Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many companies have had to reflect and address current team management challenges and transform them into opportunities. The workplace experienced a rapid cultural change and mad rush to implement remote work processes for individuals and teams. New lines of trust are being forged between employee and management. Individual contribution and recognition are being spotlighted to drive motivation and performance. Identifying infrastructure needs and cost-saving reduction on office expenses have forced companies to shift their budgetary focus into longer-term and more sustainable organizational investments.
As companies across the globe embrace the remote workplace culture, they are discovering that much of what they already know about team management best practices can easily be reconfigured to be just as effective in a remote work environment.
Benefits of Remote Work
Company Saves Money
By shifting the main workplace of your employees to their own homes, companies could save money on typical expenditures, such as office rent, furniture, utilities, and technology. Allowing a worker to telecommute just half the time can save a company more than $11,000 a year and results in 21% higher profitability.
Lower Stress and Improved Productivity
With the ability to work autonomously and have a more flexible schedule, employees can produce high-quality work without office distractions. Without the need to commute, they experience less stress and greater self-motivation to finish more in less time. As a result, employees are able to prioritize and find higher levels of satisfaction with their work-life balance, meaning more time for family and personal interests.
Companies that offer partial or full-remote working options open up their pool of talented candidates. They are able to seek out and hire a more diverse and highly-skilled workforce, regardless of where they live.
Best Practices for Remote Team Management
In order to maximize the benefits of remote working, companies must implement certain best practices that will foster the most productive remote workplace.
Establish Streamlined Hiring Practices
Company hiring practices for remote workers is not much different than standard office workers, but just a few enhancements can ensure that companies are hiring the right individual with capabilities to effectively work remotely.
First, as with all candidates, verify that they are self-motivated and share the same vision/values of the company. This is critical as they will represent the company and must feel personally invested in their contributions to the organization.
Next, set clear expectations from the start. This includes not only productivity goals, but working hours, availability, and deadlines. Remote workers may feel the need to be more available than normal because they are more accessible, which can lead to employee burnout, legal issues and appropriate adjusted compensation. Expectations allow remote workers to have flexibility while still maintaining company standards.
Finally, verify that all managers of remote workers are properly trained in remote work management and are able to efficiently use technology to stay connected with their employees. This includes setting expectations on communication preferences (phone, video conferencing, etc.) and work schedule expectations. Be aware of time-zone differences and local cultural events that may impact an employee’s availability.
The most essential aspect of remote team management is to establish a reliable, secure, and well-equipped technical infrastructure. Focus on efficiency by utilizing appropriate technology platforms for specific communication (email, video chat like Zoom, phone, web chat) and to provide effective collaboration on documents (using Google Drive for example).
This will bridge the physical gap created by remote working and provide flexible working schedules that avoids overbooking or misunderstandings. Keeping teams well connected will promote working synergy and inclusion for all that need access to management and essential team members.
Create a Clear Communication Strategy
As stated above, set up clear work-from-home guidelines (such as: emails must be responded to within 24 hours, use text for urgent matters, and no calls between certain hours) to make sure team members are not working around the clock.
Ensure employees have the technology needed to get the work done (laptops, software, mobile devices, high-speed internet connection). Do not assume everyone has all of those things; it’s your responsibility as a manager to make sure they do.
Include all employees in company events and meetings (as applicable) to reinforce their sense of belonging and motivate them to participate in proposing ideas and brainstorming.
Avoid micromanagement by allowing the team to control the work on each level and establish specific goals. Manage the outcomes, not activity or hours worked.
Set regular and consistent check-ins (daily, weekly, monthly) with your teams that make the most sense. This should be set as an update and feedback opportunity for both management and employees so that the conversation is a two-way communication. Be sure to incorporate video chats to keep the human connection, and find opportunities to leverage these meetings for training or coaching.
Make Team Building a Priority
Building a work culture of accountability, confidence and trust is essential with a remote working team. Try to gather the team in face-to-face meetings (as budgets and safety permits) to build trust and strengthen team connections. Make it a point to give opportunities for employees to learn about each other with “virtual office water cooler conversations” about non-work related topics like movies, local events, TV shows, and family events. As always, keep it work-appropriate and don’t force employees to share. Keep it an open invitation.
Be sure to address cultural diversity by educating team members about cultural ethics, language and religious holidays. This is important with national and global teams to foster an authentic sense of inclusion, and typically is best managed through a company’s Diversity Program Office and with Employee Resource Groups that are focused on inclusive events and education.
It’s an Evolving Process
In this constantly evolving environment it’s important to stay up-to-date on new developments and technologies and be open to changing your procedures to accommodate the social climate. Be flexible and make sure your employees know their importance and that you are available to them to help whenever possible.