The workplace is changing at a fascinating pace. Companies are recognizing more and more that creating a virtual workplace is beneficial both professionally and personally. One US study has stated that as many as 3.7 million employees now work from home.
Many teams are split up all over the world and may have never met. This presents unique challenges for any COO or management team. How do you encourage unity and a collaborative environment when the employees do not know one another? What makes a person stay committed to a team when walking away is as easy as shutting down your laptop? For these and so many more reasons, the current workplace landscape presents choppy waters to navigate. Managing a remote team is nothing like working day to day in an office setting. It takes know-how, effective time-management skills and a high degree of flexibility. Below, five tips to create a stellar remote team that bucks all the systemic challenges.
- DEVELOP STRONG RELATIONSHIPS
While this is nothing new in workplace strategy, developing strong relationships are particularly useful when managing remotely. Create a safe space to talk about personal lives and make a strong effort to get to know your employees. Show compassion. People are much less likely to walk away from someone they feel empathy for.
- COMMUNICATION IS KING
Communicate often, communicate well. The more you practice conflict resolution and check-in with your employees, the better tone you will set for them. You want them to feel that you are just an email/slack message/ Skype call away. Without a personal working environment, they will need a touchstone, someone to reach out to. If you don’t foster a communicative environment, the lack of interchange will justify any slacking or ineffectiveness employees want to perpetuate.
- MAKE USE OF TECHNOLOGY
Whether it be Slack, Asana or various other networking/organizational tools, it’s important to find the right apps that work for you and your team and stick with it. Employees are generally hesitant to join a new app — sometimes it can feel like pulling teeth to get all your team aligned with something. Keep persevering. Once they finally do come aboard, the benefits are miraculous. Take a look at Trello, Wonderlist or Insightly, dive deep into the app world and find at least two that work for your team.
- HAVE FLEXIBILITY
It’s one thing to manage a team that works regular 9-6 hours. It’s quite another to have several time zones in your smartphone and navigate and negotiate calls across sunrises, sunsets and various mandatory holidays. It takes a lot of getting used to, but more than that it takes flexibility. Have your team let you know what hours they are most reachable and when they need time to themselves. But also entertain a degree of pliability as calls are not always going to work out, internet issues abound and people may be celebrating a holiday you’ve never even heard of. Base employee performance on achievements, not availability. If your employee is working hard, completing tasks on time and on target….then exercise an affable mind when it comes to their working hours. It will maintain a positive relationship with everyone, but also help to strengthen your sanity after one too many late-night conference calls.
- HIRE WISELY
A remote worker is not your average employee. They need a high-level of organization and powerful communication skills. It’s important to recognize whether a new person is going to add or detract from your already diverse team. One of the top priorities should be finding someone who has passion for the job and a dedicated commitment to your organization. Loyalty should be a deciding factor when hiring or terminating any employee. It’s important to look for staff who truly believe in what your company is trying to achieve and who will go the extra mile to help co-create it.
Recent studies have shown that utilizing a remote team can increase productivity, lower stress and boost morale. The challenges of managing a company that is split across the land are multifaceted and unexampled. However if handled correctly, instituting a mobile workspace can reduce staff turnover while also creating greater employee engagement.
It’s an entirely new workforce now, one where we get to create an operations strategy around our diverse working conditions rather than have our staff succumb to an antiquated approach. Utilizing this as a beneficial tool to create greater harmony in your work environment can only lead to improved success.