We live in a new world, one that has gone through a pandemic and in the process been irrevocably transformed. Merely a decade or so ago, the idea of a company running successfully without a single employee within its premises would have been laughed off the table as ludicrous and yet, here we are.
Most enterprises today operate on a remote/hybrid model, and what started off as an experiment forced because of the COVID-19 pandemic has proved successful enough for companies to start considering it as an permanent alternative to on-premise workforces. The benefits are many: Businesses can immediately cut down on real estate, rental and utility costs, hire talent from across the globe and in the case of B2B businesses, provide better customer satisfaction by placing employees near client locations to just name a few.
However, managing remote teams and ensuring that the earlier levels of productivity are maintained and surpassed requires a shift in the normal way of thinking. Approached with the conventional managerial mindset, remote working will fail to yield its full potential.
Here are a few tips and best practices to driving your organization’s transition to a remote-first workforce, and ensuring stakeholder satisfaction alongside business success:
Remote workers need boundaries that can help define and give some sense to their professional and personal lives. Since individual team members may be working from different time zones, any email, call, or notification outside of work hours may ruin their sleep or disturb them while they are enjoying some well-deserved family time.
Discuss work schedules with each member by taking their respective geographies and work routines into account and ensure that you and the rest of the team is able to operate with and respect it. This helps build positive relationships between employees, while also ensuring that each employee is able to fully immerse themselves in their personal and professional lives, without worrying about intrusion from the other aspect.
Encourage And Embrace Diversity.
Increased cultural diversity is something you must come to expect and appreciate while managing remote teams. While it will add a lot of value to your workforce and bring in elements of innovation, you must be cautious of issues that can plague multicultural teams are misunderstandings and conflicts that if allowed to run unchecked can tear them apart.
It becomes hard to manage people hailing from different races. You as a leader must set an example of embracing cultural diversity to allow and encourage team building. While this is a topic requiring a detailed article of its own, some simple ways include being cognizant of how people from different areas receive and respond to feedback, promote a mindset of celebrating differences, be respectful about national and regional holidays for your global team, and respect the nuances of different cultures.
Correct Expectations From The Beginning.
Every company has expectations, whether the work is remote or virtual. Being clear about your expectations with employees will keep them focused and aware of what you and the company want from them. Right from the outset, you should set and follow clear expectations for:
- Work hours
- Communication system
- Timely meetings
- Key projects and deadlines
- Email etiquettes
Polish Online Communication Skills.
Many remote teams face a setback in communication when working on projects, because of the dynamics involved with people collaborating across continents. It can be hard to encourage lasting connections between team members who don’t meet everyday without great communication skills.
That means that not only you as a leader need to develop your writing skills, talk clearly, use remote collaboration tools to collaborate effectively, but you should also encourage your team to work on their own soft skills. You can do this in two simple steps: One, set an example as a great communicator and encourage the introverts to speak up as often as the extroverts so that every voice is heard, and two, organize soft skill workshops and other informal meetings such as toastmaster sessions to ensure that good communication skills become ubiquitous within your organization.
Make Help Accessible For When It’s Needed.
Out of sight, out of mind. However, as a remote leader you must operate outside the constraints of this popular adage. Your team may be out of sight for extended periods of time but, don’t let them out of your mind for too long.
Unexpected issues related to a project, a teammate, or how the work is being done are common in every business. If something is bothering your employees or they are feeling under the weather, understand the clues they may be giving to you and lend them a helping hand.
Make sure that help related resources are never more than an arm’s length away, and if you have the resources, consider setting up a task-force dedicated to helping your workforce with specific issues related to making the transition to a remote/hybrid model.
Invest In The Right Remote Project Management Software.
Your remote work culture will flourish when you have everything under one roof. This can be made possible when you rely on a comprehensive remote team management software suite to plan tasks, projects and even people.
A checklist you can refer to while choosing a project management software is given below, does the software suite allow you to:
- Communicate with your team
- Keep a track of project evolution
- Track productivity
- Maintain and manage timesheets
- Share information in real-time
- Have discussions
- Manage the tasks on a task list
- Interact across different time zones
Learn About Everyone.
It is easy and in fact inevitable learning about the person who sits beside you the whole day as you keep working together. But, when working remotely, your team will have to make an active effort to learn about each other.
Make it a point to encourage informal discussions with and between your team-members that would allow the formation of personal bonds between them. You can do this through small initiatives like virtually having lunch together once in a while, or celebrating birthdays over the internet.
A term I like using for these relationships is Social Equity. Don’t underestimate the power of personal bonds in augmenting your work environment, employee satisfaction and overall productivity and efficiency.
Beyond the fact that it has been forced on us because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a whole host of benefits associated with going virtual. Business owners that adopt a remote work environment save money on the overheads associated with having a physical office. There are no expenses for rent, equipment, furniture, office supplies, and utilities and when
employees don’t have to spend hours commuting to work and have fewer office politics to handle, they tend to be happier and more productive.
According to a survey conducted by FlexJobs, 65% of remote workers said they were more productive when working from home. What’s more, remote working has also been shown to decrease turnover, widen the hiring pool and overall create win-win situations for employees and employers.
As the world goes global, so should your team. When you have to manage remote workers, make sure you always keep a finger on their pulse. You can do wonders for your business through remote work if you, as a leader, are willing to put in the extra effort and drive your team towards overarching success across the board.
Federico Omarini is a Business Manager and Senior Consultant at Cegos Italia. After an MBA in Business Administration, he embarked on a professional career in the training and development space working in key companies in the vertical. He is an ardent author and his articles have been published in important publications like the Los Angeles Tribune.