Trying to lead remote workers was once unthinkable for many managers and business owners. Thanks to the pandemic, the previously unthinkable has become the new normal. Despite initial fears about remote work, many business owners have decided to stick with it.
Still, remote work requires a different management style. When you can’t watch over your employees in person, you must manage from a place of bravery and trust. Here are five tips for successfully managing a remote team.
Understand challenges and stay flexible
Remote management presents unique issues, but you can overcome them. Major challenges include encouraging teamwork, office culture, transparency, and accountability.
Flexibility is key. First and foremost, you need to trust your employees. Aside from rare exceptions, they want to succeed even when nobody is watching them. You can help by emphasizing goals and deadlines over process. The processes they follow are immaterial as long as they do good work. Patience and willingness to experiment are vital.
Stay in touch
Encourage your employees to reach out and make it easy for them to do so. Here are a few ways to encourage communication:
- Provide easy-to-use communication channels
- Emphasize how much you care about employee concerns
- Respond promptly to communication
- Regularly check in with employees
- Listen to their feedback and act on it
Whenever you find yourself talking to an individual, think about who else might benefit from joining the discussion. Take the time to invite them in. To avoid slow back-and-forth interactions, encourage your employees to schedule real-time communication. Sometimes, a short call can save you hours of emailing.
Also remember to recognize employee accomplishments. When you’re busy, it can be easy to forget how good your workers are. Remind yourself to reward them with praise or other tokens of appreciation.
Be on the lookout for employees who are struggling
Though some employees thrive remotely, others struggle. Sometimes, you’ll see signs like missed deadlines or lower work quality — but managing from afar might hide the subtler signs of employee distress. As part of your regular communication, check in and ask how everyone is doing.
Show employees that you’re a helpful person to come to. Once you’ve determined what someone’s struggles are, work with them to find solutions.
Communicate your expectations
Be as clear as humanly possible about deadlines, requirements, and schedules. Let employees know what’s optional and what’s not. For instance, working at a specific time might be optional, but meeting deadlines is not.
Equip employees with tools for success
Make sure that your remote workers have the tools they need to communicate, stay organized, and succeed. Messaging apps are a lifesaver for many businesses. Some platforms even let you create different groups for different departments. Shared calendars are another good idea. Remember more basic tools, too. For example, if your employees have spotty internet connections or inadequate computers, work to fix those problems.
Though remote management can be rough, it’s also rewarding if you do it right. When you embrace the challenges of managing a remote workforce, your employees will reward you with their best work.