Remote working environments have become the norm these days, but not all leaders have experience leading in these situations. As leaders try to navigate this new remote setting, there are various challenges to contend with. Effectively overseeing your remote team without compromising their productivity is a critical leadership skill that will help you now and in the future, and whether you have a history of working with remote employees or not, implementing these tips can help you do that.
It’s safe to say that managing remote employees in our current environment goes beyond the daily or weekly check-in call for updates. As a leader, you cannot afford to assume that it is business as usual. It’s vital that leaders strike a balance between acknowledging the needs and feelings of their remote team with their own expectations for the work that needs to be done. Here are a few tips for effective management of remote workers.
Equip Your Remote Team
If you want remote employees to deliver accordingly, you need to provide them with all the tools and resources they need to achieve the agreed upon objectives. That is more than just availing laptops and mobile phones. For instance, if you expect to hold virtual meetings with your team, make sure they have a camera available to them. It is important to equip employees with cameras if they do not have them at home.
Indeed, you may not have an extensive stack of technology at the moment, but providing the basics will enhance the productivity of your remote employees. You also need to appreciate that virtual environments may be new and different for some individuals on your team. Offering assistance where necessary and showing your team that you understand is paramount in this case.
Resist The Urge to Micromanage
For many leaders, not being able to walk over and physically see what their team is working on can be difficult and unnerving. It is crucial to resist the urge to micromanage your remote team. Doing so will not only affect your relationship with your team, but it will bear a negative impact on their output as well. You can avoid that by opting for regular one-on-one check-ins to keep a pulse on your remote workers and to provide an opportunity for ensuring that feedback remains a priority.
You also need to trust that meeting goals, deadlines and deliverables is a sign that your remote employees are committed and getting their job done regardless of when or how many hours they may be working.
Connect and Remain Available
Working in a remote setting can bring feelings of isolation, and it can cause disorientation among employees too. For that reason, you should seek to connect with your remote team in any way possible to counteract feelings of isolation. Some ideas that we have heard from our clients are weekly virtual meetings where the employees can ask their manager anything otherwise known as “Ask Me Anything” meetings, virtual, themed happy hours are quite common and as well as weekly team calls to share best practices while giving recognition and appreciation. As a leader you can also encourage your team to get together outside of working hours to connect based on shared interests. I’ve seen everything from virtual book clubs to Whiskey clubs.
Remember that doing whatever it takes to maintain a sense of normalcy and solidarity while reminding everyone that they are not an island working alone strengthens relationships and builds a rapport between you and your remote employees.
When remote workers handle particular projects together, they can achieve more within a short time, and the outcome of such cooperation yields better results. You can realize this objective by sharing a document that tracks work activities to remain in touch with what your team is doing. That way, you can refine your expectations and the responsibilities of your employees where necessary. Some of our clients leverage tools like Asana and Monday and others simply leverage Google docs and Google forms.
Additionally, communicating and modeling acceptable behavior for virtual collaboration with your remote team is critical. Setting these expectations upfront will help you and your team overcome communication barriers and other challenges that may affect the productivity of remote employees.
Provide Emotional Support
During these complicated times, remote employees may be struggling with a host of issues. Everything from lack of childcare and homeschooling kids to taking care of elderly parents or loved ones. Managers and leaders need to be on the lookout for employees who may be struggling. While it is not your job to be a licensed therapist, it is your job to notice and care when one of your employee’s is really struggling. Offering support may look different depending on the employee and the situation but it could look like giving them a few days off if they simply need a break or reallocating their work if they simply don’t have enough hours in a day to complete what is being asked of them. Encouraging your employee to reach out to an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for someone to talk to or for more resources is also an option.
Here are some additional steps you can take to help your team members while they work from home.
- Pause and breathe. Remote work can make it easier to make sure you’re composed because most interactions will be done via video conferencing, but it’s important to remember to pause and breathe before engaging with your team members. Getting yourself in the right state of mind so you can address your staff clearly and calmly can cause your team to be less anxious. Remember, anxiety is highly contagious but calm breeds calm.
- Put yourself in their position. This is where it is critically important to demonstrate empathy as a leader. Many times we have singleness of perspective and assume that everyone is experiencing what is happening around us the way that we are. When you put yourself in their shoes and take some time to think about their current reality, it will help you better understand how their position may be impacted. Practicing empathy will help you both anticipate your employees concerns, and be better prepared to respond intentionally when they share them with you.
- Research the problem. Sometimes a lack of information or data or misinformation can cause people undue anxiety and stress. If you can analyze the evidence and talk through the facts it may help lower the stress and anxiety level of your employees. If you can research and be prepared for an issue that your employee’s have voiced concern about, you’ll be more effective in your response.
- Speak clearly and confidently. As a leader you want to set the tone for your employees. Speaking clearly and confidently about any issue will help you appear to be in control of the situation. While the words that you say matter, don’t forget how you are saying them (tone, pace, inflection) is often more important.
- Take the next steps. Develop next steps with any employee that’s having an issue. This will help them know that you’ve listened to their concerns, and you’ll be working together to rectify their challenge.
Remote Leadership Workshops
Intentionally cultivating an environment where your employees can do their best work is something leaders need to be thinking about. This is particularly true if you are managing a remote team. Implementing the tips above can help you be more effective in empowering your remote or distributed team.
Please know that you are not alone in this endeavor. We’re able to help you capitalize on your strengths so you can better manage your remote or distributed employees. We can help you with:
- Goal planning
- Emotional intelligence
- Employee Engagement
- Coaching for success
- Building trust
Please get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help.