The internet age has given rise to an entire generation of remote employees, freelancers, and virtual teams. For managers and team leaders, remote connections can make it challenging to effectively coordinate staff, hold everyone accountable, and maintain a professional outfit.
Hire the Right People
Working remotely requires a different skill set than walking into an office every day. Not everyone is up to the task of working remotely. Sometimes, those who work well alone are best suited for jobs outside of a team setting. Make it a priority to assemble a team that can manage the responsibility of remote access and still operate in a group constructively.
Consistent Contact and Communication
It is important to consider prioritizing consistent and structured communication among all members of the team. However, resist the temptation to make communication too programmatic – allow room for the small talk that makes a normal office environment more inviting.
When practical, try to create opportunities for team members to make eye contact. A large percentage of social interaction is nonverbal, and it can be difficult to create a sense of bonding and unity when people can’t engage in face-to-face communication. On another practical level, facial expressions and tonality can help avoid miscommunication in ways that email can’t replicate. Use apps or services such as FaceTime or Google Hangouts.
You may find it most effective to create strategic rules about which communications are done via telephone, Skype, text, or email. Instruct your team to follow your lead, and make sure everyone understands when to utilize each medium. Sometimes a simple email can address a concern or issue rather than a face to face meeting. This way both you and your employees can respect each other’s time and maximize efficiency.
Offer Feedback, Praise, and Growth
In a remote work setting, it’s difficult to witness your staff’s day-to-day work habits and progress. It is even more important to take time for feedback with your remote employees, whether that is constructive criticism or praise. This a good habit, and it subconsciously creates the impression that you are monitoring the employee even when you aren’t there.
Depending on the assignment of tasks, members of your team may not be able to experience a competitive environment. To compensate for this, find ways to channel growth and offer incentives for stronger performances. Your team should be aware that you and your company are committed to fostering professional development.
Use Tools Designed for Remote Work
To maximize your remote team’s effectiveness, equip your staff with tools that are designed for remote work. This includes everything from basic email to file sharing, instant messaging, screen-sharing, creative software, and customer relationship management systems. Depending on the size and responsibilities of your team, several members may even need access to your cloud-based accounting software.
Remote-Based Education and Training
Some members of your team may not be naturally equipped to handle remote work in a team setting. As a manager or leader, part of your responsibility is to teach and train good remote work habits. Consider creating your own best practices material to instruct your remote workers on appropriate procedures to follow on the job.