Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of working remotely became even more prevalent. It doesn’t matter whether you are an employee or a student, chances are you are now doing your work or studies remotely. Remote work isn’t a brand new thing anymore; in the United States, at least, the working population is composed of nearly 25% remote employees.
Just like working in the office, some policies and rules must be followed to maintain maximum productivity in the workplace. Unfortunately, even though remote working is, as we have said, not a new thing anymore, the rules and policies are not yet fully established. Thankfully enough, there are ways that you, as the leader of a remote team, can craft your ideas on dealing with the hurdles brought about by working remotely. This is your leader’s handbook in managing your remote employees.
Realizing The Hurdles Of Working Remotely
You, as the manager of the remote team, must be on the same page with your employees when dealing with and understanding the daily challenges you will face.
1. Workplace Disturbances
The first common problem would be the inevitable disturbances from the environment of your remote employees (and yours as well). Whether it be the chattering in the coffee shop, barking dogs, and crying babies. They all distract you from the work you are doing. Just make sure you do your best in mitigating these kinds of distractions. Although sometimes they are just unavoidable, patience is the characteristic virtue that your team must abide by.
2. Insufficient Workplace Interactions
It is no secret that humans are social beings. And the daily dose of physical interaction they get from their colleagues at work gives them a sense of motivation and productivity boost. Working remotely definitely deprives your employees of this straightforward but vital component of their working lives.
3. Intermittent Communication
The last common problem is with communication slowdown and sometimes, the lack of it. Communicating quick questions and answers with your colleagues in an office environment would be as simple as peeking over their cubicles or approaching them personally. In a remote work situation, asking quick questions using text messages, instant messenger, or email might take the answer a while to get to you. That is why it’s important to:
Establish Solid Communication Ground Rules
A remote work situation isolates your employees; this could affect how the team communicates. When no communication ground rules are being established, your employees would have a hard time communicating, which could certainly default to not communicating at all. Your employees would just go about their work pretty independently, and not participate in the team efforts. As the manager, it is your responsibility to establish communication ground rules.
The amount of rules that you have to put in place depends on the size of the team. For smaller teams, few simple rules, and basic communication tools like email and instant messaging can be enough to cut it. But for larger teams, a lot more rules and more complex collaboration tools might be necessary.
A few examples of what these rules might look like:
- An email should be a sacred platform that should only be used for sending detailed information about the project and other forwarded emails that might have come from clients and vendors. The turnaround time for emails must also be established.
- Plan the schedule of when the team would prefer to do collaborative communications like meetings. And you absolutely must not forget to consider that your employees might be in a different time zone, so keep that in mind.
- Establish what types of communications there are and how the team would prefer to go about them. E.g., instant messaging is where quick updates and questions must go, when phone calls are necessary, etc.
Equip Your Team With The Appropriate Tools
Another factor in achieving the goals of your remote team is having the right tools. It is your responsibility as the remote team manager to toil your way through putting to place the right tools and make them available to your employees. Most remote teams start with just the bare minimum of their remote working needs, a high-speed internet connection, a decent headset, a mobile device, and of course, a computer.
There are a lot of ways (also, most of the time, free) to share files with your teams like Dropbox and Google Drive to give a couple of examples. Your team could also use a secure VPN connection and access a common hard drive. Whatever it is the team prefers, it must comply with the company’s security guidelines.
Just like in the office, your remote team still requires the need for printing documents, reports, and other stuff that has to be printed. You may opt for providing printers to each one of your remote employees. For a more cost-effective way, you may set up an account with a local copy center and mail service to handle your team’s printing needs.
In computing terms, vulnerability starts when you go wireless. As the team manager, you can mitigate the risk of attacks among your team members by making sure their firewalls and malware protection software are up to date.
The internet is the absolute backbone of working remotely. Almost all of the work and interaction that would be done by the team would be done through the internet. As the team manager, you must ensure that all your worker’s internet connection is not below a certain bandwidth, because a slow connection means lower productivity.
The whole team must agree to a consensus on what video conferencing software they should use. There are hundreds of them to choose from. Our suggestion is, go for the one that’s the favorite of your team. Chances are they are very much familiar with it, and can use it on its full potential.
Update With Your Team Frequently
As no two remote teams are the same, the following advice would not exactly fit every remote team out there. However, you may treat the following rules as suggestions or pointers to craft one that would suit your remote team better.
The ideal schedule of regular one-on-one calls can be everyday, every week, or even twice every week. A one-on-one call with your employees would not only be useful for tracking their productivity, but it could also be an engaging activity that would boost their motivation. These one-on-one calls would also help you assess their overall well-being, and also identify along with your employees the inefficiencies of their processes. On these calls also is where the discussion of your employee’s development plans would come in. Other questions that are relevant to the team can also be asked by your employees here, and they would immediately get an answer from you.
These regular updates, however, would vary for each member of the team. Team members that do administrative work, for example, need daily updates. But for people who work in the software engineering department could use less frequent updates as too much can get wearisome for them. All the scheduling of one-on-one calls should be flexible and adaptive to the circumstances and needs of your employees.
Deploy A Feedback Mechanism
The reason for this is simple, to avoid burnout among your employees. Your employees are not machines; they are human beings that need a life. Remote employees need to be heard so that the struggles that affect them and the team’s productivity would be solved. From time to time, hear what they have to suggest as it would make them feel valued, thus making working with the team a lot more sustainable.
Part of your feedback mechanism would be some kind of a forum that would be a place for your employees to share their advice for how they go about with their everyday remote work. For example, one team member might be using some piece of software that helps a lot with productivity, or it could also be a sharing of what would be the best home office setup.
This feedback mechanism could be distributed among your employees through a report-like PDF, short montages, and it could also be a video conference. Some fun ideas that could be discussed are:
- How to manage high-demand days and ordinary days as a remote worker.
- It could also be where to get the best takeaway food.
- Sharing time management techniques.
- How to sustain healthy behavior while working remotely.
- Personal tricks on staying focused and organized with work.
- Finding work-life balance as a remote worker.
The last piece of advice we have for you as a manager of a remote team is to be empathetic with your employees. Creating a space where they can focus on work is hard enough, and so is dealing with being not around their work colleagues. This is for achieving the maximum productivity of the team at the end of the day.
Also, check these 3 Ways to Build Trust in Remote Teams