If you think that managing remote teams is the same as working in an office space together, you’re fooling yourself. We’ve all had to embrace more work-from-home strategies and tools during the COVID-19 quarantine, and it’s dramatically changed how many remote workers tackle their daily tasks.
Managing remote teams requires certain techniques that most aren’t used to employing in their regular workspaces. Whether you’re a CEO trying to boost the productivity of your company or a manager attempting to keep employees in line, every leader in the digital space must adapt to WFH circumstances in order to succeed – both now and in the future.
In this post, we’re going to talk about how managing remote teams is different, but also potentially better for the health of your business and employees. We all have a lot of work to do during this changing time, but if we play our cards right, we might just come out stronger on the other side.
So, without further ado, here are the ways your company might actually improve from WFH situations.
You’re Forced to Trust Your Employees More
When you can’t peek over an employee’s shoulder to see what they’re doing or check in with your team at in-person meetings, you might feel a little blind as a manager. How do you know your workers are actually being productive? What if they’re wasting time or messing around?
These questions lead us to the first benefit of strong remote team collaboration: learning to trust your workers.
As this Tweeter astutely pointed out, if you can’t trust your team members to work from home, there’s little you can do to improve your remote work circumstances. Now’s the time to form solid relationships with your employees and learn to let them manage themselves a tiny bit more.
You’ve got things to do – there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete all of your tasks and micromanage every employee on your team. That’s why you’ll need to give them a little breathing room, set your expectations, and leave the rest up to them.
“Working from home” is going to look different for every individual. Some will have fancy setup stations – others will look much like the photos in the Tweet above. The lesson is that you can’t always judge your remote team productivity on what your employees wear, how they behave, and the exact hours they keep, especially in these new circumstances.
Struggling to feel like you can trust your remote employees? Here are a few tips:
- Set strong guidelines/expectations for everyone. You’ll feel more confident in the people you manage if you’ve clearly conveyed what you expect to see from them.
- Communicate via phone and video frequently. Text messages and chats simply don’t let you connect with your team in the same way.
- Schedule check-ins and progress monitoring. Whether you use an app or have a discussion with your team, there should be regular points where you check in on projects.
If you’re really struggling with this whole trust thing, consider looking into an online time tracking software like Clockify (which is totally free). This site allows team members to report how they’re spending their days and how many hours each task takes.
People Have More Free Time And Balance
Our second benefit of managing remote teams gets a little more personal. When you’re overseeing employees in their home environments, you might notice a boost in their morale and happiness.
This likely comes from the chance to have a little more free time and a better work-life balance. Although this might not be the case for some, many remote workers are grateful for the opportunity to spend more time with family, decrease their commute, and generally experience more “life” at home.
All over Twitter, you see people sharing their joy in getting to be home with children and embrace some extra hobbies. Sure, working in the same environment as your entire household can be challenging during these quarantine weeks, but overall, many parents are grateful for the chance to achieve a little more balance.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to most of us. People have been seeking flexible work options for years in an effort to spend more time at home and less time getting to and from work.
As you can see from the graph above, work-life balance is actually the number one reason why most job candidates hunt for “flexible” work arrangements. The sudden switch to WFH policies during the spread of COVID-19 might have come as a bit of a shock, but it’s actually a movement toward what many employees actively seek.
When it comes to managing remote employees and troubleshooting work-from-home strategies, remind yourself that this can be a positive change for many families and individuals. Talk about how balanced (or unbalanced) your team feels and what you can do to make remote work more fulfilling, as well as more productive.
More Processes Become Automated
Next, we want to address the fact that remote work often forces companies to automate tasks that would otherwise waste valuable time and resources.
Every team has some kind of project that consumes hours – but that could be automated by technology. The problem is, most don’t have the time or resources to actually make that leap to automation.
Could now be your chance to automate and make things easier on your remote team?
When you log onto social media, you’ll likely see many advertisements, like the one above from inFORM. Remote teams are migrating to the cloud, automating backups, and finding new ways to optimize their workflows. It’s a prime time for many software brands – and an excellent opportunity for your business to simplify processes.
Worried about how your team will respond to the automation of parts of their jobs?
Don’t be too concerned – they might be more agreeable than you think.
Research has indicated that most Gen Z and millennial employees are willing to automate parts of their jobs if it makes sense. No one wants to waste time on repetitive tasks that could be handled with better technology. Free up your employees to focus on harder, more productive tasks instead.
