Remote work has been on the rise in recent years, and it has become more prevalent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With advancing technology and a changing workforce, many professions no longer need to be in a traditional workspace to complete their tasks. Instead, they can work from anywhere and still maintain high levels of productivity.
As a manager, though, guiding a team of employees that are working remotely can seem daunting. How do you monitor your employees’ progress, ensure they are meeting targets, and maintain good communication? Remote management is not impossible but requires a different approach than traditional office-based management.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the benefits and challenges of remote work management and offer proven tips and strategies you can use to monitor your remote employees and maintain optimal productivity.
Benefits of Remote Work
Remote work offers many benefits to employers and employees, including:
- Increased productivity: Studies have shown that remote workers are more productive than traditional office-based workers.
- Savings on overhead costs: Employers can save on rent, utilities, and other expenses associated with maintaining a physical office.
- Access to a more diverse talent pool: When geographical location is no longer a factor, you can expand your hiring pool and find the right people for the job without needing to relocate them.
Challenges of Remote Work
While remote work has many advantages, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. The following are some of the most common challenges:
- Maintaining Company Culture: Companies need to work hard to maintain their culture and keep employees engaged when distance is a factor.
- Managing Remote Workers: Managers need to adapt their management style to suit remote workers, which involves different communication channels and productivity tools.
- Technical Issues: As remote work is dependent on technology, any outages or technical difficulties can make it challenging to maintain productivity and communication.
Tips for Remote Management Success
Now that you have a good understanding of the advantages and challenges of remote work, let’s dive into some essential tips to help you manage your remote employees effectively.
Establish and Communicate Clear Objectives
Before allowing employees to work remotely, it’s essential to establish clear expectations and set clear goals that everyone can aim for. By aligning expectations, you’ll ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands what they need to deliver. To do this, consider the following questions:
- What do your remote employees need to achieve?
- How will you measure their success?
- What are the main deliverables, and what are their deadlines?
- How will employees access resources, deadlines, and deliverables?
By answering these questions, you can establish clear objectives and a solid structure to help monitor your remote team’s progress.
Encourage Self-Directed Work and Collaboration
One of the drawbacks of remote work is the lack of direct supervision, leading some employees to worry that they’ll be out of sight and, consequently, out of mind. Encouraging self-directed work and collaboration can counteract these fears.
By fostering a sense of independence and accountability, you’ll create a culture of mutual trust, which can improve communication and productivity. Meanwhile, promoting collaboration helps to recreate the productive environment that would exist in a traditional office setting.
To encourage self-direction and collaboration, establish clear communication channels and guidelines, allocate individual assignments while also identifying group projects, and ensure everyone understands their objectives and roles within each project.
Use Reliable Productivity and Time Management Tools
Without the ability to see employees physically, it can be challenging to monitor their activities or progress. However, with productivity and time management tools, you can track your employees’ progress and ensure they’re on track.
There are several productivity and time-tracking tools available. Examples include:
- Trello: A collaboration tool great for scheduling and delegating tasks.
- Asana: Project management software that offers collaboration, organisation, planning and tracking tools.
- Hubstaff: A time tracker to accurately monitor employee hours worked.
- RescueTime: Time management software designed to help fuel productivity.
It’s vital to choose the right tool that suits your team’s needs and objectives. This way, everyone will work effectively towards achieving common goals.
Schedule Regular Check-ins and Reviews
Communication is critical for effective remote management. To maintain team cohesion, promote accountability, and detect early issues before they affect productivity, establish regular check-ins that help keep everyone informed.
Scheduled check-ins can take different forms, including:
- Phone calls or video conferences.
- Online meetings, like Google Meet or Zoom.
- Chat channels with multi-person conversations.
During these check-ins, discuss any updates, answer questions, and provide feedback. Regular check-ins will help keep everyone informed, engaged, and focused on key deliverables.
