How do you effectively manage a remote team?

While 2020 has thrust remote working into the spotlight, many major businesses were already utilizing a remote workforce. Even before lockdown, there had been a general rise in remote workers in the UK alone;

Work from home statistics
Source: Office for National Statistics

As we all adjust to the ‘new normal’, questions around the practicality and management of the remote revolution arise. Take inspiration from those who have already dipped into the work-from-home workforce, and implement up-to-date technological solutions developed for the challenges 2020 presents.

That way, you too can manage your remote workforce like a seasoned pro. This article will explore the challenges and solutions of remote workforce management through four key elements. Those are supervision, diversity and difference, maintaining productivity, and positive workplace relationships.

The remote revolution allows for greater freedoms and flexibility, but requires a new look at management techniques. Image source: unsplash.com

Staying in the Loop

The problem: How do you supervise a remote worker?

The solution: Keep open lines of communication and utilize software solutions.

Remote management would have been a challenge even five years ago, but in recent years technology has provided easy solutions for complex problems. Available on the market is a wide variety of software that helps management to monitor productivity. As well as solutions to see what everyone is working on; a vitally important service when it is necessary to review and collaborate.

Creating a productive remote work policy helps employees, supervisors, and management hit the ground running. A remote work policy lays out what is expected of workers and allows for open and transparent communication. By outlining expectations and responsibilities, there is less room for miscommunications and unrealistic expectations.

A productive remote work policy should outline; employee agreements, employee work-from-home best practices, virtual office rules (eg. data protection and online meeting etiquette), and what softwares/technologies will be used.

To keep lines of communication clear, it should be easy to speak to one another. There’s nothing more frustrating for an employee waiting for clarification than long response times.

According to a study by Doodle, in the second quarter or 2020 there was a 136% rise in demand for frequent check ins over their meeting platform. Rather than demands from the top of the chain, it’s much easier to have a policy of up-to-date and open information, aided by software.

Improving collaboration at work not only benefits management but employees, too. Successful remote work environments tend to feature some common elements. Employees should feel visible and safe to share their thoughts, meetings and working periods are run efficiently, and there are standardized systems and software in place.

By opening up communication channels, you will find it much easier to be informed in real-time with ongoing projects, as well as being able to spot and solve problems as they arise. Despite not being in the same room as one another, communication should feel as seamless as a face-to-face conversation. What was once a huge challenge for remote workforces is now tackled by the abundance of software solutions available.

Modern software means virtual communication should feel as seamless as face to face meetings. Image source: unsplash.com

Embrace Diversity and Difference

The problem: How can an employee be an effective remote worker?

The solution: It’s our differences that make us great.

Whether transferring an office workforce to remote or hiring workers straight into a remote environment, the greatest asset any one person has is their differences and diversity. The same applies to company policies. Just because “it’s always been done that way”, doesn’t mean you have to carry on doing it that way.

Creative, outside the box thinking is the most valuable skill an employee and their employer can have. Diversity and difference come in many forms – hiring from around the world, having an inclusive remote workplace policy, exploring new ideas and options. The remote revolution creates space for businesses to experiment with new practices.

One of the many benefits of a remote workforce is that your hiring pool suddenly encompasses the whole world. Based in the UK, but found someone in Brazil who meets the needs of your team? Based in Japan, but employed by a company in Los Angeles? It sounds positively utopian.

However, having an office that stretches across continents isn’t without its challenges. Easily the biggest inconvenience facing globally remote companies is differences in time zones. When hiring from around the world, try to keep an overlap of about half a day with all time zones to ease the process of handover. Cycle meeting times to ensure it’s not just one group who are disadvantaged by difficult hours. Small considerations make a big difference!

Diversifying and experimentation also apply to marketing practices. Make use of friends and connections. For example, partner up with affiliate marketing to diversify your marketing strategy. One of the many benefits of a remote workforce is the myriad of connections you take on when hiring from different countries.

That’s not to say pre-existing employees can’t bring something new to the table; if your business has recently gone remote, take the opportunity to discuss what changes could be made with more experienced team members.

All that said, there are definitely some things your company wants to keep to itself. Investing in creative content and online solutions is time-consuming and can define your success, so you may find yourself wondering how to protect content online. Ensure the boundary-pushing, outside-the-box work of you and your employees pays off, without feeling like you’re being ripped off!

A remote workforce that isn’t afraid to diversify and experiment can help find creative solutions to problems. Image source: unsplash.com

Streamline Operations to Stay Productive

The problem: How can I stay productive when working remotely?

