Remote working arrangements can be a win-win situation for both businesses and workers. Research shows remote working teams can lead to higher individual contribution and more diverse thinking. However, decision makers need to have the right management system in place to make remote work successful.
Start by hiring right; qualified people who can work independently and communicate well tend to be ideal remote workers. They should be self-motivated, fast learners, and able to complete tasks without direct supervision.
Recruitment can be a time and resource-intensive process, so get it right the first time, rather than having to recruit repeatedly for the same role.
Not everyone will automatically adjust to working remotely, and remember, your remote employee won’t have the same opportunities to learn on the job as an in-office staff member. You can help new workers settle in by providing a uniform on-boarding process. Provide notes, guidelines, and policy. Audio-visual aids like a welcome video and instructional videos can make induction more interesting.
An induction stage for remote workers helps establish expectations. It gives your new recruits the information they need to adjust to a different way of working.
Without the context of physical proximity (facial expressions and body language) it can be easy to miscommunicate. To counteract this, remote-team managers should be strategic with how they use different communication channels.
Charters establish norms and reduce ambiguity. They allow you to hold team members accountable, and they give your remote workers transparency about teamwork, processes, and shared responsibilities. Team members can easily find out who’s responsible for tasks and outcomes, as well as work out how to use different communications mediums. This can guide them in collaborating more effectively.
Examples of guidelines are no background noise and side conversations, and (when it’s appropriate) use channels (such as phone and video) for private discussions. Your role charter can outline who’s responsible for different outcomes and tasks in the team.
Use workflow or project management tools to track progress. Use tools to track individual as well as team progress. If your software lets you automate tracking as work is submitted or completed, all the better. HiveDesk, Trello, and Asana are some popular platforms.
Choosing a tool that allows team members to share progress is a good idea. Everyone can access updates to how work is progressing, and this added transparency can boost team culture, accountability, and motivation.
Options range from informal to highly structured. For some teams, it might be enough to have a chat room where team members can share where they’re at and mark tasks as complete. This type of self-update puts the onus on team members to keep the rest of their team updated. It frees you, the manager, from having to ask for updates.
Whether it’s a chat room, private virtual message board, or some other platform, give your team a chance to enjoy spontaneous conversations about non-work things. These virtual watercooler platforms serve an important purpose: they can enhance team culture, raise collaboration, and heighten trust. They can also help spread important information about work. In turn, your team could end up more creative and productive.
Popular platforms include Slack, Basecamp, and Yammer, but do some research to find the right one for your team. If the conversation doesn’t flow naturally, enlist a few team members to kick start general conversations about non-work issues.
Remote work lacks the structure of an on-site job, so communicate clear expectations and welcome team members to ask for clarification whenever they need it. Concentrate on both tasks and processes as well as specific outcomes and goals – along with deadlines.
You might need to update expectations every day to once a month depending on the type of work you’re doing. Give team members enough information so they can work out what they need to have done this week, his or her goals for the next month, and whom to ask questions. Check in with team members and ask for their feedback so you can act to clear up information gaps.
The clearer the expectation, the better quality of work, and the more likely your project will get done on time.
One-on-one performance management time keeps you connected with team members, and it allows you to give specific feedback. Team members will have a chance to say things they might not feel comfortable sharing in your shared platforms. Be transparent and consistent about one-on-one time and feedback. Give feedback according to the expectations (and metrics) you’ve communicated to employees, just as you would with an on-site employee.
It’s easy to become isolated when working remotely, so give employees plenty of context. This means providing them with information about how their individual tasks and role fits in the overall project or organisational goals. Share the business vision and goals, and link these to the specific team objectives or roles.
An understanding of their context leads to a sense of purpose about their contribution. You can also give them context by linking roles to required outcomes. For example, when assigning work, you could say, “Baby Boomer sales have dropped in the last two months, so we need your expertise on targeted PPC ads for this category.” You can also give feedback on positive outcomes by linking them to individual tasks in the same way.
Remote teams need extra work when it comes to relationships. While in-office teams find it easy to develop social bonds, remote workers have the distance challenge. Make an effort to add personal touches, like sending group-signed birthday cards and asking about their day at the start of conversations. You can even host virtual catch-ups over coffee where the team get together to talk casually about both life and work.
Make time to meet in person, as a team, once in awhile. For some teams it might be once a month; other teams might need to meet only once every three months. Get together for a fun day out, a team lunch, or a meeting on-site. Meeting in person reinforces group identity and lets you nurture a team feeling or culture.
Remote work offers numerous benefits, but it requires a clear management strategy to succeed. Organisations with offsite workers can start by hiring the right people. Being strategic about communication, encouraging team culture, and clarifying expectations are also vital.
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