How To Get The Best Out Of Your Remote Staff
Remote work has evolved as a progressive way of operating in the modern business world. Not so long ago, working from home was barely a possibility and was restricted to telemarketing roles on low pay. But now, thanks to great strides in technology and the internet, remote working is an almost accepted practice in businesses all over the developed world.
There is still a certain resistance to remote working, with some companies unwilling to trust the new working-from-anywhere mandate. However, remote working with teams spread across the world is the future and businesses seeking a real competitive advantage need to adapt.
Going remote, both in terms of employees and employers isn’t a walk in the park. Adjustments need to be made on both sides for it to work out. Certain work criteria taken for granted in onsite office set-ups either don’t apply to remote working or require a different approach.
Getting the best out of remote workers is obviously key to business success. Here are some of the challenges and how to manage them.
Managing remote workers requires a different skill set than managing a team in a traditional onsite workplace. These unique leadership requirements need to be taught. Upskilling managers to enable them to lead remote teams in the digital age is essential for business success.
Managers will need to check in more regularly with remote workers, and enquire about workload and progress but without erring on the side of micromanaging. Expectations need to be explicit and feedback to remote employees needs to happen regularly.
Managers also need to make themselves available to remote workers at set times across multiple time zones and be able to use a variety of communication technologies, such as Skype and Slack.
Communication and meetings
One of the major challenges faced when businesses switch to a remote workforce is in adapting their communication strategy. What works in the traditional office when it comes to communication in most cases doesn’t work for remote teams.
For example, in a traditional office it’s easy to pull someone into a meeting at short notice. You literally call them into the meeting room from their desk. This can be done with remote workers via video conferencing, but only if they are in the same or similar time-zone.
It’s much harder to call impromptu meetings for teams of remote workers, especially those in wildly different time zones, and where employees manage their own working hours.
But, communication and regular meetings are vital for managing remote teams to avoid disconnect. Workers who don’t feel a part of the business will end up unhappy, demotivated and less engaged with their work. Without the daily banter and catch-up that occurs in the traditional office, managers need to work much harder to keep on top of communication issues with remote teams.
Some training specialists offer tailored courses for managers to help them to better understand the needs of their remote staff. Ultimately, this is an investment worth making as it will lead to a better culture and a stronger connection between management and remote staff.
It is increasingly recognised that regular one-on-ones between managers and staff are a far better way to manage performance than the outdated annual review. Frequent informal conversations about workload and any personal problems impacting on work, supports employee engagement and encourages managers towards a coaching mentality.
But meaningful one-on-ones are much more difficult with remote teams. Lindsay Holmwood from Envato Elements is a manager who works remotely. His focus when it comes to remote one-to-ones with his staff is to get his team members to open up and be honest. He always asks, what could I be doing differently to better help you? And wraps up with is there anything else you want to chat about?
Importantly, one-on-ones should occur via video conferencing. This enables managers to read facial expressions and non-verbal cues. It also personalises and humanises the process much more. It’s important to keep shared notes (using Google docs is a good idea) because miscommunication is more likely over video chat than in person. See some more tips for managing successful remote one-to-ones here.
Understanding the career aspirations of remote staff is much trickier than recognising the goals of employees in a shared work environment. Helping your remote employees set professional goals is critical. The difficulty for remote workers is proving they deserve a promotion. It is up to managers to understand the challenge of coaching remote workers and provide them with career opportunities.
Don’t make the mistake of treating your remote employees like contractors. They deserve the same training budgets, support and career opportunities as office-based staff.