Do you find yourself suddenly managing remote employees? Many other managers have recently found themselves in the same position, so you’re not alone. The first thing to acknowledge is that managing remote teams takes some unique skills and techniques that you’ve likely never had to use before. Welcome to the digital world – keep reading for our advice on being the best remote manager for your team.
What Is A Remote Manager?
A remote manager is anyone who manages remote employees. You may work from home yourself, or you may even work in an office but have a dispersed workforce to manage. You could also have a mix of staff who are in the office with you but others who are in other locations. Regardless, you will still need some tools in your arsenal to be the best remote manager you can be.
Top Tips for Becoming an Excellent Remote Manager
Clearly Communicate Expectations
You may be feeling frustrated by a staff member who never checks in with you or contacts you when they start work in the morning. However, how will your employees know what you expect of them if you don’t tell them? While you may feel like you’re being bossy, you’re helping your staff by clearly communicating your expectations at the outset. As soon as you start to manage a remote team, let them know how much communication you want from them. For example, you may want a text or email when they log on in the morning, you might want them to check with you before making a big decision, or you might want to have a weekly team meeting that you expect everyone to virtually attend. Whatever it is, let them know.
The remote workplace can sometimes feel disconnected and lonely for some staff. That’s why it’s important to encourage communication and collaboration. Not only will working together help everyone feel like a part of a team, but innovation, productivity, and job satisfaction may also rise. There are plenty of online collaboration tools that you can use to make this happen. Get some chats started on Slack, make use of Microsoft Teams, and research other platforms that may help your employees to collaborate more.
With your remote team dispersed across the country or perhaps the globe, there is no need for the regular office working hours anymore. Say goodbye to the 9 – 5 workday and say hello to flexible working hours. By being open to your staff working flexible hours, you’re showing that you trust them. Staff will be happier as they have more freedom, and this can make them more productive as well. Just let your team know that you still expect them to work the number of hours expected, but when they do it is up to them. For example, one person may need to pick up their child from daycare at 4 pm, so they might work from 7.30 am – 3.30 pm each day. This will also help to minimize the distractions at home, as you are not expecting that person to work once their child is back at home.
Without the structure of working in an office, it can be challenging for some staff to manage their workload at home. You can help your team to overcome this by encouraging them to build structure into their work even though they are working remotely. For example, you could ask each person at the start of each week to email you with what they expect to achieve in the week ahead. This gives them tasks to tick off so that they know they are on track, and you will be able to track their progress towards their goals.
While you need to know that your team are getting work done, constantly checking with them that they are on track can get tiring. This type of micromanagement can be viewed as condescending and demonstrate that you don’t trust your staff. If you don’t trust them, why did you hire them? Relax and remind yourself that you have an excellent team and that people often get far more completed in a remote work environment than they do in the office. Micromanaging won’t help the situation.
Ask Questions and Listen
The virtual workplace can sometimes make communication more difficult. The casual questions someone may turn around and ask you in the office can fall by the wayside if they aren’t deemed necessary enough to type into an email. So, make sure that you have regular check-ins with each of your team members to find out how they are going. Ask open-ended questions such as ‘what’s challenging you this week?’, so that you can find out if they are hitting any roadblocks in their work.
One of the most important things that you can do for your team as a remote manager is to congratulate their successes. As mentioned, working remotely can be a lonely and disheartening time for some people. So, people will appreciate it when you go out of your way to say, ‘thanks for a job well done’ or ‘great work on that project, I appreciate it’. Sometimes the smallest compliments can make all the difference to someone’s day. Remember that your team are often looking to you for cues on how well they are doing. So, don’t forget to say congratulations on the significant achievements and thank you for completed pieces of work.
If you’re about to embark on a journey into the world of being a remote manager, don’t worry – it’s far easier than you may be expecting. Just make sure that you communicate clearly and often with your team. Connect with them as much as possible, and encourage everyone to work together. And finally, don’t micromanage. You chose these people for your team, so sit back and let them complete their work. You will likely be pleasantly surprised by how much they can achieve without the distractions of being in an office.