The solution: Streamline operations to improve efficiency.

Everyone has a different way of working remotely. Some people are early risers while some prefer to get started in the afternoon. Either way, there are some crucial ingredients that are required to keep motivation and productivity high while away from the office. There are three key factors required for maintaining productivity; a suitable remote work environment, streamlined operations, and consistent oversight and review.

A suitable remote work environment, contrary to the Instagram perception of laptops and cocktails on the beach, features a quiet space free of distractions. A home office provides this, but for some people, such as parents or renters, there simply isn’t space or freedom to create an office at home.

In this case, co-working spaces are often a worthwhile investment on behalf of the business. Being able to work with and around other people maintains the feeling of socialising that an office provides. Furthermore, loneliness can seriously affect mental health; an unhealthy employee, aside from being less productive, is not something anyone wants.

Preventing problems like loneliness, stress and fatigue requires empathy and consideration. Offering employees the chance to discuss potential issues before they arise and encouraging virtual socialising is just a couple of ways to keep workers happy and healthy. Furthermore, keeping a friendly atmosphere between coworkers encourages a team mentality.

Streamlined operations are important in the office, but what works in a physical environment may not work in a virtual one. Investing in and experimenting with new software systems is a great way to show remote employees you are serious about their jobs. With a wide range of options on the market, it’s possible to find something that suits everyone.

A common cause of distraction is mobile phones, so it makes sense to remove the need for a mobile to communicate within your business. VoIP service providers are a great solution for streamlining phone meetings and conferences. By using computer networks as a regular landline, workers are free to communicate when they need to, without the distraction of a smartphone. Maintaining a professional, working atmosphere is a great way to create a defining line between ‘work’ and ‘home’.

As a manager or supervisor, consistent oversight and review is just as important when working remotely as it is in the office. Letting workers know you are there to support them when they need it, as well as keeping yourself in the loop with the latest updates from employees, benefits all levels of the business. By utilizing your newly streamlined operations, you can make oversight and review a simple task.

Remote working doesn’t have to be a solo task! Coworking spaces are a great option for remote employees. Image source: unsplash.com

Keep It Friendly!

The problem: How can I be a happy and productive remote worker?

The solution: A friendly work environment and positive customer experience.

The best employees are happy employees. Maintaining a positive work environment, whether physical or virtual, is crucial to the company experience. As previously mentioned, a friendly virtual atmosphere and the freedom to discuss potential challenges before they arise helps keep motivation and productivity high.

Not only are happy employees more productive and healthier, but happy employees provide good customer service. The relationship works both ways – satisfied employees provide good customer service, and happy customers add to a sense of job satisfaction. With the two so inextricably linked, it’s important to explore how one can help the other.

Maintaining a social atmosphere while managing a remote workforce is certainly a challenge, but there are steps that can be taken to create a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Something to take advantage of is the boom in video conferencing.

Using best small business video conferencing practices like providing a ‘virtual lunch hour’ keeps employees on friendly terms and boosts team morale – no one likes to eat a desk lunch alone! Other ideas include team games online to let loose and improve team spirit. An open-door policy should apply remotely as well, as this encourages employees to approach management with valuable questions and insights.

Customer service improves leaps and bounds when employees are satisfied. A report from Gallup found that “employees who are engaged are more likely to improve customer relationships, with a resulting 20% increase in sales”.

It really is true that a happy employee means a happy customer! Maintaining good customer service not only reduces rates of churn but also encourages repeat custom. It costs up to five times more to attract a new customer than it does to nurture an existing one.

Social media is a crucial tool in retaining custom and attracting new customers. Social media management visibility eases the process of growing your social media presence. It also aids with tasks like post scheduling, sales prospecting, bulk management, assignment, and communication. Take your customer retention and attraction to the next level with a thoroughly professional social media presence.

Happy employees make for happy customers, and satisfied customers make satisfied employees. Image source: unsplash.com

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s clear to see there are challenges when it comes to remote workforce management. The important thing to remember is that all of these challenges can be solved with a little planning and forethought.

As the remote revolution shows no signs of slowing down, implementing effective improvements now will help your business in the future. Tackle challenges today for success tomorrow.

Effectively managing a remote team requires staying in the loop, embracing diversity, streamlining operations, and keeping relations friendly and professional between staff and customers equally. Step into the future with your remote workforce today and see the benefits for yourself!

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