The outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken its toll on businesses and economies globally, with organisations adopting the new measures as recommended by the World Health Organisation. Such measures include allowing employees to work from home as the best way to enhance social distancing and to flatten the curve of covid infections. As working remotely becomes the new norm for employees worldwide, managing a remote team is a great concern for most managers. If you are one of the many managers who are new in managing employees who are working remotely, there is no need for alarm. We have put together a set of some of the best practices and tips on how to manage remote teams during this covid pandemic.
Challenges of Managing Remote Teams
Firstly, it is fundamental for managers to understand the factors that can make remote work quite demanding and exhausting. Without this awareness, it is possible for high-performing employees to become less productive when they begin working remotely. Some of the challenges that come with remote work include the following;
• Social Isolation
Working from home disconnects employees from the social interaction that comes with a formal office setting. In the short run, extrovert employees are more likely to suffer from social isolation. However, when the isolation extends to lengthy durations, everyone is affected adversely by the isolation. There are all chances that a larger percentage of employees will become less productive, while others lose their sense of belonging in a company. This is why managers must make sure that they formulate the best practices to beat the effects of social isolation.
• Inaccessibility to Information
Working remotely can be quite exhausting when it comes to accessing information from co-workers. This is especially challenging for employees who are new to working remotely. Lack of access to basic information has a way of affecting interpersonal relationships among employees. As a manager of a remote workforce, you must make sure that your team members have access to the information they need during this COVID period.
• Lack of One-on-One Supervision
Both employees and managers are adversely affected by the lack of one-on-one interactions in various aspects. Managers who are new in managing a remote workforce are concerned that their team members might not express high levels of productivity, especially for particular types of jobs. On the other hand, employees get weary of the reduced access to communication and support by the company management.
• Distractions at Home
One of the most reported problems of working from home is the excessive distractions by children and other family members. This is where most organisations go wrong. For effective remote working, organisations should facilitate their employees with conducive workspace and childcare environments.
Best Practices and Tips for Managing Remote Teams
Although working from home poses plenty of challenges to managers and employees, there are practices that can be best applied to the advantage of all parties. This will help increase the productivity of your employees and improve the performance of your company. Here is a highlight of some of the ideal practices and tips on how to manage remote workers.
1 - Effective Communication
One of the fundamental aspects that you should get your hands on is communication. You might need to adopt a different technology to enhance communication, as emailing alone is not sufficient. Remote workers benefit significantly from various communication channels, such as video conferencing. Video conferencing is more time-sensitive and feels more personal than emailing and other audio or written modes of communication. Today, organisations can take advantage of the latest IT trends to enhance effective communication. If your organisation lacks already established tools for effective communication,software outsourcing can be an ideal way to get simple versions of these tools for your remote employees.
2 - Identify the Perfect Workflow Management System for Your Remote Team
The level of productivity and output of your team members is highly dependent on the kind of workflow management system they use for working remotely. Employees working remotely must use this system regularly and consistently for better results. With the right workflow management system, it is easy to monitor what remote workers are doing to beat outlined deadlines.
3 - Develop a Work Policy for Remote Working
Working remotely comes with its own unique challenges, and the ideal way to manage the inherent problems of a virtual office is by developing a policy for it. A work policy is the best way to maintain professional standards while working from home. Employees are also informed of what is expected of them during this period. However, make sure that you also put the needs of your employees into consideration when drafting such a policy. If your employees have kids, there is no doubt that their work schedule will be affected significantly. Your policy should be flexible enough to accommodate your employee’s needs while also achieving the set goals and meeting deadlines.
4 - Define Roles and Responsibilities
If employees are not aware of what is expected of them, it will be challenging to meet specified goals during this period. Having a clear outline of roles and responsibilities for each employee would come in handy. Detailed project plans will also keep your team members on their toes, as they will be aware of what to do over a given timeframe. This practice also applies in the management of a software development team, where there must be a defined agreement on how a software will be managed and delivered.
5 - Train Your Team to Work Remotely
Working remotely is not a natural skill, and employees should be trained on the perfect way to go about it. Due to the usual office setup your employees were accustomed to, it may become an uphill task for them to adapt to working remotely. While managing team members remotely may be new to you as well, the success of any project during this period is solely dependent on how apt the employees will become in their remote work. There are plenty of tools for team leader that you can adopt to sharpen the skills of your employees as far as working from home is concerned. Make sure that you see your employees’ rights reserved when using these tools.
6 - Schedule Some Face Time
You must make sure that your employees have plenty of opportunities for social interaction. One of the best practice to enhance social interaction is by scheduling a face time. Sometimes seeing people faces and hearing them laugh eases out the burden of social isolation. This is precisely what your employees need. Any form of social interaction will increase their sense of belonging to the company, and you will notice an increase in their productivity. This is also a good time to motivate a team working remotely for the first time. Like all the other tips, this practice is applicable to all remote workers, especially those that just shifted from office.
7 - Develop a Culture for Working Remotely
This practice is not quite new for managers who are used to managing remote software developers. However, if this situation is unique to you, you could likely get stuck on how to build a strong culture for remote working. Creating a culture takes time, but that does not make it impossible. Some of the ideal ways of developing a culture for remote working including the following;
• Make communication tools a priority among your employees.
• Agree on the language in which fluency is a key consideration.
• Remember to take into consideration the varying time zones of your various employees.
• Regular meetings should remain fundamental for your remote team. This is the ideal way to complete projects in time.
• The outsourcing company you pick for communication tools and other software should share in the values of the company.
• Work on cultural matters to identify the cultural differences amongst your employees.