Today more companies are recognizing the value of remote employees. Meanwhile, we know many employees who are now working remotely for the first time, as well as managers who had not experienced leading a remote team. It behooves business leaders and managers to adjust their leadership styles to translate what worked in an office setting to lead and manage a remote or hybrid workforce.
With the expectations around virtual workers rising, as a manager, you can retool to successfully lead, engage, and get the best results from your employee, benefiting personally and professionally.
In 2020, before the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 7 million people were working remotely in the U.S., that's 3.4 percent of the population. Over the last five years, the number of people working remotely has grown by 44 percent.
A recent study by Gartner in March 2020 found that about 74 % of CFOs surveyed expect some of their employees who worked from home because of the global health crisis to continue working remotely after the pandemic ends.
Aside from dire situations, such as a global health crisis, or significant regulatory concerns, there are advantages and merits to developing a remote workforce. Allowing talent to work remotely creates various benefits, including helping them to be more independent and productive, without sacrificing quality, and removing office distractions. It also eliminates a significant loss of valuable resources, employees' time, money, and energy, commuting to and from work, and enables many employees to integrate work and personal commitments
To support you in the best way that we can, in this article, we highlight and share 12 best practices managers of remote teams can leverage to motivate a remote workforce and to be as successful as possible when leading their teams during challenging times.
We tapped into our insights and experiences and the most relevant advice we found from a diverse source pool, including the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, bambooHR, mondayremote, and TechRepublic.
As you review these practices, make a mental note of the ones you are already using—continue to expand on them, and also highlight new ones that you could adopt to become even more effective in your role as a leader.
#1 Stay Focused On Goals, Not Activities
It is essential to stay focused on goals when managing a remote workforce. Don't worry about how it's getting done or the activities. Instead, focus on the end-result and accomplishments. If your team is meeting their goals, then great. Otherwise, look into the situation further.
#2 Set Expectations
Everyone has a different understanding of what doing something "quickly" or "well" means. You can show examples of what you expect for deliverables(calendar sharing, etc.) to ensure you set clear expectations for your remote workers. Create a remote work system to identify guidelines and expectations for employees who are not working in the office.
#3 Be as responsive and available as possible
Working remotely, the lag in communication makes the distance much more noticeable. If you email someone and there isn't a response for several hours, you're going to wish you worked in the same office, so you didn't have to deal with that. When working with remote workers, ensure to reply to inquiries and team communication within a specified timeframe based on geography and share your expectations for two-way communication.
#4 Schedule regular check-ins
Plan regularly scheduled virtual meetings. They can be daily, weekly, or monthly, depending on the nature of the work and could be combined with a training or coaching program. This level of communication and engagement will help remote employees feel included in an essential aspect of the organization.
#5 Accommodate flexible work schedules
Be conscious of different time zones and employee situations. This level of thoughtfulness is the best way to show respect and understanding of other team members. Letting people work remotely but then tying them with a fixed schedule can be counterproductive. Focus on the team collaboration requirements, and end-results, not the minutiae of "screen time" to measure performance.
#6 Opt for using video and phone calls
Try to use calls or video chat rather than emails and instant messages when possible. It's so much easier to communicate something over the phone or a quick video call. In an email or instant message, you might lose much of the context and tone of what someone is saying. While working from home, similar to working in the office, inboxes get inundated with messages that keep piling up in the queue.
#7 Make personal connections
Allow a few minutes in different meetings, small groups, or one-on-one, to talk about things outside of work. It helps you stay connected to your team and each other despite being out of the office. Small-talk meets the human need for connection. Don’t downplay it, and don’t drag it out either. Be relationally efficient—focus on building the relationship and getting the work done simultaneously.
#8 Provide extra education or training
Similar to in-office employees, remote employees also need to develop in their roles. Take their training into consideration in their developmental plan for the quarter, 6-months, a year. For example, you could provide access to an e-learning platform, offer webinars with a subject matter expert, or create online training documents or videos for your remote employees. It's also crucial to train remote workers on how to work from home more effectively.
#9 Trust Your Team
Sometimes, businesses are not always willing to welcome remote employees due to skepticism about whether or not the work will get done at the same level as if they were in the office. When you trust your team and apply the previous best practices, you can combat this idea by setting work-from-home guidelines, expectations on deliverables, etc. For example, emails must be responded to within 24 hours, use text for urgent concerns, and try not to make calls between certain hours to make sure employees are not working around the clock.
#10 Have reliable tech tools first
If remote employees can't download or upload files, strain to hear on a video call, and receive meeting invitations when they are unavailable, you are going to struggle to manage your team effectively. Make sure to invest in reliable technology tools to make collaboration possible. Then develop a clear process for using those tools.
#11 Avoid multitasking
One way to be more productive is to avoid multitasking. To that end, video calls, instead of phone calls, work well. Engage the team with prompts and questions throughout the meetings to keep them engaged and focused. Help people to stay in working mode and off email back-and-forth as much as possible.
#12 Strengthen company culture
Organizations that encourage an inclusive virtual environment are the ones that get the best out of each employee. When people feel valued for their contributions and believe in a singular vision, mission, and set of values, they are more willing to go the extra mile to get things done. As a manager, you can increase your influence and impact by articulating your appreciation and sharing the strategy and vision for the team and the organization regularly.
Bringing it all together
Managing a remote or hybrid team does challenge you to adjust and adapt. And it's also an opportunity to develop a tremendous professional competitive edge that allows you to grow while building the most reliable possible team, regardless of their location.
One of the most constructive and effective ways to manage a remote team is by focusing on productivity, building trust, and encouraging open and transparent communication to check-in, connect, surface issues, and brainstorm solutions together, with the right tools at hand.
What is your biggest challenge in managing remote employees? Let us know, and we'll tackle your question in our next article.
Overall, what has been your most significant takeaway? What will double-down on which you're already doing, and what will you implement for the first time going forward?
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About Dr. Ginny A. Baro
Dr. Ginny Baro is an international speaker & executive coach, and the #1 bestselling author of Fearless Women at Work. She is the CEO and founder of ExecutiveBound™ and Fearless Women @Work™ and the creator of the innovative and proven method, C.A.R.E.S. Leadership Success System™.
Ginny specializes in helping executives develop great leaders. As a career strategist, she partners with talented individuals who are navigating a corporate hierarchy or transitioning into an entirely new phase of their professional careers.
She has successfully facilitated leadership training and coaching programs for global companies with over 140,000 employees and delivered keynotes impacting international audiences larger than 7,000 people.
For over two decades, Ginny held multiple Director and senior leadership roles in financial services and technology. Her academic degrees include a Ph.D. in Information Systems, an MS in Computer Science, an MBA in Management, and a BA in Computer Science and Economics. She's a Mastermind Professional and Certified Professional Coach (CPC), accredited by the International Coach Federation. For more information, visit www.executivebound.com.