As the world becomes increasingly more digital, remote work has become a norm that is here to stay. Studies have shown that remote work has increased in popularity over the years, with 22% of the American workforce currently working remotely, and this percentage is expected to continue growing. With remote work, middle managers have found themselves at the forefront of managing teams across different locations and time zones. They are tasked with ensuring productivity, keeping team members engaged and motivated, and tracking performance metrics. However, managing a remote team presents unique challenges that can be overwhelming, especially for middle-level managers who have to balance their workload with leadership responsibilities.
In this blog post, we will delve into detail on the tips and strategies for empowering middle managers in a remote workforce. These tips and strategies offer an excellent starting point to ensure that middle managers successfully manage remote teams while boosting productivity and promoting a positive work environment.
Setting Clear Expectations and Goals
One of the biggest challenges middle managers face in a remote workforce is the lack of face-to-face interaction with their teams. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, it is crucial to clarify expectations and goals right from the beginning. This includes setting clear performance metrics, defining work schedules and deadlines, and establishing communication protocols. By setting clear expectations, middle managers can ensure that their teams are aligned and working towards a common goal. It also helps in increasing clarity of roles and responsibilities, project priorities and deadlines, and other essential criteria that contribute to the organization’s success.
A carefully crafted performance management strategy helps managers track the performance of their remote teams. They can use platforms like Asana, Trello, or Jira to ensure that every task is up-to-date and completed on time. These tools assist in organizing and tracking remote team tasks, allowing managers to identify patterns and optimize productivity.
Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, and this applies to managing remote teams. However, it is essential to use communication tools effectively. Middle managers should encourage team members to use video calls, instant messaging, and project management tools to stay in touch. Regular communication helps to build relationships, foster trust, and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Managers should also establish communication protocols, such as regular check-ins or weekly team meetings, to keep everyone informed and engaged.
Suppose it’s impossible to meet face-to-face; video conferencing offers a feasible solution to live interaction. Video conferencing offers live interaction and connect the remote workforce, fostering a sense of belonging and collaboration.
Moreover, a healthy communication culture brings clarity into the remote team, creating an environment where everyone understands what’s going on, and misinterpretations are reduced. An effective way is to create virtual water cooler chats and replications of in-office moment catch-ups. Virtual water cooler chats are video-based conversations where virtual team members gather to chat, talk about different aspects of their lives, celebrate each other, and even share their virtual space.
Empowering Team Members
Empowering team members means giving them the autonomy and ownership to make decisions and deliver on their work. It helps to build trust, collaboration, and a sense of ownership. Managers can empower their teams by setting clear expectations, delegating tasks, and giving team members the freedom to work independently. By empowering team members, middle managers can help to create an environment in which team members take ownership of their work and feel more invested in the success of the team. The middle managers can measure the impact of empowerment by monitoring how effectively the team structures and works on projects.
It’s vital for middle managers to be approachable, responsive, and available to the virtual team. By empowerment, they give a sense of confidence to their teams, and team members feel more invested in their work. The middle manager becomes a mentor or coach, and the virtual teams feel like they can come to the manager for guidance and support.
Clarify Protocols and Expectations
With remote teams, healthy communication protocols around expectations and work procedures are essential. A best practice would be for the manager to create a handbook or e-book generation, which every team member can access, containing standard operating procedures, instructions, rules and guides. This handbook clearly defines the company’s protocol and work expectations and how they align with the team’s objectives.
Establishing Protocol and Expectations builds an effective management model to reduce communication failures and foster further collaboration. Remote team communication’s requirements influence how middle managers structure work and manage the productivity of the team members. Hence clear protocols and expectations must be laid down right from the beginning.
Trust is a crucial factor for remote teams, especially when team members are geographically dispersed. Middle managers must create an environment that fosters trust by being transparent, responsive, and available. This means communicating regularly, being approachable, and addressing issues promptly. By building trust, middle managers can create an environment in which their teams feel comfortable discussing problems and working collaboratively.
Moreover, an environment in which trust is promoted encourages open communication and harnesses the power of collaboration. The manager can provide a platform where ideas can be exchanged transparently, and feedback is given unequivocally.
Provide Support and Resources
Middle managers should provide their teams with the necessary resources and support to ensure productivity and success. This includes providing access to training and development opportunities, tools, and resources to perform their work effectively. Middle managers should also ensure that their teams have the necessary support, such as IT support or any other equipment to make their work easier.
Suppose it is not otherwise mentioned. Else, remote workers often lack office equipment and technical support, hence providing such support tilts the outcomes to a positive direction. They can leverage cloud-based tools, solutions, digital connectivity and provide access to needed technical support for their remote teams.
Scheduling and Time Management
With employees working from various time zones, scheduling meetings, and managing employee work schedules can become a challenge, particularly when the majority of the team members have contrasting schedules. Middle managers should make use of a scheduling application to help organize and schedule meetings to accommodate different time zones.
Moreover, implementing flexible work schedules caters to the busy family and home schedules of remote team members. This presents flexibility and work-life balance, enhancing job satisfaction and overall employee morale, essential ingredients for job satisfaction.
Remote work can be isolating, and it is essential to prioritize employee well-being. Managers should encourage work-life balance, flexible working arrangements, and ensuring that employees take necessary breaks throughout work periods. They can also organize virtual team-building activities, such as online games or virtual coffee breaks, to create a sense of community and social connection. By prioritizing employee well-being, managers can help to create a positive workplace culture that fosters teamwork, engagement, and productivity.
Additionally, the manager can hold video meetings that delight workers sporadically, engaging and recognizing performed roles once in a while. Celebrating employee success sends positive signals to employees, demonstrating that hard work is recognized.
Managing a remote team requires a shift in management models from traditional management practices. The tips and strategies outlined above offer an excellent starting point to ensure that middle managers successfully manage remote teams while boosting productivity and promoting a positive work environment. While remote work has its unique challenges, it provides new and innovative solutions to traditional collaboration methods, promoting diversity and inclusion.
Professional remote working is a norm that is here to stay. Empowering middle managers in a remote workforce comes with unique challenges that require strategies to navigate. These tips and strategies provide management models that will make middle managers effective managers of remote teams. Remote working setups’ requirements influence how middle managers structure work and manage the productivity of the team members. Hence clear protocols and expectations must be laid down right from the beginning. Ultimately, providing remote workers with needed resources and support promotes job satisfaction, leading to overall high employee morale and job satisfaction, essential ingredients for job performance.