Proven Strategies to Efficiently Manage a Remote TeamEditorial Team
It’s no surprise that remote work will persist way into the future, especially with most professions being able to collaborate and achieve office levels of productivity virtually. For example, a recent remote work survey by the PWC revealed that business executives expected a massive 55% of their employees to work from home at least one day a week even after the pandemic. In addition, Gartner found that 74% of Finance leaders expected to shift 5% of employees to remote work permanently. So knowing how to manage a remote team is a critical skill for business owners in the new normal.
While in the past, employers had thought against remote work as they were unsure whether its benefits would outdo its underlying costs, the situation now is very different.
With remote employees being able to achieve better productivity levels as opposed to those in the office, employers are looking for new ways to improve the efficiency and productivity of their remote workforce.
This article discusses the critical aspects of managing a remote team, various technologies businesses can adapt to streamline remote processes and workflows, and more! It is relatively easy to manage a remote team if business leaders get the hang of the basics.
The Critical Challenges of Remote Work
Two main challenges that remote work presents are the physical distance between employees and identifying the right technology to bridge this gap.
Besides physical distance, virtual work also creates emotional segregations, wherein employees feel less attached to their company and coworkers. This dramatically increases the time taken by remote employees to build trust with one another. Further, such disengagement can hinder employee engagement and productivity, as they’re less likely to discuss ideas and help one another.
This is why as a basic necessity, a remote work setup should be accompanied by investments in collaboration tools and employee training.
To address the core challenges of remote work and to bolster employee efficiency and engagement, businesses can utilize the following approaches:
- Building an authentic work culture
- Ensuring undisputed means of communication
- Providing employees with necessary technological resources
Building An Authentic Work Culture
Remote work culture must be a people-first culture. Any form of technology or tool will fail if it isn’t backed by the appropriate work culture that encourages employee engagement.
Encouraging authenticity is a great way to motivate employees. This is also important for employers as forcing your employees to conform and be unauthentic can be emotionally draining for them. Why? Simply because it’s inconsistent with their self-image.
When people have two separate identities, one for work and the other at home, they are more likely to be dishonest or just slack off on their assigned duties. This eventually leads to job dissatisfaction, reduced productivity, engagement, and a high chance of burnout.
Business leaders can use the following approaches to ensure that a culture of authenticity is encouraged:
- Providing all the necessary resources for an employee to feel enabled from home
- Showing confidence and recognition of your employees
- Communicating all relevant information they need to know
- Ensuring that you are always available and responsive to their queries
- Automation of low-impact tasks like payroll processing, invoicing, and expense management to reduce labor-intensive work
- Establishing and communicating goals and objectives:
- Ensuring they are high but achievable targets
- Setting clear expectations around all objectives
- Seeking employee input to refine or modify goals
Choosing the Right Communication Tools to Manage a Remote Team
Apart from work culture, the choice of communication tools can significantly affect how employees engage and perform in a remote work environment. Keep in mind that the most significant advantage of an office setup is employees having face-to-face or water cooler conversations. This in-person experience is interactive and rich in verbal and nonverbal cues (body language, hand motions, facial expressions, and tone of voice.)
Remote work, however, doesn’t allow this in-person interaction, and video-conferencing doesn’t give the same amount of nonverbal cues.
Virtual communications can be both synchronous and asynchronous. Both have their uses and advantages.
When a message is transmitted without any immediate context or response, it is a form of asynchronous communication. Typical examples are emails, chat messages, and other discussions in forums.
One of the main issues with asynchronous communication is the lack of immediate responses, which often disconnects. In addition, zero exposure to nonverbal cues significantly reduces how information is conveyed.
With the onset of remote work, employees, managers, and even management teams use asynchronous communication to convey large chunks of information to coworkers. However, with no context or time given to employees to internalize information at their own pace can cause them to lose interest or trust in the process. Thus it becomes increasingly essential for leadership and management teams to set the bar for communications at work.
An easy way is to make the process seamless and efficient for everyone. A simple example would be sending resource material (documents or spreadsheets) or agendas that your employees must read before a scheduled meeting.
When a message is transmitted with an immediate context or response, it is a form of synchronous communication. Being interactive, synchronous communication is more effective and engaging and can be used to discuss how and why each team member interprets a piece of information. Typical examples are phone calls and video conferences.
Synchronous communication is critical in the transition to remote work as there’s a high level of uncertainty in the early stages that such discussions can help eliminate.
To encourage an authentic discussion during synchronous meetings, business leaders can keep in mind some of the following things:
- Start a meeting with an informal conversation. Sharing personal experiences or struggles that are most likely experienced by everyone else can create this sense of belonging among employees.
- Share inspiring and positive experiences of other employees and work culture.
- Provide equal collaboration opportunities that encourage all employees to engage in the conversation.
- While brainstorming, ensure all participants get a chance to share their ideas.
Investing in the Right Technology
Any remote work arrangement needs an investment in the right technology, as without a technological infrastructure, working remotely is nearly impossible. In addition, every organization or team will have its preferences of products or tools to use. Listed below are some of the essential pieces of technology that make remote work possible:
1- Cloud Accounting
Keeping all your accounting information (transactions, payroll, invoicing, expense reporting, tax returns, etc.) in one secure place facilitates collaboration as this data is now readily accessible to every authorized user. Such visibility and access control ensure that no unnecessary information is provided to any irrelevant stakeholder. As a result, your financials are always solid.
2- Centralized File Storage
All team members need access to files that other departments have created. Simply emailing them turns inefficient in the long run, as once the document has been updated, the newer versions would need to be emailed. The best way to solve this issue is to use centralized storage for all your files. Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox are tools that solve this issue.
3- Video Conferencing Tools
Remote work completely cancels out the possibility of employees meeting in person. So there is a dire need for businesses to use software to bridge the gap. These software applications allow for conference calls, sharing screens, recording meetings, and more!
4- Project management
Keep in mind that the work of every department involves a distinct set of tasks, dependencies, and deadlines, which make it the perfect scenario for automating project management. Depending on the tool, the project management software application has multiple features. And these features enable the addition of task lists, setting up deadlines, and adding collaborators.
As a business leader, you need to ask yourself some difficult questions:
- Does your organization’s work culture encourage remote employees to be authentic?
- Do your managers communicate enough to their remote teams and ensure that their personal and organizational goals are aligned?
- Are you taking the best approach to communicating with your remote employees? And finally, do your remote workers have all the necessary tools to self-manage?
The above questions represent several important areas for both employees and employers. Answering them can help you manage a remote team effectively.
Rahul is a content marketer with Fyle – an expense management software. He believes everyone has a story to tell. If he isn’t writing one, he’s hearing one from someone.
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