Imagine being able to control how you work. No supervisor shouting in your face because you were late to work again, no strenuous commute, no need to stay in the office for longer hours- you decide when you work, how much you work in a day and which office member you want to interact with. What once seemed nigh impossible is slowly becoming the norm. Remote working has become a necessity in many industries, thanks to the impact of the novel coronavirus still being felt in ebbs and waves all over the world.
However, Work-From-Home or ‘remote working’ is not a “new trend”. Studies have shown that, for a long time, work culture has been shifting towards a remote environment, as more and more professionals prefer freelancing or contractual projects. In the United States, work culture has seen a shift towards remote working since 2004, with new remote team members being added every day. In India, remote working is a fairly recent phenomenon, but one that is rapidly becoming the standard owing to the prevalent circumstances. This is all the more reason to have an efficient and effective structure for managing remote teams.
Is Remote Working a Foolproof Method?
While working from home seems like a great idea for everyone involved, it poses some serious issues when it comes to managing remote teams. The primary area that is affected is communication. Did you know that over 50% of human communication is done through our body language? Before words even come out of our mouths, our intent is laid bare.
These non-verbal cues are very important because they convey more information than what we actually say, and that becomes an integral aspect of team-building and coordination when managing remote teams.
Furthermore, a major issue with a remote work culture is borne by individual workers. Sitting in one place throughout the day and exclusively focusing on output can create strong feelings of loneliness and fear of missing out within a worker- both of which are productivity’s kryptonite. As a manager, it is your job to make sure that productivity is sky high and spirits are never low, when managing remote teams.
Here are a few tips & tricks that can help you achieve exactly that:
1. Create Checklists and Work Calendars
When it comes to managing remote teams, the devil is in the details. It may seem a little daunting, trying to create coordination between a workforce that is divided across cities- at times, across continents. Planning is a must. Cultivate a habit of making calendars and lists, because it is definitely going to come in handy.
Plan ahead and visualize the list of tasks that your employees must tackle the next morning, and present it to them when office hours begin, if not earlier. Use your time smartly and assign tasks that suit the designation of your employees, while trying not to overwhelm them with sheer volume. The idea is to give your workers a concise yet precise idea of what their work day is going to look like and have them adjust their schedule accordingly.
2. Establish a Daily Check-In
You might think that they would be sick of seeing your face every day, but it actually acts as a very positive reinforcement. Have a daily check-in with your team over a video call on a platform of your choosing. Ideally, you would want to have this meeting in the morning, but ending the day with your team can also have a rather uplifting effect on their morale.
A personal touch is necessary to show your team that you care for them not just their services, and that you are indeed a part of the team despite your remote managerial role.
3. Build Rapport
Limiting your conversations with your employees to project discussions and deadlines can be very counter-productive; it fosters the idea that, “Oh, all the Boss cares about is the company, not us” and that is a tough quagmire to break out of. Building rapport with your workers becomes crucial.
Having a personal relationship with your employees beyond their daily task lists and work updates has a highly positive effect on their personal morale and the morale of the team as a whole. Remember, you are not simply managing remote teams, you are nurturing them.
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4. Keep Your Door Open (Metaphorically)
It is important for you to realize that you are the guiding force for your employees. Having an open-door policy is the best way for you to realize the full potential of both yourself and your remote team. Getting consistent feedback, answering their queries, and bouncing ideas off each other are all office-based practices that you can inculcate in a work-from-home setup as well.
Listening helps resolve more issues than talking, and when managing remote teams, this is a critical component of your bag of tricks. Let your employees know they can call you whenever they are stuck, and NEVER ignore their phone calls or queries.
5. One-on-Ones are Critical
As a manager, you must be aware of the capabilities and aspirations of each and every team member. Knowing your employees personally is not you being buddy-buddy with them- well, not entirely, anyway. Having consistent one-on-ones with your employees allows you to gauge them personally and establish a relationship that goes beyond the manager-employee dynamic.
One of the hardest things about working from home, especially if you are used to an office environment, is the sense of loneliness and isolation that can set in. That is especially true considering that many people are practicing social distancing. Let them know they can pick your ear for more than just work (within reason) and watch how their self-worth, and their valuation of you and the work they do improve drastically.
6. Upgrade your Communication Style with Emoticons & GIFs
We are entering an era where the workforce is going to be mainly millennials and Gen Z. Gone are the days when communication with your employees was limited to office chit-chats. In a world where communication is constant, you must evolve as well. Making use of animated GIFs and emoticons is a good way of emoting.
Words can only say so much. Add to that, positive reinforcement works like a charm when done right! So next time, do not hesitate to tell your employee they did a good job and add a few heart emojis for good measure. See if that does not liven up their day!
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7. Show your Face
The biggest driving force behind your team is you- you are the face that runs the place, and as such, you cannot keep it hidden away. Always remember that the more personalized you make your work experience, the more chances you have at succeeding with your projects. Video calls with employees and clients pay more dividends than you know.
Showing your face to your intended audience lets them know that you are willing to personally invest in the conversation, which gives a positive air to any discussion you might be about to have. And a positive atmosphere is always going to be advantageous for you. Encourage your remote team to follow suit, to maintain a wholesome discourse.
8. Resource Management is Critical
The psychological aspect of managing remote teams is not limited to personal interaction. It is your duty to give your employees everything they need in order to live up to their job description. Have an employee with an unstable internet connection? Try to set them up with your corporation’s service provider.
Is someone’s laptop not working? Give them the time to get it fixed, or arrange a new one for them to use meanwhile from the office. Does someone not have the software needed to make designs? Get on it, pronto! Make sure that your employees are equipped with the tools they need to be able to work for you. The same goes for software and applications that are needed to create content and coordinate between teams.
9. Online Office Parties!
Yes, it is not going to be easy to arrange one. Yes, you might end up having to spend more time actually making the party work than at the party itself. But that is where your merit lies! As a manager, it is your job to make sure your workers are in good spirits- and the best way to ensure that is to host an office party.
However, a physical gathering is not possible under the current circumstances. An online office party might not have the same intensity, but it will still be a fun breather for your employees. Making sure that you keep moods light and fresh is a true testament to your skill when it comes to managing remote teams.
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It is difficult to shift work culture from the office space to your homes, but COVID-19 has made it a necessity. Nonetheless, managing remote teams, like any other task that you will face as a manager, is a challenge that you must rise to and meet head-on. The tips and tricks mentioned above should help you create a motivated and in-sync workforce that will be the cause of envy for other managers in a similar predicament.