For many job seekers, having the ability to choose where they work is now a key factor, and top prospects know they can demand a better work-life balance when they’re evaluating new career opportunities.
In fact, a May 2021 survey by Mercer found that 70% of organizations indicated they had plans to adopt a hybrid work model, where employees spend some days in the office and the remaining days working remotely.
Along similar lines, FlexJobs discovered that only 3% of workers wish to go back to the traditional office setup post-pandemic; 58% of people who want to work full time prefer to do so 100% remotely, while 39% prefer a hybrid arrangement.
And while remote work offers numerous benefits to both employees and employers, this shift also has managers everywhere wondering how to manage a remote team.
Common Challenges for Companies Managing Remote Employees
Although workers are clearly ready to shift to at least some form of remote work forever, many leaders struggle to find the right balance when it comes to how to manage a remote team.
If you’re trying to figure out how to manage a remote team, it’s important to understand what obstacles you might face. Take the time to see how other companies have overcome similar challenges so you can be prepared with solutions when problems arise.
Because their employees lack face-to-face supervision, managers often worry their staff won’t work as hard or as efficiently. Additionally, there is a fear that social isolation can have a negative impact on team members and that company culture will suffer because of a lack of in-person interactions.
Common challenges of managing remote employees often include:
- Difficulty setting clear expectations
- Lack of communication
- Obstacles related to team cohesiveness and morale-building
- Minimized or problematic communication
- Troublesome tracking of work and productivity
- Scheduling problems
Tips for How to Manage a Remote Team as Effectively as Possible
As you begin to develop your strategies for how to manage a remote team, consider these tips to help you accomplish the job:
1. Utilize Technology and Tools Made for Remote Setups
There are several technological tools that can help with many of the challenges of managing remote employees.
Project management systems, for example, will help you ensure your team is doing what’s needed to accomplish tasks, even when they’re not sitting in their on-site cubicles.
Many tools are also geared toward facilitating collaboration virtually. Consider how your team is using email, text, phone calls, video chats, online calendars, intranet sites and chat room software, like Slack or Microsoft Teams.
Remember, there isn’t one hard-and-fast tool or solution, and some platforms might work better for your culture than others. Consider what your greatest challenges are, and then do the research to determine if you can leverage technology to help solve them.
While you may see technology as the cause of some of your challenges, you may be surprised to learn how helpful technology can be in remote workforce management when used appropriately.
2. Consider Your Communication
In remote workforce management, a lack of communication can leave employees feeling like they are on an island and that their work doesn’t matter.
As a leader in your organization, you should communicate with your remote staff regularly, keeping them apprised of deadlines, available resources, work-related challenges and the company’s expectations of them. Such communication also helps to keep your team engaged and feeling valued.
If you aren’t already, consider establishing regular one-on-one meetings with your team members to allow them the opportunity to ask questions, seek help with problems and build a relationship with you. This also allows you to know what your team is up to—without micromanaging them.
It’s also important to encourage team members to communicate and collaborate with their peers and any employees they manage as well.
Do all that you can to foster a culture of shared communication and comradery on your team so that your employees want to communicate with and involve each other in their work.
3. Rethink Meeting Structures
When it comes to how to manage remote employees, it’s important to consider the meetings your team is attending and how those meetings are playing out.
Long virtual calls and booked schedules can cause video chat fatigue. Instead of having a long meeting every month or quarter, consider shorter but more frequent virtual huddles.
Also, consider how you are using time spent in your meetings. Would the announcements in your round-up be a better fit for an email or message to your team? If you’re able to reduce the number of meetings your team attends, you may make better use of your other communication tools while also freeing up more productive time for your workers.
While you’re at it:
- Stick to core business hours to ensure you’re not interrupting anyone’s after-work or before-work schedule or affecting their lunch hours.
- Be mindful of employees’ schedules when they are in other time zones.
- Hold meetings virtually if you’re in a hybrid setup, rather than having some people in-person and others on calls. This helps keep everyone on a level playing field.
4. Take Steps to Avoid On-site Favoritism
On-site favoritism is real. It happens when employees who are in the office have more opportunities than employees who aren’t.
While it may be natural to converse more with the person who is physically in front of you than it may be with a remote employee who is several states away, it’s incredibly important to combat any favoritism and to ensure remote employees have just as many opportunities as those who work from the office.
To be proactive in your remote workforce management and avoid on-site favoritism:
- Survey employees to find out who’s doing “office housework.” That’s the work that makes someone a good organizational citizen but doesn’t count toward promotions or performance evaluations.
- Create a protocol for managers so everyone is on the same page when it comes to what constitutes career-enhancing work in their departments.
- Track the results of your efforts.
- Look for patterns that can showcase favoritism. Look for demographic patterns, too.
- Train managers to avoid If you identify favoritism of any kind in your organization, it’s time to reconsider your system.
5. Build Systems to Monitor and Measure Changes in Employee Satisfaction
One of the most important considerations for how to manage a remote team is to remember that satisfied employees are productive employees. So, yes, happiness does actually affect your bottom line.
Of course, high employee morale also leads to reduced turnover and improved customer satisfaction—both of which can aid the organization’s profitability.
But how can you know if your employees are happy?
Don’t just assume. Here are three ways you can garner information about the satisfaction of your employees, so you can pivot your processes if needed:
- Send regular employee engagement surveys. Find out what drives (or perhaps hinders) employee engagement by sending out regular employee engagement surveys. Use open-ended questions to help measure employee engagement drivers. Allow your employees to be anonymous if they’d like, so they’re as honest as possible.
- Conduct stay interviews. Everybody has heard of exit interviews, but do you know what a stay interview is? In this situation, you’ll conduct interviews with high-performing, long-term employees to find out what keeps them working for your organization and what you can do to improve.
- Put out periodic eNPS surveys. The employee Net Promote Score (eNPS) helps you measure loyalty and your employees’ willingness to be ambassadors for your organization. With 0-to-10 scales of happiness, the surveys help HR leaders create benchmarks and averages within their organizations to better understand loyalty and retention.
Learn More about How to Manage a Remote Team
Of course, each company will have different circumstances and challenges when it comes to how to manage a remote team.
If you’d like to learn more about how to manage a remote team in the most optimal way, connect with a talent advisor at Warren Averett Staffing & Recruiting. We help employers assess the right remote or hybrid strategies for their organizations and provide recruiting services to find the right hires for your company.
Schedule a time to chat with us to discuss how to make your company’s staffing, recruiting and remote workforce management as effective and efficient as possible.