How to Manage a Team of Remote Workers

Today’s workforce is shifting as more and more companies embrace the flexibility of remote working conditions. In fact, according to a study conducted by Owl Labs, 16% of global companies are fully remote. And 52% of employees around the world work from home at least once a week.

For both companies and their employees, the benefits of such come down to productivity and cost-savings. Employees maintain higher levels of efficiency—free from office distractions—and businesses reap the rewards of higher quality work. Employees cut down on commuting expenses and businesses minimize upkeep costs around physical supplies and office space.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved, as long as there are management processes in place to keep a virtual team focused. Here’s how to manage a team of remote workers.

Trust First, Micro-manage Later (or Never)

One of the main reasons companies resist remote work centers around the fear that work won’t get done. Research has shown though, that working from home can actually boost overall productivity.

Before you jump to checking in constantly and testing response times, give your remote team the benefit of the doubt. Trust in the process, while also understanding that there will be bumps in the road as everyone gets used to each other’s remote working styles.

Doing so will establish a greater sense of appreciation between you and your remote employees. It will also leave them happier and more eager to do their jobs.

Establish a Level of Consistency

While true that you don’t want to bombard remote workers with endless meetings, it helps to establish consistency throughout the week.

Part of the appeal in working remotely is the trust and flexibility to self-regulate. But a little bit of structure helps in steering focus and managing expectations. Make time in the week for one-on-ones with your employees and encourage ongoing collaboration among team members over video chat when relevant.

Engage With Impromptu Conversations

One of the downfalls of remote working is that teams often forget about the resources available to them via their peers. When you don’t physically see people on the daily, it’s easier to make figuring things out on your own habit.

Help drive efficiencies and keep cross-team collaboration top-of-mind by engaging in impromptu conversations. Ask questions and guide struggling employees towards others on the team that might be able to help.

Make an Effort to Talk About Things Outside of Work

Remote work can be isolating for those used to the in-office 9-to-5. There are no break rooms or water coolers around for encouraging people to bond on a more personal level. It’s just you, your computer, and the periodic chat notification.

During your one-on-one meetings with employees, make it a point to engage in small talk. Ask questions about things that don’t involve work and offer up weekend/weekday anecdotes. Whether remote or in the office, getting to know your staff on a deeper level helps to keep both morale and motivation high.

Leave Room for Face-to-Face Time

If your team is entirely virtual, consider setting time aside at least once a year for an in-person gathering. This could be organized in conjunction with a holiday, company milestone, or other events.

Bringing everyone together like this can do wonders for team rapport. And the high levels of energy these gatherings create are also beneficial for recentering everyone around a company’s long-term mission.

By Andrew Patricio

June 01, 2020