, and tackles the question of how to hire a remote team, as well as other commonly asked questions and issues regarding remote workforces. They know exactly what it takes to hire remotely, scale up a business, and make global expansion a reality even in today's challenging landscape.
So what is the secret to hiring a remote workforce? First you need to be clear from the start that it will be remove work, and a remote team, and ask how that individual would thrive in that kind of environment. Granted not everyone is cut out for remote work, so it's best to be clear from the start.
And keep in mind that since the workforce is remote, suddenly the pool of talent grows exponentially because location no longer matters. It can actually make it easier to find top talent.
Be Sure to Stay Focused on the Results
One pothole that managers can fall into is that they focus too much on the activity of their remote workers, almost micro-managing their day rather than looking at the big picture. What matters is the results. If your employees are meeting all their deadlines, goals, and accomplishing their tasks at peak levels, then small details of their day and their activities shouldn’t matter.
Remember, if employees were in a physical office they’d be taking breaks in the day, they’d have distractions, and there would be those moments they just aren’t working. That doesn’t mean they aren’t getting the job done, it’s just the natural course of the day.
Now that’s not to say that employees shouldn’t follow a schedule or timeline, as this is important, but micro-managing is just not a good road to go down.
Expect to Run into Network Issues and Have a Plan
Everyone is familiar with the saying that “technology is great, when it works”, and that is certainly the case with remote workforces. Ideally, everyone’s internet connection is strong and reliable, and your network can handle the remote access, but the fact is that there is bound to be issues. You’ll run into network and connection issues and you need to have a plan for when work is derailed thanks to these issues.
Of course, this is also when you want to be able to rely on a robust IT department that can quickly step in and remedy the problem. Should the issues be on your employee's part, find a different way that you can connect with them and get them access to the information they need to do their job. That could include speaking by phone, and sending files by courier. Giving them a little extra time to also get tasks done will be helpful.
Encourage Employees to Speak to You About Any Issues
Just because you don't have an office that employees can come and speak to you in, it doesn't mean there shouldn't still be an "open-door policy". Let your remote team know you are there for them, you want them to succeed, and you want to hear from them. This kind of support, encouragement, and positive reinforcement can make all the different in the world when it comes to the morale of the team.
With Some Minor Tweaks Your Management Skills Will Shine
So, while it may seem like a whole new world to suddenly be managing a remote team rather than an in-person team, it’s important to remind yourself many of the basics still apply. You still want to lead by example, have that open-door policy in a virtual manner, provide employees with the tools and support they need to succeed, and touch base with the team on a regular basis so everyone feels connected.