In addition to regular check-ins, also establish a regular review process that is consistent across your entire team. Reviews should serve as an opportunity to identify strengths, weaknesses, goals achieved or missed, and constructive feedback. By conducting consistent performance reviews, you establish a culture of accountability and transparency that thrives on feedback, growth and improvement.
Promote Work-Life Balance
Remote workers often work longer hours than their office counterparts, leading to an imbalance in work-life balance. Promoting and encouraging work-life balance is essential to avoid employee burnout or decreased productivity over the long run.
Encourage your employees to take breaks, set boundaries between work and personal activities, and take care of their physical, mental, and social well-being. Set guidelines for things like time off and when workers should log off for the day. This gives employees a sense of autonomy while still prioritizing their mental and physical health.
Foster Company Culture Remotely
Maintaining company culture can be challenging when working remotely, so companies need to invest in activities that help keep employees engaged while creating strong relationships with colleagues virtually.
One way to maintain company culture remotely is by offering employee engagement activities like virtual team-building games, contests, challenges, and community events. You can also foster transparency, open communication, and management participation by hosting weekly updates and interacting with your remote team regularly.
Another useful strategy is by delivering positive feedback and encouragement. Remote workers need to feel recognized and motivated. You can do this by sending them messages of appreciation and recognition or providing badges, certificates, or small gifts to show your appreciation.
Get to Know Your Remote Employees
As a manager, it’s essential to get to know the individuals on your remote team. Remote workers can feel isolated and disconnected, but by taking an interest in their lives outside of work, you build rapport and show that you care about them, ultimately improving their productivity.
You can use tools like Slack or Zoom to connect with your remote team and get to know them on a personal level. During conversations, ask questions like:
- How was your weekend?
- How are you coping with the workload?
- What’s your favorite activity or hobby outside of work?
By engaging in these conversations, you show your remote employees that you value them don’t see them as just a name on a spreadsheet.
Be Available to Your Remote Team
As a remote manager or supervisor, it’s crucial to be available to your team to answer questions, offer guidance, or provide feedback when needed. You must establish a comfortable working relationship with your remote team that makes it easy for them to reach out when needed.
One way to do this is by encouraging regular communication and offering multiple channels to get in touch with you, such as email, messaging apps or chats, calls, and video conferences.
Another strategy is by arranging virtual office hours, where you’re available on specific days and times to answer questions from your team. This approach ensures managers and employees are accessible without sacrificing other commitments.
Encourage Proactive Remote Work Practices
Remote work relies heavily on independent work, and some employees may not have experience managing their time or workload. Encouraging and supporting proactive remote work practices that help your team succeed is crucial.
One way to encourage proactive remote work practices is by sharing time-management strategies and tips, like using a notepad to write down tasks, creating a daily task list, and managing distractions.
Another useful strategy is by encouraging them to get up and move around, especially if they’ve been sitting for long periods. Encourage them to take breaks to stretch, hydrate or rest their eyes to reduce remote work-related stress.
Offer Employee Training and Development
Remote work can sometimes become monotonous, so it’s essential to provide employees with opportunities to learn and upskill in areas related to their work or new areas they are interested in exploring. This will help keep them motivated and engaged, which translates to better performance.
Most people working remotely have a solid internet connection, which makes online training courses easily accessible. Offering online training courses can take many forms, such as online webinars, self-paced courses, and coaching sessions. You can also provide employees with access to libraries for personal and professional development.
Managing a team of remote employees requires a different approach than traditional office-based workforces. By following these essential tips, you can monitor your remote employees, maintain optimal productivity and enjoy the flexibility and benefits of remote work.
Success in remote management relies on establishing clear objectives and communication guidelines, utilizing productivity tools, scheduling regular check-ins and reviews, promoting work-life balance, and fostering a strong company culture remotely. Injecting positivity into the workforce and providing growth opportunities and support through training and performance reviews is also essential.
While there will be challenges, you can overcome them with the right planning, structure, and communication. With advances in technology and the changing nature of work, remote work will continue to grow, so developing and implementing effective remote management strategies are essential for businesses looking to remain competitive.