by Sandra Moncada
Successful remote workers go about their day quite differently than those who work in office settings. This requires a vastly different managerial style to help encourage them to do their best. I‘ve had both remote worker and manager positions, and here are my eight personal do’s and don’ts of managing a remote team.
Remote Leadership DO: Have Organized Communication
Remote workers often seem to be more productive than their office-bound counterparts. The reason is rather simple: They have less disruptions during their daily tasks. Imagine your regular office settings. Your colleagues or boss might barge in and ask you a simple question or request that you help them with a tiny task. Even that tiny task is big enough to bring you out of “the zone.” If this happens a few times throughout the day, suddenly you won‘t have enough time to finish the tasks you should. This can happen in remote settings too. Sending an instant message or calling your remote worker when there‘s no rush is what can make them livid. It can come off as unprofessional and seem like you are checking up on them too many times.
Make sure that your communication is well structured. If there’s no hurry about a task, opt for scheduling an email about the details for the next day rather than sending an instant message right away.
Remote Leadership DO: Clearly Explain Goals and Expectations
Communicating goals and expectations in small bits or sharing such information on a need to know basis is a common transgression in remote work. Such habits will keep employees from seeing the bigger picture and understanding the role they play in it. News about latest developments gets around the office easier. This is not the case with remote workers, so it is extra important to clearly explain goals and expectations and how their work fits into that picture. When they know this, their motivation will be higher.
Remote Leadership DO: Use the Right Technology
Many times, remote teams end up in shambles because there‘s no clear overview of tasks. Asking colleagues, managers or your boss to update you disrupts their tasks and we already covered why that‘s a bad thing. Technology can help you see a clear picture here: Using project management apps that allow team members to see exactly where projects stand and what tasks need to be done can also be an invaluable tool for remote teams.
Remote Leadership DO: Empower Team Members
It should really come as no surprise that individuals who do well in remote settings are far more independent than their office-bound counterparts. This is a gift, truly, because they take action instead of waiting for instructions. Issues here arise when they end up having a controlling supervisor who wishes to know how they spend every single minute of their day. As a manager, it is your job to set the needed margins, deadlines and expectations, and let your remote workers make their own choices about how best to accomplish their tasks. Delegation is key, otherwise people can become disengaged.
Remote Leadership DO NOT: Micromanage
Overcoming the urge to micromanage may be hard enough when you can literally see what your employees are doing every minute of the day. When you can’t see what they are doing, however, it can be even more difficult. This is a bad habit and don‘t fall into the trap. Just because you can‘t see what they are doing doesn‘t mean they are doing something. As long as they finish their tasks within the set deadlines, you have nothing to worry about.
Remote Leadership DO NOT: Expect Employees to be Available 24/7
Even if you don’t expect employees to be available 24/7, sending them emails, texts or instant messages outside of office hours can communicate that you expect them to reply immediately and this puts a lot of pressure on them. Would you feel thrilled to get an email from your boss just before midnight? Probably not. Respect their private life and do your best to help them maintain good work life balance. If you really want to help your employees achieve balance, encourage them to take a digital detox on weekends. Rested and refreshed employees are productive employees.
Remote Leadership DO NOT: Demand Overtime
The likelihood is, remote employees will already spend far more time working than most employees that work in a traditional office. No commute times has its disadvantages too. Encouraging them to work overtime will only cut into crucial time they need to rest, refresh and recharge. Instead of encouraging employees to work more hours, encourage them to work smarter.
Remote Leadership DO NOT: Forget about Bonding and Team Spirit
Remote workers may struggle more with loneliness, maintaining a sense of purpose or feeling they are actually a valuable part of the company or business. It is important to try and arrange at least some in-person or social events. Some companies hold quarterly retreats for all of their remote employees and some even go so far as to fly them in to the office for holiday events. Whatever you choose to do, remember that even the most introverted of remote workers still appreciate some good banter between colleagues over a few drinks. Managing a remote team comes with its own set of challenges that require vastly different solutions. You have to ensure your remote employees are getting everything they need to adequately perform their job. This includes structured communications, the right tools (software AND hardware), and much needed downtime.
Photos: Markus Spiske (Unsplash)