Dealing with remote employees can be challenging. Usually to do that we need highly motivated people, good communication, and well-defined tasks. This mode of work can be very satisfying as long as there is discipline and mutual respect. In this guest article, Regina Del Rosario shares some simple ideas based on her experience.
Long before the pandemic hit and forced many employees to work from home, remote jobs already existed—and it was quite a popular setup, too. However, with the health crisis adding another layer to the employees’ struggles in both their personal and professional lives, it is worth revisiting the core aspects of managing a remote team.
Many businesses have adopted an offshoring or outsourcing model in terms of growing their business. It is quite the norm to manage remote teams that are based in different parts of the world. After all, it provides work-life balance for a lot of employees, and cuts costs on companies who want to scale immediately—and that is just some of the fantastic things that remote work allow.
But, there is no doubt that it takes a lot of planning and strategy to make virtual management possible, and not a lot of companies can be good at it. Learning how to manage a team is crucial to any company, and it takes twice the effort if you are doing it from overseas.
Do not lose hope, though; if you are looking for a guide to manage your global team and make it a long-term success, you have come to the right place. Here are some top tips for flawless team communication and productivity.
- Identify the best tools that work for your team
People are living in a highly technological world, and there is an overwhelming number of tools and software that will claim to be the answer to your plight. One can claim to track hours, another is great for task assignment and management, while you can also have a messaging tool.
The internet and technology are what made managing remote teams so feasible right now—but, beware of onboarding tools to your team that they may not actually need or are too cumbersome to use. You might end up adding unnecessary steps or more hours to an otherwise short process, thus killing productivity.
There are plenty of efficient tools for team communication and productivity that you can look into, but do not discount the opinion of your employees. If there is something that they could suggest to make your workflow faster, be open to it.
At the end of the day, the tools that work for one company may not necessarily work for you, as you will have to modify this to the expertise of your remote team (marketing, writing, designing, IT, etc.).
- Get organized with documentation
Make sure things do not get lost in translation by having designated folders for your team to upload deliverables into. Use email to track all conversations and encourage your team to have a uniform system in naming your files and subject headings.
That way, when you need to look for something, you do not have to go through piles of emails or files before you find what you are looking for. Streamline your cloud storage and save precious time when checking the status of your deliverables.
If needed, have your employees submit an end of day task report, so you are also updated on the status of the major projects they are working on. You can also adjust it to a weekly or every other day update, depending on the scope of the project at hand.
- Have established working times
One of the caveats of managing global teams is that your staff may not be in the same time zone as you. This may lead to some delays or ungodly working hours for your employees, depending on what kind of setup you created.
The key here still lies in communication. As long as you refer to one internal time zone for deliverables and meetings are done at a relatively comfortable schedule for both managers and staff, things should go smoothly. It is also important to enforce strict working hours so that you know when exactly you can expect your projects to get moving.
You may also benefit from a flexible work setup, so your employees can get a heads up that there will be days when they can start earlier or later depending on where you are in the world. This ensures smooth alignment meetings and more time to coordinate with your employees.
- Encourage virtual team engagement activities
One of the pitfalls of working remotely could be a difficulty in establishing your company culture. This is an essential task for any manager, no matter where their staff is located in the world. It helps boost morale and fosters healthy relationships between colleagues. That way, you can breed an enjoyable workplace where everyone, including team leaders, is approachable.
You do not have to think about this on your own, though. Ask your team for ideas and let them tell you what they want to do on set days of the week or month. This gives them something to look forward to, and you will be sure that they will participate. Inject some fun in the workplace—it will go a long way.
- Be clear with job responsibilities
Since you already have the hurdle of not being able to communicate with your team face-to-face—and potentially even having a time difference—you need to make sure that you discuss job scope and expectations clearly with your employees. This will help avoid any future miscommunications along the way.
Being transparent with their role helps prevent unmet expectations and confusion from both the manager’s and employees’ side. This way, you can also give them relevant onboarding materials for their job, and they will be able to have a clear path of career advancement and training options later on.
- Resist the urge to micromanage
While it may be tempting to check in on your employees and spy on every little thing they do with the use of time tracking and screen capture software, only do this if really necessary. It is vital to build trust with your employees and not make them feel suffocated or heavily monitored while doing their job—unless they are giving you reasons to do so.
Instead, go for an output- and performance-based approach. You may definitely still implement time tracking software and logging if you wish, as this does not automatically mean you are micromanaging. However, keep in mind that hours rendered is not the be-all-end-all of your employees’ skills.
- Show them that you are available
If you want your team to lean on to you for support, you must show them you are there for them. Whether your workers have questions or they want to set a private meeting, let them know that you can make time for them—they are your team, after all.
Things do not always have to be serious with your chats, too. You can share some remote work tips to help them manage their time and deliverables better, or you can simply listen to their frustrations or current roadblocks in the job. Being a good manager means establishing rapport with your team and not just bossing them around—they will appreciate you a lot for it!
- Set clear objectives with every project
If you happen to handle a massive project that needs all hands on deck, make sure you systemize a way for your team to complete milestones at a timeline that makes sense. Once you have smoothened things over, have a dedicated channel where you can ask about updates for that particular project and a specific location where the whole team can access all deliverables.
It is also essential to have a Plan B in case things go wrong, so make sure you communicate properly with your team!
- Always have a backup plan
Have a crisis management and support plan in place in case of untoward incidents. This can also mean the little things—not just the pandemic. For instance, if your employee cannot report to work because of spotty internet connection issues or they are having hardware problems, there should be a way for you to support them in finding a way to get back to work.
Things that you may not have prepared nor planned for are bound to happen, and that is okay. Just remember that reassuring your employees and continually being open to their feedback and suggestions is the way to solve the majority of problems in the workplace.
In Remote Management, Communication is Key
If you saw a pattern in most of the tips laid out above, it is that communication and proper laying down of expectations is the key to having a healthy relationship with your employees. There is nothing that communication will not be able to solve—and the same goes in the workplace.
Managing a remote team can sound daunting, but this is just one of the many challenges that can befall team leaders in this digital era. Sooner or later, more companies will shift to remote work models and find ways to maximize productivity while not having a physical workspace. Exciting times are ahead!
This article was written Regina del Rosario is from Booth and Partners. She has a solid background in conducting interviews with multiple candidates to identify the one with the most potential. She has hired over 100 applicants for positions in dozens of industries and campaigns, at levels ranging from interns to upper-level management.