How to Manage Your Teams As You Shift to Allow More Remote Employees

by Mike O'Neill

These days, with social distancing guidelines and forced closures, transitioning to a remote workforce is necessary for many companies who want to stay in business.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are thousands of leaders who suddenly found themselves needing to manage a remote workforce. A situation such as this can be overwhelming and scary, especially if your companies’ leaders don’t have experience in working from home. 

Global Workplace Analytics recently conducted a study showing how working from home jobs have grown 173% since 2005, which is 11% faster than the rest of the workforce (which grew 15%) and nearly 47X more quickly than the self-employed population (which grew by 4%).”

It’s probably going to be the single most important new category in hiring…… In fact, now’s the time to prepare for it.

Naval Ravikant // Founder of AngelList

We've got seven tips to help you and your teams stay motivated and productive — regardless of where they work. Keep reading to learn how to prepare to manage your team as your company shifts to a remote work environment.

7 Simple Tips to Team Management

#1 Daily Check-In

It's important to schedule daily check-ins. Typically this is done during regular business hours, but you decide what works best for you and your team.

These check-ins should be a one-on-one, face-to-face meeting via video. You can use FaceTime, Zoom, Teams, Skype, Google Hangouts, or any other video chat software you’d like.

The best method is to ask employees how they want to be managed while working remotely. That way, managers can keep a pulse on what each employee needs to be productive while working from home.

Paul Pellman // CEO of Kazoo

Email, telephone, texting, and Slack are only going to get you so far when it comes to communication. It’s easy to feel alone, working from home and isolated from your coworkers, especially when coming from a social business environment.

Ask your team which of these methods they would prefer for the daily talk about work projects outside of the visual check-in. Use their feedback to create a schedule so that everyone can establish a routine.

Your teams do need to see you, and you need to see them. The purpose of these quick check-ins is simple. Set the daily schedule, provide feedback, and provide any resources your team needs. Having face-to-face meetings also helps reduce the feelings of social isolation. 

Check-ins should initially be a daily occurrence, but feel free to scale back to weekly check-ins once your workforce has adjusted to working remotely.

#2 Listen to Your Team and Communicate

The most successful managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating.

Justin Hales // VitalSmarts

As a leader, you can put Justin's advice into action by providing frequent feedback to your team. Feedback is often one of the first things forgotten when shifting to a remote work environment because you stop seeing your team in person every day.

Consider asking for feedback from your team anonymously using surveys they can fill out on their own time. A word of caution: don't dismiss their feedback right away just because you disagree. Take the time to listen, analyze their feedback, and then take action on what they said to show you care about what they have to say.

Staying in regular  communication with your team outside of the daily check-ins is imperative. Distance from the office environment can leave your team feeling detached from the business's purpose and goals. 

Regular communication will reduce many of these feelings. You can ask what they're working on, and if they're stuck on a project, ask them where they're stuck. Don't forget to ask them what they've accomplished recently and offer praise for anything they did that deserves recognition.

#3 Take Advantage of Technology

As a leader, it is critical to keep your team connected.  Provide your team with a way to collaborate. Sharing documents tracks work activities, giving team leaders a way to stay on top of their team’s efforts.

Agree on an acceptable form of virtual sharing. You’ll need to work with your team to agree on what is adequate time to answer a message from colleagues. Your employees need to know if it’s okay to send a quick note saying, “I’ll get right back to you” when they’re focused on a task, or if they need to stop what they’re doing and respond right away.

Communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are best suited for collaboration and communication. Brainstorming tools like Mural allow for teams to brainstorm on a whiteboard virtually. These tools are a simple way to keep your team leaders engaged with colleagues.

#4 Establish Rules of Engagement

As you work through scheduling your daily check-ins, begin providing virtual feedback and communicating through online means. Over time, your team should adjust to the new virtual collaboration routine.

Remote work becomes more efficient and satisfying when managers set expectations for the frequency, means, and ideal timings of communication for their teams.

