The COVID-19 pandemic brought us a new lifestyle, which has opened up several problems for managers.
For instance, how do you ensure that your team is motivated and committed miles away from the office? Moreover, it is a huge challenge that managers must confront if they want their team to remain productive and competitive.
Besides, one of the essential questions the leadership must ask managers is – do you know how to handle your team remotely? If the answer is NO, you have nothing to worry about because we have analyzed these problems and provided solutions in this article.
Problem #1 – Lack of Guidelines and Expectations
Currently, three-quarters of employers identified remote management as a critical challenge that they must solve.
Also, at least 66.6% of employers affirmed that keeping workers motivated is at the top of their list. Without the necessary guidelines in place, this issue might prove even more difficult.
Managing a remote team efficiently requires that you review working modalities and place expectations correctly. Employees can get caught up in many things at this time. However, with specific guidelines on operations, reporting, and accountability, you can achieve more.
Check out the following tips to help you transition smoothly.
1. Design the working modalities and expectations
The essential preparation before the beginning of any work period or project is the setting up the framework. You need to enumerate what the organization expects of each employee and present it to them in an understandable format.
Establishing key performance indicators (KPI) allows your workers to know what is essential at each period.
It also allows you to monitor progress and measure improvement adequately. You can work with each worker to identify priorities, set them, and break them into manageable tasks.
In the end, you save yourself from stress. If there are changes, no matter how little, inform them on time. This attitude will allow them to prepare for contingencies.
2. Put down some rules to guide everyone.
As the universe runs on rules, so does your company. Moreover, when you switch to remote working, you need to set some rules to guide the new mode of operation. It is common to see managers placing more demand from their workers because they now work from home.
Some managers (and co-workers) go as far as intruding into their personal time.
Therefore, it is imperative to have some principles that guide everybody.
Do you utilize video calls for morning meetings and roll call? When do you use social messaging platforms? How often would you be meeting with your workers? How do they get across to you in case of an emergency? How do co-workers share information and resources among themselves?
You should address these questions if you are managing a remote team.
3. Handle Objections Promptly
Since pivoting has become imperative, objections will always pop up. Trying to sweep objections under the carpet is a poor management strategy.
You need to address issues as they come up. It is possible to reassign tasks due to the current reality. However, manage feedback and objections immediately.
Problem #2 – Having a Rigid Working Structure
Change is inevitable, and when it happens, we must adapt. Individual managers have refused to acknowledge the realities that remote working brings with it.
For example, workers might have to work at their pace and convenience. Assuming that the normal office hours will remain sacrosanct as they work from home might be a recipe for disaster. Rigidity has to pave the way for innovation and creativity.
Both the workers and managers have to improve and design a functional structure that suits their home or remote location. Below are some ideas for a better working structure.
1. Flexibility is essential
The mode of operation for a worker living in a premium estate will differ from someone living in a ghetto.
Still, the worker who stays alone has a better chance of working undisturbed than the one living with her family. Therefore, you have to incorporate flexibility into your operations.
The key is to ensure consistency and progress.
According to Angela Civitella, a renowned coach for business executives, one should not be afraid of re-evaluating and switching their strategies as the situation demands.
Since there is no perfect condition, learning to adapt should be a priority principle. Some workers might be forced to work at night while others are more comfortable in the morning.
As long as they get the job done and meet milestones, this should never be a problem.
2. Make meetings shorter and concise.
During physical meetings, several minutes go by trying to get everyone engaged on the matter at hand. It is common to see minutes spiral into hours. However, when it comes to virtual meetings, lengthy meetings can prove disadvantageous.
Physical interactions ensure that a face-to-face meeting is interactive, but virtual conferencing does not.
Moreover, workers are prone to distractions and might lose interest quickly. Jane Sparrow, a remote work consultant, opined that remote working conditions require different rules from office conditions. Having shorter, intermittent meetings will prove more effective and engaging than a lengthy, one-off gathering.
3. Appreciate Cultural Diversity
When you oversee an international workforce, cultural differences become apparent. Since workers live across different time zones, ethnic realities, and personal lifestyles, you need to increase your embracing cultural diversity.
For instance, while some people are waking up, others are going to bed, and some are in the afternoon. This reality predisposes the team to misunderstand one another. When not managed efficiently, it might degenerate into conflict.
However, to be an efficient remote manager, design, and develop team-building activities that will reduce friction and promote interaction. Also, find out appropriate feedback mechanisms for each worker and consider their holidays.
