Supervisors not used to remote work discovered during the pandemic that managing remote teams requires an entirely different approach. This is neither good news nor bad news — it just is.
For one thing, the supervising thing may be difficult for managers used to popping in often and keeping an eye on the workflow. Remote work doesn’t suffer such interruptions, which doesn’t mean that tasks should be left unchecked.
Generally speaking, there are two main approaches in this matter: regular online meet-ups and using task-management apps. Sometimes, a combination of both is needed, but for people who know their tasks, using apps and tools may be sufficient.
That being said, managing remote teams is much more than supervision. Proper communication channels must be established ASAP as communication breakdowns happen more often virtually than in person, for obvious reasons. When you see a person, you can read their body language and tone of voice and have a good idea of the mood. Online communication is another matter entirely.
Keeping these two factors in mind, let’s move on to some useful tips on how to properly manage a remote workforce.
1. Be Flexible
Being flexible is the absolute prerequisite. The old-school stern manager approach simply doesn’t work on remote workers, especially not on freelancers and digital nomads who rely on the gig economy. These people will easily ditch a client if they feel uncomfortable simply because they know there are many other opportunities… and so should you.
Remote work calls for a whole different level of commitment and motivation. If you remember the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (yes, with everything going on it seems blurry, but it was really only over two years ago), the major complaint from people who had to switch to remote work was that their children are too loud or that they have troubles with time-management, stuff like that. Basically, lack of discipline, distractions and poor motivation.
As time went by, they learned a thing or two. Starting with a dedicated spot for work, regular breaks, restraining themselves from browsing their social media feedback every once in a while, and so on.
People who have turned to remote work because it’s their choice not a necessity rarely have such problems. Over time, everyone realizes that even if they can work in their pajamas or from a café, their tasks won’t miraculously dissipate into thin air. After wasting some time, they will learn discipline.
That being said, remote team leaders should learn that different people use different patterns. As long as they meet the deadlines, leaders should be flexible.
2. Rely on Regular Feedback
Set up a regular feedback system. This doesn’t differ greatly from the usual routine except it is performed online.
The importance of knowing your employees remains the same, whether they work from the office or from anywhere else.
3. Communicate Objectives Clearly
Building key objectives seems to be the most difficult part. Many leaders rely on the OKR system (objectives and key results) as it has proven to be rather beneficial in terms of remote work.
Remember that your remote workers must know what is expected of them to be able to perform their tasks properly. It is, therefore, crucial to set clear objectives that can be measured.
4. Avoid Common Problems
Every business periodically faces certain issues. When it comes to remote work, these usually include difficulties with building and maintaining company culture, poor communication, and lack of social interactions.
Fortunately, all of these can be addressed, but what is really important in this regard is to recognize potential issues before they get out of control.
Communication and feedback are your two most powerful tools, but keep in mind that not everyone will always cooperate. That’s where managing comes in!
5. Offer Learning Opportunities
The majority of remote workers look forward to additional learning opportunities. This holds especially true for people relying on the gig economy as no one knows better than them how important it is to remain competitive.
That isn’t to say that you should educate your workforce so that they can leave when the next opportunity arrives. It goes without saying that you should offer benefits and opportunities that will keep your employees satisfied.
With the rise of eLearning, hybrid team building, and a whole slew of their derivatives, one could surmise that remote workers can educate themselves wherever… and one would be wrong.
Offer unique, tailor-made courses to your remote workers and they will be grateful (they will also be more engaged, which will generate palpable results in addition to good vibes). For creative presentation and tutorials there are some free online video editor does not require prior experience.
Custom learning is all the rage these days, so give it a go.
6. Offer the Latest Tech
It is crucial to choose the best apps and tools for your remote teams. Remote workers are tech-savvy and pay attention to such things.
In fact, it is easy to see when a business is inexperienced in leading remote teams. Make sure to research trends and ask for employee input.
This aspect isn’t set in stone. Seeing as technology advances at a rapid pace, it is only natural to replace obsolete apps with new, more modern ones.
Just remember that it wasn’t that long ago that people used to share content via email. Nowadays, there are so many sharing tools and platforms that the notion seems funny, such as for example, proxy services.
7. Empower the Employees
“Empowering employees” basically means that you should create a healthy and engaging company culture, with a twist.
Remote work is, well, remote, meaning that cross-cultural training is essential.
Next on, come up with a strategy that will enable your remote workers to make their own choices while being aligned with company goals… which basically means that remote team leaders need to educate themselves first.
And working remotely does not mean that employees have to work on their computer. In fact, that practice must work for every business. If you are trained to manage work remotely, then you can even customize rigid boxes at home and increase your brand sales.
When it comes to leading remote teams, everything revolves around clear objectives, the latest tech, flexibility, and healthy communication.
You may research best practices, but it is also totally fine to come up with your own approaches, keeping employee feedback in mind.
last but not least, don’t stick to a predefined strategy! Take variations into account and apply hacks to keep in line with rapid developments and employees’ expectations. It’s not that different from managing office workers, really.