Managing your employees is hard enough when they’re all together in one place. Whether the global pandemic virus forced them to start working at home and it’s a transitional remote working environment that will end if the virus gets under control, whether you’ve always been a remote-only company, or whether letting your staff work from home is a choice you’ve made for the betterment of morale, managing employees working remotely presents a new set of challenges.
Maged Elhami has had to deal with both situations while helping to lead his various businesses. In this article, he shares some of the best ways a manager can direct his or her staff when some or all of them are working remotely, perhaps far removed from the office, or even in another part of the country, having learned from direct experience.
Here are five ways to successfully manage your remote-working support teams.
Emphasize communication and stay connected with your team
The number one best way of managing remote workers is keeping an open line of communication, be it via a regular check-in by phone, a weekly team meeting via Zoom, or, even better, an business communication platform such as Slack, which has been used widely over the last several years by remote teams since it was founded in 2013, and particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.
Whatever platform you choose, make sure you check in personally with your direct reports. Maged Elhami is not saying to micromanage, but if workers have a sense of leadership that is actively engaged, that not only promotes job satisfaction, it also avoids disconnects and misunderstandings.
Ask your employees about their personal preferences
Communication is all well and good, but what if some of your team members prefer autonomy as a prime benefit of working remotely, and even takes it for granted?
The ideal management technique for managing remote teams is to ask each individual member of your staff how they would like to be managed when working from home, according to a recent Society for Human Resource Management article.
That way, supervisors get a better sense of what each person needs and wants from you as their boss to enable them to be productive at optimal levels.
Establish clear guidelines and rules about the remote workday
Rules tend to be more amorphous and inexact when it comes to remote teams working separated from each other, and more importantly from you as the leader of the pack, says Elhami.
Do you care only that employees turn in their tasks on time, or would you prefer them to be reachable at all times during the standard workday hours customary with onsite work?
Communicate rules and boundaries about how often your employees should check-in, including specifically how they should communicate and when (an instant message for a quick question and an email for something more involved, for example).
Offer plenty of outlets for social interaction among team members
According to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, the best way to combat the issue of social isolation that can be rampant in remote teams (humans are social creatures, after all, reminds Maged Elhami) is to make sure they have a way to replace the everyday banter and co-worker camaraderie that’s far easier to initiate when everyone’s in one space.
Those crucial relationships are harder to form and even harder to maintain over the long term, so make sure your employees are given opportunities to interact with each other about things unrelated to work. They’ll be happier, and therefore more productive.
Expect issues unique to remote work to pop up, and handle them
Don’t expect it to be a totally smooth transition to and from remote work.
If possible, have employees combine remote and onsite work to make working at home a bit less jarring and still preserve the sense of community that comes with an office.
If employees never communicate or take too much advantage of the “hands-off” approach that goes hand-in-hand with remote work, privately alert them of this, then give them a chance to change.