Is your team gearing up to become more remote? Due to the global outbreak of the covid-19 virus in early 2020, more workers than ever are working remotely.
While urgent circumstances may be a less than an ideal reason for becoming remote, 99% of respondents of Buffer’s 2019 survey claimed that they wanted to work remotely, at least part-time, for the rest of their careers.
However, remote work is not just an opportunity for the employer to respond to employee demands. Studies by Global Workplace Analytics shows that employers can expect to save up to $11,000 per year when employees start working remotely half of the time.
Whether your team already is remote or is transitioning into remote work, here’s how to make sure it performs well.
Strategies for Effective Remote Team Management
Unite the Team with a Clear Mission
Research by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton shows that a whopping 95% of employees either don’t understand or are unaware of the company’s strategy. Pretty hard to consistently hit the goals when you don’t understand them, right?
Without a clear picture of where the company is heading, team members can struggle to prioritize their work or produce the desired results. To get the most out of your team members, they need to know the business’ goals and how they contribute to fulfilling them.
So, how do you do that?
Host regular meetings and post updates where you share the short- and long term goals and how the company is doing. Whether you have a weekly video group conversation or share updates on a discussion board, it’s also an excellent opportunity to invite suggestions from employees and leverage their expertise to find new ways of hitting your targets.
Engage Employees to Build the Team Spirit
Did you know just how much a difference employee engagement does? A Gallup study shows that highly engaged employees are 21% more productive and 22% more profitable than less engaged employees.
Build trust between employees
While you can’t force a bond between people, you can increase the levels of respect and trust by encouraging employees to engage with each other. A stronger team spirit opens up for greater idea sharing, honest feedback, and collaborative problem solving as employees help each other out.
If part of the team is remote and others work in an office, find a way of sharing relevant office events with the remote workers. You can also consider hosting face-to-face meetings at least once a year so everyone can meet.
But team building doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive — instead, you can find ways of doing it virtually, by including occasional games or challenges on company time.
As 85% of remote workers primarily work from home, it is no wonder that 19% claim that loneliness is their biggest struggle with working remotely. By using video conference tools to connect, you don’t just get an improved meeting experience, but can also decrease employees’ loneliness.
Encourage one-to-one meetings or group catch-ups between team members — after all, they can still hang out around the virtual watercooler. While respecting that employees have varying levels of interest in participating, try to ensure that no one is left out of the conversations, and feel excluded.
26% of employees mean that feeling underappreciated has the most significant negative effect on engagement. The same study showed that low engagement made them twice as likely to want to quit their jobs during the next year — resulting in an increased cost for recruitment.
Even if the team members are in different locations, it’s essential to take the time to appreciate each other and celebrate victories. Whether you have weekly shoutouts or send a small but thoughtful present for someone’s birthday, it is the genuine gestures that mean the most.
Optimize Workflow for High Productivity
77% of remote workers consider themselves more productive when working off-site. You are already off to a great start by allowing remote work. Now, how do you help your team to be even more efficient?
First, your team needs specific, measurable, and achievable goals. At its simplest, it’s a question of “who does what, and when?”. So, how do you manage well-defined tasks, task ownership, and realistic deadlines conveniently?
It starts with a project management system to let team members understand their workload, keep track of deadlines, and see what their colleagues are doing. For the team leader, it’s a convenient way to assign tasks, review progress, and identify bottlenecks.
It’s also important to make use of time tracking software so that both managers as well as team members have a better idea of how much time is being spent on tasks as well as help with being more efficient when it comes to predicting (and hitting) project due dates.
Enable Effective Knowledge Sharing
Without the right information, work performance drops.
A report by Nintex shows that 55% of employees do not have access to the documents necessary for doing a good job. Knowledge sharing is crucial for a team to stay in sync and work effectively.
A knowledge base allows you to store, organize, and share company critical information, such as the latest sales reports, standard operating procedures, or training manuals. Not only does it support your existing team, but it can be a powerful way to onboard new remote workers.
Encourage Communication for High Performance
According to professor Kathryn M. Bartol of the University of Maryland and associate professor N. Sharon Hill of George Washington University, five factors influence a team’s effectiveness of communication.
Team members need to:
- match the technology to the tasks,
- make intentions clear,
- stay in sync,
- be responsive and supportive, and
- be open and inclusive.
