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What no one tells you about managing a remote team

Thanks to the wide spread reaches of the internet, the world is becoming more and more connected while simultaneously becoming more and more remote.  We can have friends all over the world without ever actually meeting them in person. 

The world of business is no exception to this trend.  Remote working options make it possible to have employees all over.  Despite some pushback from companies such as Yahoo, the remote workforce seems like a trend that will be sticking around for a while.

As the nature of the work evolves, management has to evolve with it.  There are differences between managing remote employees and employees within an office.  If those aren’t recognized and accounted for, the business will stall.

Jumping into the world of managing remote employees for the first time?  Or, are you looking for tips for doing it better?  Read on.

What no one tells you about managing a remote team

Remote doesn’t mean total freedom

Scheduling is an important part of managing a remote team

One of the many benefits of working remotely is flexibility.  However, some structure needs to be in place for the sake of all parties.

1.Set a schedule

When employees work together in an office, some sort of schedule or working hours is usually pretty inherent.  Whether it’s hours designated by a contract, schedule, or simply the hours that the business is open, employees and bosses are all aware of when everyone is “on the job.”

This can get pretty murky with remote employees.  When managing remote employees you will need to be more clear with your expectations about working hours than you would in a traditional office setting.  Do you expect remote employees to be working from 9-5?  Is there more flexibility than that?  It doesn’t matter how you choose to structure things, but it is important that everyone is on the same page and knows the expectations.

This way, managers won’t get frustrated when they can’t get ahold of an employee, and employees won’t get mad when it seems like their boss is interrupting family time.

2. Communication needs to be deliberate

There are studies about how those water cooler conversations in the office can be big time wasters, but the office setting does allow for lots of casual communication without much effort.  Is someone late on turning in a report?  It’s easy to ask about it by just popping by their desk.  That’s not so easy if they don’t even live in the same state as you.

Therefore, you need to be ultra clear about things such as duties, deadlines, and communication procedures.  Also, be available to answer employee questions, and make sure employees know how and when to best reach you.

Furthermore, are you working in a situation where some employees work in office while others work remotely?  Be sure that any decisions made over casual conversations in the break room also get shared with the others working from home.

Communication is important in any situation, but when it comes to a remote workforce, it is a make or break element. 

Remote doesn’t mean robot

Remember that remote team doesn't mean a robot team

So much remote work is done over the computer.  Sometimes we don’t even see the person’s face.  It’s easy to forget that the employee is a person and not just an email address.  Just as you would in a situation where all employees are working under the same roof, take the time to get to know each person as an individual.

Try some of these options to help foster a positive and effective relationships amongst a team:

  • Try phone calls or video chatting instead of just texts and emails
  • Schedule in person meetings every so often (once a month, once a week…whatever works!)
  • Team retreats.  You could just do them in an office or head someplace fun!
  • Team video chats

Some of those tried and true management methods will still work

Tried and true management methods still work with a remote workforce

Yes, managing a remote workforce can be tricky, but, many of those things that you already know about management still come in to play here.  Jayson DeMers, CEO of AudienceBloom, writes about “The 10 Golden Rules of Effective Management” for Entrepreneur.  They are:

  1. Be consistent
  2. Focus on clarity, accuracy, and thoroughness in communication
  3. Set the goal of working as a team
  4. Publicly reward and recognize hard work
  5. Be the example
  6. Never go with “one-size-fits-all’
  7. Remain as transparent as possible
  8. Encourage all opinions and ideas
  9. Help people enjoy work
  10. Listen and ask questions

As you can see, many of these are just as applicable to remote workers.  Some of these rules may look a little different in the context of a remote workforce, but the basic premise remains the same.  Good management is good management.

When approaching managing a remote workforce, take the time to think about how your management methods may need to differ.  Consider your goals and expectations and have a clear picture of what you would like the working experience to look like.

Looking for more advice?  Contact us at Lucid Advisory and Finance!