To do this, establish some “rules of engagement” with your team right from the start and discuss them in the first remote meeting. Be sure your team knows the best way and time to reach you during the day should they need you. 

Your team also needs to know the rules and expectations of their daily communications with each other. You'll want to ensure they’re working and collaborating effectively.

#5 Manage Expectations

Manage expectations by helping your team figure out their duties and responsibilities and create realistic expectations for their work. Set your team up for success by clearly stating and identifying both the tasks that need accomplishing and the reasons why doing those tasks correctly is important. 

Clearly define how you’ll measure success by setting boundaries, defining scopes, deadlines, and the deliverables for each task your teams are working on. By doing this, you won’t be wondering what your team is doing while at home. 

Keep your staff up-to-date on any policy or staffing changes and provide teams with information about the company’s success and tips for working at home. Managing expectations helps employees maintain a healthy work/life balance when working remotely.

#6 Be Supportive, Flexible, and Open

Be understanding of the fact that your team has a lot going on. However, keep in mind that their situation isn't a good excuse for an inability to get things done. You need to consider what productivity looks like and means to you. 

Trust your team.  Give employees the freedom to get their work done on a flexible schedule that will help them with their productivity. 

When abruptly shifting to remote work, offer your team encouragement and emotional support. It would be best if you acknowledged your team's stress, listen to your team's concerns and empathize with their struggles. You're all in this together.  

If you notice a new remote employee struggling who isn't communicating with you, reach out and ask them how they're doing. Listen carefully to their response and be open to what they tell you. 

Managing a team across different time zones means you'll need to be flexible as well. You may need to schedule meetings and phone calls in the evening hours to accommodate this.

#7 Continue to Build Culture

When shifting to remote work, don’t forget to continue building your company culture. As a leader, you don’t want to forget about the strong organizational culture that helped your employees become your best ambassadors. 

Provide your remote employees with opportunities for social interaction. You can do this by having virtual office parties and having items delivered to your team before the meeting. 

Send business swag to your remote employees and their families. Never underestimate the power of some cool swag — such as hoodies, coffee cups, or hats — to help your workforce feel more connected to the company and not forgotten.

As an added bonus, your staff may snap photos of the swag you send and share it on social media — which helps increase awareness of your brand and shows you care about your employees.

Plan some time to get together with everyone face-to-face when possible. Due to COVID-19, this may be a little more difficult to plan. Still, it’s not impossible if you practice social distancing as necessary and follow your state and local guidelines for gatherings. 

Once you work out the details, you’ll realize the in-person interaction is worth it and will pay off in the long-term. You’ll build rapport with your team, and team members will better connect with one other. When you create a connection with your team, morale stays high, and they become less likely to feel the effects of isolation when working from home.

Take Advantage of a Remote Workforce 

The rise of remote work is unavoidable, and you want to take advantage of it. Allowing your team to work remotely can benefit your team and you as a manager and the business as a whole. 

In the Owl Labs State of Remote Work report, they stated that “more remote workers are putting in 40-plus hours per week because they enjoy what they do compared to on-site workers.”  

We understand that you’re facing stressful times, and you want to make sure you’re managing your teams to the best of your ability as you make the transition. Changes like these are never easy, and we understand just how overwhelmed you may feel.

The move to a remote environment is one that needs to be handled correctly. You may not be sure of the best way to go about it, and you're possibly worried about the disruption it could cause.

It doesn’t have to be as disrupting as it may seem now. As you transition, use these seven tips in this article, and you’ll keep your team motivated and on top of their tasks.

When you sign up for our Get Unstuck & On-Target Workshop, you’ll learn how to better manage your business’s complexity and start putting what you learn into practice. 

We’ll help you identify your challenges and opportunities, prioritize the ones that will have the most impact, and narrow them down into the three most significant things for you to implement to see improvement. 

In just a few short hours, you'll narrow down hundreds of potential decisions into a single, executable plan. You'll walk away with a process you can use every time you need to narrow your choices and find the best way forward.

Sign up for your seat in the workshop now.

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