Remote work is not a new concept, but its popularity surged amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has forced many organizations worldwide to adopt remote work to protect their employees and remain operational. With remote work, new challenges arise for managers to ensure that their teams remain productive, engaged and motivated.
Remote work presents unique challenges for managers compared to traditional in-house work. Managers need to ensure clear communication, establish expectations, and maintain team cohesion. The lack of face-to-face interaction, combined with management challenges, can lead to a lack of accountability, productivity loss, and low morale.
Managers play an essential role in managing remote teams, so it’s essential to have a plan in place. In this article, we will explore 13 tips for managers to keep their remote teams productive, motivated and engaged while working remotely. These strategies are crucial in helping managers navigate the challenges associated with remote work while building cohesive and productive teams.
Set clear expectations and goals
The success of any remote team relies heavily on clear communication, especially when it comes to expectations and goals. It is essential to set measurable targets and milestones for each team member, and by extension, the whole team. This will help the team to stay focused, prioritize tasks efficiently, and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.
When setting expectations, ensure that the metrics are straightforward and easy to measure. This will assist the team members in tracking their progress and working effectively. Set realistic goals and deadlines, but be open to adjust them if needed. Test team members’ understanding of targets by asking them to repeat what they have to accomplish differently.
Use project management tools to stay organized
The truth is that project management tools can be game-changers in managing remote teams. These tools keep everyone on the same page and create a sense of unity while working apart. Trello, Asana, and Monday.com are among the best project management tools. These tools help in task allocation, timekeeping, and transparency while eliminating the need for multiple emails.
Features such as time-tracking and reporting eliminate the guesswork and ensure everyone in the team is accountable. Managers can track their team’s performance by monitoring how much time is spent on each task, and if there are any bottlenecks or delays, they can quickly rectify them. Additionally, project management tools promote transparency across the organization, since everyone can see what others are working on, which in turn improves collaboration.
Foster a collaborative and supportive team culture
Without the supportive team culture present in the office, remote teams can feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the company. Managers must create opportunities for their remote team members to communicate with each other regularly, to build a sense of community and belonging.
Team building activities are an excellent way to do this. Virtual coffee breaks or casual chats go a long way in fostering a healthy company culture. These activities strengthen relationships and help remote employees to bond, even if they’re not physically in the same location. Managers can also recognize employees’ efforts by initiating award ceremonies, team games, and birthday celebrations.
Provide regular feedback and recognition
Remote workers may not receive regular positive reinforcement associated with in-house teams. Thus, managers must create opportunities and structures to recognize and appreciate their remote employees. Offering regular feedback on their work is a great way to recognize their efforts and provide direction for future improvements.
There are many ways to offer feedback, from a simple “well done” email, to a more detailed evaluation of their work. Managers must be specific, honest, and constructive in their feedback. Identify areas that need improvement without denting the employees’ confidence.
Encourage breaks and self-care
Remote workers tend to work longer hours compared to in-office teams. Working from home has blurred the line between work and personal life. Managers must encourage their remote team members to take breaks, rest and practice self-care activities. Encourage the team not to multitask while they work, but instead to set realistic schedules and stick to them.
Taking a break reduces stress and fatigue, which enhances productivity. Employees who don’t take breaks suffer from burnout, which can be detrimental to their well-being and performance. Encourage communication with their team members about how they’re doing on a personal level, rather than just on a project level.
Be flexible and empathetic
The pandemic and its effects have been a significant challenge for everyone. Managers have to be understanding of their team’s needs during this challenging period, especially those with families to take care of. Adjust schedules, deadlines, and priorities to help internalize the team’s approach to work outside the traditional working hours.
Allowing team members to work with significantly reduced schedules might sustain several employees. Children are at home, and the employees who work from home must sometimes care for them—a receptive and understanding team that will be productive when flexibility is applied.
Managing a remote team can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. With the right support and guidance, a remote team can be even more productive than an in-house team. Here are some further tips for managers to keep their remote teams productive and motivated:
Effective communication is key
Effective communication is the bedrock of remote team management. It’s the means by which team members communicate with each other and their superiors. When managing a remote team, it is vital to encourage open and regular communication. Instead of emails, managers can use video conferencing to ensure the team remains connected.
Encourage team members to use instant messaging services such as Slack and Microsoft Teams for quick check-ins and for staying up-to-date on ongoing projects. Encourage video conferencing as well for more personal communication, which can help build connections between team members.
Keep the team accountable
Accountability is a crucial aspect of remote work because it is easier for team members to slack off in the absence of in-person supervision. Managers must set clear targets and deadlines to ensure that team members remain accountable for their work. Managers need to ensure that they have mechanisms in place to monitor progress and ensure that team members remain on track.
While it’s essential to establish clear expectations, it’s equally important to help team members identify obstacles and barriers that are slowing their progress. Managers can use regular check-ins to help team members overcome these obstacles, providing guidance and encouragement as they go.
Ensure everyone has the right equipment and technology
Remote work requires that every team member has the right equipment to work efficiently. This includes a reliable computer, good lighting, a high-quality headset, and reliable internet connectivity. Additionally, all team members must have access to the necessary software and technology tools necessary to perform their jobs effectively.
Team members who lack the necessary technology will miss out on the benefits that come with remote work. Managers need to work closely with the IT department to ensure that all team members have access to the technology they need.
Mind the time zones
Managing across different time zones can be challenging, but with effective communication and flexible work schedules, it can be done. The key is to be mindful of the time differences and work around them. For example, holding video meetings early in the day to accommodate the team working from other time zones.
Additionally, managers can institute flexible working hours to encourage employees to work during their most productive hours. This, in turn, will result in happier and more productive workers.
Promote trust and work-life balance
Trust between managers and team members is crucial in remote work. It is crucial to monitor on team members’ performance with a mind to ensure that they maintain a healthy work-life balance. This means encouraging team members to take breaks throughout the day and to take vacation time to recharge.
Establishing trust is equally important as establishing open and regular lines of communication between managers and their team members. With the right tools for communication and collaboration, managers can create relationships with team members and establish trust.
Support employee development
Remote work offers tremendous opportunities for professional development, provided managers invest in skill-building exercises. Regular training sessions keep team members up-to-date with current industry trends and enables them to work more efficiently.
Moreover, training sessions give team members an opportunity to develop new skills that could help them to advance their careers within the organization. Managers must support and encourage their team members to acquire new skills, learn about new technologies in their field, and pursue new professional opportunities.
Encourage team members to take ownership
In the absence of direct supervision, team members must take ownership of their work. This means taking responsibility for their tasks and working independently towards achieving set targets. Managers must encourage and permit team members to exercise their judgment in their areas of responsibility.
Encouraging team members to take ownership of their work instills a sense of pride in their achievements, leading to better performance and increased productivity. Additionally, when team members take ownership, they feel encouraged to take the lead on projects, resulting in a more cohesive and productive team environment.
Managing remote teams and keeping them productive and motivated can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. With effective communication, clear expectations, and an open line of feedback, as well as robust project management tools and excellent technology, managers can keep their teams productive, engaged, and happy. Trust, flexibility, and accountability are crucial in making remote teams work, and support for employee development is key to helping team members stay engaged and motivated.
Managers need to ensure that they are always mindful of the varied personality types and learning styles of their team members when offering feedback and direction while encouraging them to take ownership of their work. By promoting these key strategies, managers can manage remote teams effectively and help them achieve even more than they would in an in-house team.