Problem #3 – Poor Monitoring and Tracking of Staff
One of the side effects of remote working is the absence of physical interaction and supervision. Managers and workers regularly bemoan this challenge because it is quite challenging to keep track of workers’ progress.
Some managers believe that workers tend to slacken and reduce their commitment while at home.
Conversely, workers complain that managers tend to be far away and not easily accessible. Requests for support and guidance do not get an appropriate response on time, making it difficult to get their job done.
To get your team to deliver, these tips might be helpful.
1. Check-in with workers frequently.
According to Peter F. Drucker, a Management Professional, “what gets measured, gets managed.” An improvised version of this is, “What gets measured, gets analysed. What gets analysed, gets acted upon”.
If you want to monitor your workers efficiently, you need to check in with them frequently. For example, you can schedule a call daily. This personalized call helps to keep each worker on his or her toes.
Besides, if there is a joint task that requires involvement from two or more workers, you can schedule a group call. Joint calls promote transparency and increase accountability. Moreover, making it consistent and predictable will improve its effectiveness. During such calls, leave enough time to clear doubts and answer questions.
2. Create schedules by themselves
Although this may seem a little off, giving your workers the freedom to design schedules for themselves will enhance your management.
Since you are not privy to their living conditions and environment, imposing a work schedule might be counterintuitive.
However, encouraging workers to create a plan based on their circumstances increases their commitment to ensuring that they deliver. Moreover, freedom needs accountability to produce exceptional results. You need to monitor them regularly.
This new structure will eliminate your fears and put your mind at ease. People love to stand behind their words, and your workers are no different.
3. Listening is akin to good leadership.
Workers love managers that listen to them more than those who do not. As much as you give orders and ensure compliance, never forget to listen. It can be a complaint, a suggestion, or advice.
When workers perceive that you value their input, they are comfortable giving more. However, if you have little or no time to listen, you might cut them off.
Meanwhile, you can conduct surveys to have an unbiased review from workers. A net promoter rating shows a worker’s willingness to recommend his or her workplace to potential employees.
Also, remember that feedback works only if you use it. If you toss it in the trash can, it cannot improve the organization.
Problem #4 – Disjointed Workforce
The unplanned interaction that goes on in a workplace is often underemphasized. As you move to your desk, visit the toilet, or go for a lunch break, you bump into a colleague and share a smile. If the time permits, you might even have brief chitchat.
However, remote working has none of this. You stay in your home all-day, stuck with the same set of people. This situation predisposes workers to loneliness.
Extroverts are the worst-hit because they draw energy and inspiration from their interaction with people. If you do not consider this, the organization can become a lifeless ship quickly. Before long, workers might start nursing the idea of leaving the organization.
You will find these tips useful if you are managing a remote team.
1. Leverage multiple communication channels
Text or written communication is the least for a remote team. Sending emails will do little to promote social interaction. However, video calls provide an opportunity to see your co-workers in real-time.
This facial connectivity becomes more beneficial when the atmosphere is less formal, and everyone can be their usual self.
Workers can catch up with each other before the meeting begins. As the situation demands, you can vary these communication tools to eliminate boredom and build more closeness among workers.
Hence, you can keep the feeling of loneliness at bay. The key is to have a robust means of interaction.
2. Micromanaging stifles innovation
Workers detest leaders that tend to micromanage them. They might even change managers or leave the company altogether. As it is in the office, so it ought to be when the working conditions change.
According to Pellman, “Structure your check-ins to keep your workers on track.” Having a regular meeting time will keep workers on their toes, thereby eliminating the tendency to micromanage.
Allow workers to work at their pace without pestering or peeping over their shoulders unnecessarily. If they keep communication channels open and comprehensive, you do not have to worry. When they deliver on deadlines and KPIs, then you can vouch for their productivity.
3. Celebrate as usual
If your company celebrates exceptional results, then they shouldn’t stop because everyone now works from home. You should never suspend some company culture points for any reason, especially if you can get creative about it.
For instance, Actualize Consulting decided to create unique videos to acknowledge contributions from their employees. Although the pandemic led to suspending the annual retreat, they iterated around ways to appreciate and applaud workers that stand out. Thus, they came up with the video concept. “Video generates more engagement and is more personalized than emails,” the company’s Chief Operating Officer explained.
Besides, it is critical to recognize and applaud those targets and milestones you celebrate in a physical workspace.
Managing a remote team comes with many challenges like inadequate guidelines for action, a rigid working structure, a disjointed workforce, and minimal worker monitoring.
Moreover, we have highlighted solutions to improve your credentials and reputation as a remote team manager. By leveraging on technological tools and being more empathetic, you can keep your team motivated and productive.