Working from home has its perks for sure. You get to avoid to daily commute to work where you may spend what feels like endless hours in traffic. You can also avoid the dress code and get to work in a more relaxed manner. Yet, there are also many disadvantages when leaders need to manage their remote teams. It may seem hard to keep the team and yourself motivated, communication may be harder and there’s a definitive lack of social interaction. Fortunately, there are specific, research-based steps that managers can take without great effort to improve the engagement and productivity of remote employees, even when there is little time to prepare.
Here’s a list of the most common issues many team members face and how managers can support their remote team.
Common Challenges of Remote Work
Distractions at home
When we used to go to a physical office there was a common environment built to keep your focus and with one notice in mind – to work. Now with remote working we are all confined to the home where there could be lots of factors that may be distracting. It may be the doorbell ringing many times, the sound of the vacuum or other members of the house on their individual calls. As managers it’s important to remember that every team member’s background is different and there exists a need to be empathetic to another’s circumstances.
Another issue many people face could be technical issues. Multiple devices are simultaneously connected to the internet and this may create a lag when they’re on a call. Or sometimes like in India, there may be a power cut, and with limited back up options it may interfere with work.
Lack of access to information
Before in office we all used to collaborate together. If someone had a question they could swivel their chair around and ask easily. Or walk up to their manager and clarify their doubts. Now we need to reply more on semiformal or formal modes of communication that may cause some apprehension or delay when it comes to accessing that information.
Lack of face to face supervision
In a physical set up face to face supervision existed where it was easier to know what your employees are doing. Supervision aims to provide accountability for both the manager and employee exploring practice and performance. This aimed to ensure growth of the employee, where time is utilised in a constructive manner and also helped managers and employees stay accountable on their deliverables.
How Managers Can Support Remote Employees
1. Establish structured checkins
Many successful remote managers establish ways for a daily call with their remote employees. This could take various forms. Such as one-on-one calls if your employee works in a more independent manner or even a team call. At Mesh, we’ve made conducting these calls super simple and you can know more about them here. The great thing about these check-ins is that they’re similar to the stand-ups you may have conducted in a physical office. They’re predictable and provide a definitive space for your employees to consult with you, where their questions and concerns can be addressed.
2. Provide different communication channels to your remote team
Emails alone don’t suffice. Work being done has evolved from waiting on a response on email. Nowadays there’s a need for instant and continuous feedback and collaboration. So it’s important to take note of the different technologies available to us today which provide the closest thing to a more face to face form of communication. Video – calling for instance is great to pick up on an employees body language, it may help you understand and probe places where they may face some apprehension or even excitement when it comes to doing something in a particular way. This also helps reduce much of the isolation one may be experiencing.
In some instances quick collaboration is also possible and at times even more efficient as you can quickly screen share, show how you’d like something to get done and your employee will easily be able to understand what you mean.
3. Define availability to help you better manage the remote team
Managers can also define how they wish to receive forms of engagement and their availability. This is especially useful as employees have a clear idea off when to reach out to you. You can try something like this “I’ll take a daily update of what everyone is working on in the morning check-in but feel free to book a slot with me from 3-5pm any day. I’ve allocated that time specifically to discuss on-going projects for this client”. This simple communication makes it easy for the employee to know that you’re open to discussion and that you will be available to discuss. It sort of establishes a “my door is always open” for the virtual collaborative set-up.
4. Provide opportunities for social interaction for remote teams
One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely. This is true for all remote workers, but particularly so for workers who have been abruptly transitioned out of the office.
The easiest way of doing this is without setting up formal structures in place is to simply leave a few minutes in the morning call to discuss some non-work related topics. It could be as simple as “How was your weekend?”. This helps create a better bond amongst the team as they all learn a little more about each other.
Something we like to do at Mesh is a fortnightly session called ‘virtual-beers’. The activity we all love engaging in at the moment is Pictionary. The great thing about virtual events is that they help reduce feelings of isolation, and promote a sense of belonging.
Let us know in the comments your own tips for managing your remote employees.
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