Some common areas that can benefit from automation are:
- Customer service responses
- Online transactions/payments
- IT operations
- Testing and troubleshooting
While adjusting to managing remote workers, ask your team what automation changes they would like to see happen in the future. Use this uncertain time as a way to boost productivity and find new tools to maximize your team’s success.
Remote Management Leads To More Self-Evaluation
Our fourth benefit is one of the best. Working from home, especially during a challenging time, will likely force your team to self-evaluate to optimize and survive.
Where are your weaknesses?
Have some come out of the woodwork as you make this transition?
Many managers might be recognizing problems that already existed – but are being shone in a harsh light now that everyone is working from home. For instance, take a look at the most common communication issues that prevent effective leadership.
These are issues that already exist at in-person offices, but think about how they could be maximized by work-from-home situations. As a manager, are you actively recognizing employee achievements via video chat or messages? Are you giving clear directions and making time to meet online?
Use this time period as an opportunity to re-evaluate how you lead, especially from a remote standpoint. You already have to find new ways to communicate and get things done – why not optimize them for stronger communication and leadership?
Similarly, you may need to re-evaluate your team’s productivity and workflows. Sure, they were fine in an office environment, but do they work now? Do you need new tools for remote teams or to rethink how you’ve been doing things for years?
One of the best ways to self-evaluate your team’s workflow is to transition it into one of the best tools for remote teams. Chances are, switching to one of these flashy productivity tools will showcase some of your weak points and help you optimize for a better workflow.
Don’t be afraid to mess around with several tools that can help you gauge and adapt your strategies to this strange time. From Slack to Wrike and Trello, there are dozens of options out there that can guide you toward a more productive remote future.
Keep in mind that your team’s evaluation doesn’t stop there, though. Self-evaluation can also happen within each individual team member. As a manager, you can guide them to better understand their own productivity and weaknesses in WFH environments.
Here are a few questions you can send out to promote self-evaluation amongst your team:
- What are the added challenges you’ve taken on in recent times?
- Do you feel you have taken on new responsibilities? What are they?
- What parts of your job do you wish you could change or eliminate?
- Where do you feel your strengths lie in this new WFH environment?
- Where are your weaknesses?
- How can you improve?
Evaluation is most useful when it comes from individual and team levels. Use your power as a team leader to obtain a comprehensive view of your overall strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement.
Clarity in All Aspects Becomes Essential
Last but not least, let’s talk about a difference that can be hugely beneficial. Although clarity is always important in the workplace, it’s never more vital than when you’re managing a team full of remote workers who might not interact on a daily basis.
Your team is now forced to over-communicate rather than under-communicate, to explain in-depth and ensure that everyone is looped in when necessary, regardless of where they’re working.
Remote team communication is arguably the most important part of productivity while working from home, as is clarity in all things. Without a clear understanding, your team will struggle to survive in a spread-out, remote environment.
As you can see from this graph, provided by Wrike, a lack of direct communication, as well as hindered data accessibility, make for some of the top challenges of working remotely. Poor visibility into colleagues’ actions can also pose as a serious stumbling block.
Clarity is essential to productivity, but hopefully, this switch to remote work will actually force you to improve your communication strategies rather than stick with old, inefficient methods. You can’t just pop by someone’s desk to relay a message – you need to figure out how to send it and who to include in the message when working remotely.
As Wes Winham from Work Minus said, “Being remote forces you to build up your processes and communication for a much bigger organization than you actually are.”
Now is the time to go above and beyond if you want to succeed.
There are a variety of ways to encourage clarity while working from home, including:
- Scheduling video conferences and audio calls
- Recording important parts of calls to send to others
- Using a task management system to promote transparency
- Really thinking about who should be included in different meetings
- Planning weekly (if not daily) meet-ups to cover important topics
For many of us, working from home is new and difficult. However, that doesn’t mean we should slug through this time period with inefficient strategies and leadership. If you’re managing a remote team, this is your opportunity to use the changes as tools for real growth.
Build trust amongst your remote team. Highlight the benefits of remote work, such as more time and better work-life balances. Automate what you can, evaluate your old structures, and generally work toward extreme clarity and strong communication.
COVID-19 may come and go, but this transition to working from remote locations looks like it will stick. This is your chance to adopt management skills ahead of the curve and maximize the productivity of your team on the cusp of change.
For any concerns about using or managing remote teams, reach out to the crew at E2M. We’re always happy to help!