Working remotely is quickly gaining in popularity, and it is said to be attracting more job seekers in the future than ever before. The emergence of a Coronavirus pandemic and its protocols have further intensified the situation.
Even before the pandemic, remote work was common. According to statistics regarding remote work, the number of remote workers has grown by 44% over the past five years.
Furthermore, 68% of global workers and more than half of American workers work remotely, sometimes a month. And by 2028, it is expected that 78% of companies will offer remote working options, up from 41% now.
So, remote work is here to stay and for a long time.
As the trend towards working from home continues to gain momentum and the business benefits of remote work keep rolling in, many managers and team leaders are now being assigned remote management responsibilities.
Despite this being perfectly viable, remote team management does present some challenges as some of the established team management practices in the workplace may not transfer well.
Establishing clear policies and training for remote work is always preferable, but it may not be feasible when crises or other rapidly changing situations occur.
Fortunately, managers can take specific steps based on research to encourage remote employees to be more engaged and productive even when time is limited, without putting much effort into it.
Typical challenges While Managing a Remotely Team
Even though remote working is common nowadays, managers still have difficulty managing a remote team, especially when it comes to effectively coordinating multiple work environments.
There were several companies that had no work-from-home plans on their agendas until the global pandemic required them to adopt these new ways of managing their employees. While some of them made a smooth transition, others had challenges.
These problems have impacted both the employee and the manager, causing an untrusting or uncomfortable work environment, affecting both productivity and morale.
Here are some of the challenges of managing remote teams:
Non-verbal communication like eye contact, facial expressions, tone, and hand gestures, directly impacts verbal language. You need to use nonverbal cues in conjunction with your verbal cues to express yourself clearly and avoid miscommunication.
Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction when managing employees remotely, it is difficult to convey intent and tone. This makes messages, emails, and texts more likely to be misinterpreted.
2. Lack of access to information
In the process of tracking down information from coworkers, new remote workers are often surprised by how much time and effort it takes. Getting simple answers to even seemingly simple questions can be difficult for individuals who work from home.
In addition to task-related challenges, remote collaboration can also reveal interpersonal challenges. According to research, remote workers with little “mutual knowledge” are less likely to extend the benefit of the doubt to coworkers during difficult times.
3. Social isolation
Employees who work remotely often complain of loneliness, as they miss the social interaction they would experience in an office setting.
According to one study, extroverts are more likely to experience isolation in the short run, especially if they do not have access to other people in the remote work environment.
Isolation can also make an employee feel less connected to their organization and can even increase their intention to leave over time.
There may be remote workers outside of the country from where your business operates. It may be difficult to get everyone on the same schedule due to their different time zones, which can lead to difficulties in communication and create a sense of separation between team members.
5. Tracking productivity
When employees can work independently, project management becomes more challenging. Managers can find it difficult to keep track of how much work is getting done and at what rate, so provide employees with some means of monitoring their progress or set clear expectations of what they should accomplish.
How to effectively manage a remote team?
While remote working can be challenging, managers have been using relatively quick and inexpensive methods to make this transition seamless despite the inherent challenges.
Therefore, adjusting to this new work style can be daunting, especially if you do not have enough time to prepare for it. In either case, if you know how to manage remote teams in the right way, you’ll get the best results out of your remote team.
Here are some of the best actionable tips for effectively managing remote teams:
1. Create a clear set of rules
The crucial part of managing remote teams successfully is establishing ground rules early and ensuring that they are enforced. While the specific rules will vary from team to team, employees should be aware of what is expected of them. These expectations can be in the form of:
- The work culture at the company
- Procedures at work
- Project guidelines
- Rules for effective communication
- Relationship building
Modeling work activities around the employees’ working hours can also be an effective strategy for managing remote teams. Communication expectations should be set for team members in regards to time zones and preferred work hours, so set expectations upfront.
2. Build up communication channels
Making sure the team has several different contact options is another of the best practices for managing remote teams. There are many options for communication, including video calls, telephone calls, instant messaging, and email.
It’s clear that video conferencing offers significant benefits, and this might be the best way to hold meetings with a team. Yet, you probably won’t want a team member to make a video call when they have a question that is not urgent.
Sometimes, a telephone call is preferable. In places like remote call centers, making a video call can be out of the equation. So for the seamless team as well as business communications, you can consider a virtual cloud phone system.
Unlike traditional phone systems, virtual phones come loaded with a ton of handy cloud telephony features. So you can use its features to avoid any communication gaps and establish professional communication.
Thus, you must offer and practice various options and determine what form of communication is appropriate based on the situation.
3. Use Remote Work to Your Advantage
The ability to hire people from anywhere in the world is one of the more interesting advantages associated with remote work. Then, there is no need to live close to a workplace if one does not have to attend a physical location.
By doing so, you’ll be able to create a more specialized team that is dynamic, diverse, and innovative. In essence, remote work allows you to explore a much wider talent pool, which could lead to hiring new talent with superior skills.
Additionally, it can help to have workers available at different times of the day or to benefit from local knowledge by having employees in key locations.
4. Encourage social interaction
No matter how far your employees are from each other, social interaction is an effective way to organize a remote team.
You can use virtual parties, online hangouts, video conferencing for joint brainstorming, and welcoming sessions to build positive interpersonal relationships at your workplace.
The most effective way to manage remote teams is to ensure that remote employees have time to communicate and cooperate among themselves. It helps them build relationships and look out for one another, which makes teamwork effortless and productive.
5. Give responsibility
It is impossible to achieve higher-level goals and build trust simultaneously if you don’t take responsibility for your team members. When you have discovered an employee’s strengths, you need to fit them into a position that allows them to be most effective.
Keep your remote team engaged and motivated by involving them in big projects and giving them exciting and challenging tasks.
Remote teams have proven this practice very successful. Many managers see this as a powerful way to build relationships with their employees, an essential component of remote work environments.
6. Provide the Right Software
It is also important to ensure your team has the necessary software to perform their roles and accomplish their tasks. There are a number of options available depending on your team’s needs.
As well as specialist software applications, team members require communication software, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and core applications, such as Microsoft Office or Google Workspace.
Furthermore, it is important that all team members use the same version of the main applications to avoid compatibility issues and ensure that employees who are not familiar with remote work software receive training on it.
7. Show flexibility and empathy
You must understand that everyone on your team might not work in the same environment. While some team members might have spouses and children, others might not.
Similarly, some people work from their home offices, while others may work wherever they want – from their backyard to their favorite coffee shop.
You will be able to manage remote teams more empathetically and flexibly if you keep this in mind.
You should understand the circumstances of your team members if they are sick or going through a life crisis. By doing so, you show them that you care about them.
Since businesses are shifting to remote working from the typical office workspace, managers need to ensure they are aware of stress, distractions, and rate of adaptability. Be flexible in task supervision while managing remote teams.
There are pros and cons to every business model, and the same goes for remote work. Nevertheless, given their popularity, remote teams may be worth trying.
It may take time to get used to managing remote teams, but the new challenges posed by the remote arrangement can be overcome, making it a very viable arrangement. These practices will enable you to manage a team effectively, reach high levels of productivity, and avoid problems related to morale, well-being, and social isolation.