Bartol and Hill find that video chats and phone conversations are best suited for solving problems, brainstorming, and strengthening relationships between team members. Text-based media, such as instant messages and emails, is most useful for sharing simple daily.
The key for remote work: over-communicate rather than under-communicate. No, that doesn’t equal encouraging mindless chatter about your favorite new Netflix series when you’re supposed to focus on solving a tricky problem together. Instead, encourage thoughtful ways to check in with each other and report your work status.
One thing to note is that while it is crucial to stay updated, team productivity will decrease if employees always have to answer immediately. To help employees with work-life balance, communicate expectations for how soon workers are supposed to respond. This type of guideline becomes crucial if your team spans over several different time zones.
The Best Tools to Support Your Remote Team
Now when you know how to support your team to become productive and efficient, let’s take a look at the tools that make your job easier.
A conversation via video is the closest you can get virtually to face-to-face communication. Apart from offering a better opportunity to connect and get to know team members, it can also help you collaborate easier by sharing your screens.
Video conferencing tools can be used both for small group meetings and for broadcasting events from an office. While Zoom has been an extremely popular choice, there are many other alternatives such as Jitsi Meet, Skype, and Google Hangouts.
Many teams use chats mostly to get a quick update or answer. Others swear by using it for a substantial part of the team’s conversation. No matter which camp you belong to, popular tools include Slack, Fleep, and Chanty.
Having a thought-through email solution becomes particularly important if you have different schedules and get external emails. After all, you don’t want an urgent customer email or sought-after press opportunity to slip through the cracks.
Shared inbox tools include Outpost and Hiver. Others, like Front lets you manage incoming messages from several platforms, such as emails, SMS, Facebook, and live chat.
Project management software can help remote teams keep track of progress of projects and tasks. Managers can assign tasks along with due dates allowing employees to know what they’re responsible for as well as expectations for when they need to complete their task.
Some tools to look at for project management include Monday, Trello, Basecamp, and Wrike.
Part of successful project management includes the ability of understanding how employees spend their time on particular tasks which is where OnTheClock comes in.
Whether you want a measurement of team productivity or simply want to record employee work time so you can convert billable hours into client invoices, there’s no better way to do it than with OnTheClock’s time tracking software.
With OnTheClock, you get an easy-to-use solution of tracking employee time quickly and accurately. Not only that, OnTheClock automatically calculates time cards and seamlessly integrates with many popular payroll providers such as QuickBooks and ADP.
Additionally, employees can easily add notes to provide some more context as to what they worked on while administrators and managers can add any notes necessary for proper documentation.
Knowledge Sharing / Knowledge Management
If you want your team to have the best conditions possible for creating high-quality work, you need a knowledge management solution. It’s important that information is accessible regardless of where an employee is as well as easy to find.
You can use something like Helpjuice to create an internal knowledge base that houses all the pertinent information workers need to do their work while using a CRM like HubSpot to let employees get all the information needed to better service customer accounts.
Employee Training and Rewards
To keep the team engaged and thriving, you want to provide opportunities for employees to level up their skills and give them a sense of accomplishment as well as recognize employees and their achievements. You can use LearnWorlds to create courses for your employees to complete or GoSkills to provide your team with already created material. Celebrate victories together with tools like Wooboard, Recognize, and Bonusly that come with features to help shine the spotlight on the achievements of your employees.
Improve Meetings and Gather Feedback
It can be challenging to keep a finger on the pulse, no matter if the remote team is in the same city or scattered across the globe. You can use SoapBox or Officevibe to have better one-on-one meetings while using Culture Amp or TINYpulse to help gather feedback and measure engagement.
Virtual Team Building
Not all team building has to take place in person. Teambuilding.com offers anything from online storytelling workshops to tiny virtual campfires while SnackNation allows employers to send their teams healthy snacks and coffee to enjoy from the comfort of their own homes.
So, what’s next?
Remote teams offer an opportunity to leverage the best of the world’s talent, no matter where they are based. As a bonus, you’ll likely reduce costs and increase the company’s ability to handle unforeseen world events — whether a storm or a pandemic — without significant operational disruptions.
To strengthen your team’s ability to work remotely, give employees the support and tools they need to perform well by building an engaged company culture, enabling quick knowledge sharing, improving how projects are tracked as well as managed, and keeping communication social yet efficient.
About the author:
Josh Brown is the Marketing Manager at Helpjuice. Helpjuice enables you to easily create a comprehensive knowledge base that can be used internally to help your business improve remote working operations.
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