According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), studies show that employees who are able to skip commuting and perform remote work are happier and more productive.
Your company decided to join this virtual movement and make the switch. The big question is – how do you take the most productive tools of managing a team and translate these methods into a remote work environment?
This scenario requires a clear understanding of objectives, roles, timelines, and responsibilities. Below, we highlight the most effective strategies to help managers make the transition to working remotely as seamless as possible.
Clarify Remote Work Expectations and Policies
During this transition, it is essential to outline policies and keep them updated regularly. Everyone has a different idea of what doing something “quickly” means. Managers need to establish clear expectations from those they work with online. Albizu Garcia, CEO of Gain, gives some key guidelines to start this process, including:
- Collaboration Tools – Which tools will the team use to communicate and collaborate effectively? Slack, Zoom, Airtable, Trello? Whichever ones you choose, make sure to give an on-boarding demonstration of how each tool works, so all members of the team are on the same page.
- Availability – Does the team need to be online during specific business hours (and time zones), or can they set their own schedules? For example, if a manager needs weekly marketing reports by a particular time of day, they must establish this expectation right from the beginning to avoid confusion.
- Measuring Productivity – How will the group track different metrics, progress on projects, and accurately measure results? Again, pick tools that work best for everyone.
Managing Data and Projects During Remote Work
Which management system will the team use to organize and share documents, images, graphics, and other information quickly and securely? Cloud-based management tools tend to work best for managing projects and data. Some popular ones for remote teams include Trello, Basecamp, Dropbox, and Google Suite.
Avoid “Virtual Distance”
CEO of Virtual Distance International Karen Sobel Lojeski defines “virtual distance,” as a sense of emotional and psychological detachment that builds up over time when people become over-reliant on technology to mediate their relationships. Team leaders need to make an effort to maintain company culture and keep things more personalized. For example, with the money saved from going remote, it would be beneficial to have multiple face-to-face group meetups. To keep everyone connected, LogMeIn built a popular and fun intranet site where people can share personal news, information, and other tidbits. The site includes tons of groups, like one called dogmein@logmein, where people post pictures of their dogs.
Use Stellar Communication Tools
Making sure teams have an effective way to communicate with each other is one of the most critical factors when working remotely. Email is okay for non-urgent matters. However, remote teams need communication tools such as Zoom, Slack, or Skype to connect quickly on projects. These tools offer instant messaging, video calls, and the ability to organize conversations by channel or topic.
Teams working from home will need flexibility with their work hours. Many have children and will need to take time for parenting responsibilities. Allowing flexibility is key to reducing unnecessary stress. However, managers still need to be consistent in terms of blocking off times necessary for meetings, collaboration, and brainstorming. Creating a window of time each week for these tasks can help in maintaining a schedule.
In a virtual environment, it can be challenging to understand how long each person worked and what they are working on. Most remote managers evaluate teams based on the number of tasks completed and whether or not they are meeting their objectives. No one likes to be micro-managed; however, if there is an issue with productivity, there are time-tracking tools such as Timesheets and Toggl that can be used to monitor projects.
Learning to deal with different personalities is also vital during this time of transition. Some remote workers are great at avoiding distractions and staying on track, while others may struggle with this new virtual world. Making sure to set strict accountability rules while also being understanding of different personalities is key to finding a balance during this time. Use this opportunity to help workers who are having a difficult time adjusting find online professional development courses that can help them.
A positive and successful transition to working remotely also depends on well-prepared managers or team leaders. Make yourself available to team members to answer any questions and to offer valuable feedback. Ask them how they are coping and what you can do to make this time a little easier for them. Working remotely may be stressful at first, but with the right tools, systems, and organizational skills in place, this change could be the best thing that happened to your team and company.