If you’re used to managing an office full of employees, the idea of managing a remote team might seem a little daunting. How can you tell who is working, and when? How can you keep track of everyone’s schedules, much less their productivity?
The truth is, managing a remote team does require you to think outside of the, well, office, but it’s fairly easy to do — and you’ll have amazing results! Whether you have a semi-remote or completely remote workforce, here are five tips for managing a remote team — successfully!
1. Set Expectations
In order for your remote workers to know what is expected of them, it’s a good idea to clearly define goals and objectives early on – even as early as the recruiting process (especially if you’re recruiting remote workers). These goals should be clearly communicated not only during the job interview, but also during meetings, check-ins, and performance reviews, too. By communicating these target objectives, your team will know what they should be doing at all times, and more importantly, have an idea of what they should be working towards. You should also outline some performance metrics that can provide both your staff (and yourself) with some insight into their productivity levels and how they are progressing toward their goals.
2. Communicate With Your Team
Communication is key when you have a completely remote workforce, a work-from-home policy, or just a few employees with flexible schedules. Managing a virtual team means that you’ll need to communicate not just what the next assignment is, but also other information that is important to your workers, such as company news and updates, acquisitions, mergers, and anything that can help your employees accomplish their work and feel connected to the company as a whole.
Beyond communicating with employees as their boss, you also need to set up your remote team for success by implementing tools that allow your workers to communicate well with one other. Encourage remote workers to reach out to each other via instant messaging, email, chat clients, and the phone! Communication tools such as Join.me, Skype, and Campfire can give your employees an opportunity to connect with each other and strengthen the bonds between your team members.
3. Lead by Example
One of the best benefits of working from home is just that: you are working from home. That means that, unless otherwise directed, you can work whenever and wherever you want. If you want your employees to take advantage of their work flexibility, you’ll need to set the example of how to work flexibly. That means you don’t send emails after the workday is done and expect employees to answer them. It also means encouraging your employees to enjoy the work-life balance inherent in a flexible job, such as going to see their child’s school performance or taking their parents to a doctor’s appointment. If your employees see you working 24/7, they might feel the need to follow your lead.
4. Get to Know Remote Employees Personally
Beyond remote team meetings and email updates, you should make an effort to get to know your employees on a more personal level. Without a water cooler to stand around, it isn’t always easy to talk to your employees about what they did over the weekend.
It’s a good idea to schedule informal check-ins every once in a while; you can group a few employees together to make it more of a virtual coffee chat, in which you can talk about everything from fab summer reads to guilty TV pleasures. You can chat about anything during these mock meetings — except work!
5. Institute an Open-Door Policy
When employees are flung far around the country (or even the globe), it can be easy for small issues to flare up into big problems. Establish an open-door policy with your workers so that they feel comfortable coming to talk to you about work-related issues or even personal problems. By being accessible, friendly, and professional during all of your interactions with your staff, you will make sure that your employees feel comfortable speaking with you about any issue. In turn, this can help solve any potential problems that might arise before they turn into major catastrophes.
In some ways, managing a remote workforce is not very different from managing an in-office team. Taking advantage of technology and remembering to stay connected (on both a professional and personal level) will ensure that your remote workforce is strong, productive, dedicated, and happy.