Managing a team comes with challenges — whether it’s in the office or in a work-from-home situation. If your company is working remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic or to reflect a modern workplace, it’s important to remember that there is a difference between managing a team in-person and managing one remotely. Anticipating these challenges and recognizing the benefits, however, can help put your business ahead in profitability and productivity.
Dos and Don’ts of Managing a Remote Team
For any business, there may be a level of uncertainty when making the transition to remote work. Although hesitancy may be expected, there are some ways to create a high-functioning remote department. Here are some best practices when it comes to remote team management:
- Consider the changing climate. Whether your company has recently gone remote or you’re still trying to navigate the “new normal,” reflect on what it means to work from home and how certain processes are bound to change in this new setting.
- Study the benefits. Though some managers seem stuck on the misconception that remote work leads to slacking off, working from home can actually boost productivity. It doesn’t matter if it’s done from the couch or a coffee shop; working remotely can be a good thing.
- Implement communication strategies. Some studies suggest that 60-90% of all communication is nonverbal. Since remote work often consists of emails that may be misinterpreted, make sure everyone on your team feels included and heard.
- Be goal-driven, not time-driven. Employees shouldn’t have to stretch their responsibilities or waste time on busy work just to reach a certain number of hours logged into their accounts. Aim for concrete goals and engagement rather than filling the day with pointless tasks.
- Don’t micromanage. Some employees are probably grateful or relieved not to have a supervisor looking over their shoulder anymore. Because everyone is adapting to a new environment, focus on adapting your expectations — and don’t bombard your team’s inboxes.
- Be flexible. When employees work from home, not only is the physical setting changing, but also the way work gets completed. Although deadlines are still important, let employees hold themselves accountable for getting their work done on time.
- Build community. Especially true for those who work on teams, remember that social isolation is common among remote workers. Video meetings (when needed) and informal instant messaging channels can help employees communicate with each other and socialize while at home.
- Be transparent. Having access to leadership is key to creating a positive work environment. Not only does it build trust among employees, but it also holds upper management accountable to their staff. Offer updates and praise to all staff — without playing favorites.
- Anticipate the challenges. Working from home requires adapting to a blend of professional and personal duties. As a manager, you should be mindful of the events that can interrupt an otherwise seamless work shift. Offer understanding and empathy to your team instead of rigid time restrictions and harsh policies.
- Trust the crew. Even though there isn’t face-to-face supervision of your staff, remember that they were hired for a reason. Most likely, your team will require supportive management to do their jobs, making it imperative to establish strong relationships.
Advantages of a Well-Managed Remote Team
Working remotely may sound intimidating at first, especially as a manager. However, there are many advantages to working from home when done correctly.
For instance, without a commute to and from work, employees can save money on travel expenses while reducing their carbon footprint. Working from home also allows your staff to create a schedule that balances professional and personal obligations. Plus, companies can hire outside of their local areas to find diverse professionals to augment the team.
It’s still possible to ensure optimal efficiency without in-person check-ins. Whether it’s through team meetings, productivity tools or individual reviews, supervisors can monitor the performance of their team while working from home. Working remotely may require a bit more effort because of the lack of in-person cues and communication, but when done properly, it can help lead your company to success.
AUTHOR BIO: Sara Drake is Director of Marketing for Advanced Resources, a talent solutions organization headquartered in Chicago. Drake, who has 15 years of experience in the industry, focuses on talent solutions through staffing, consulting and workforce solutions.
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