10 Best Practices for Managing Remote Workers
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, remote work was already becoming popular with many business organizations. Many tools and techniques which make remote working for teams as efficient as collaborating in person were already available.
The pandemic, however, forced many unprepared business organizations to hastily implement remote work without establishing clear procedures for managing the process and maximizing productivity.
To help businesses looking to improve their remote working procedures, this article discusses 10 key best practices for managing a remote workforce. We will focus on proven tools and management techniques which are effective in solving the added challenges organizations face during a pandemic.
1. Select the Right Team Leaders
The primary challenge of managing remote workers is providing the social interaction that comes naturally to workers who share the same workplace. As a result, a team leader who will excel at managing remote workers must have strong interpersonal skills. Successful remote teams have managers who provide explicit instructions, frequent check-ins, and emotional support to their workers, as we will discuss in more detail below.
2. Create Multiple Channels of Communication
Another challenge of remote work is the loss of proactive communication when workers are physically separated from each other. In a traditional workplace, team members can collaborate informally as they see each other frequently during the day, or while sitting in close proximity. Remote workers need scheduled meetings, check-ins, and established channels of communication to achieve the same efficiency they have in a shared workplace.
3. Clarify Rules and Procedures Up Front
It can be difficult for remote workers to follow up with questions when managers give them instructions. Even when managers are proactive, the delay between asking a question and getting a response can be hours, which may unnecessarily idle a worker during that time. This problem of delayed communication can be mitigated by communicating expectations, instructions, and procedures to remote workers up front. It is also good to become accustomed to reiterating important instructions more often than might be comfortable in a traditional workplace.
4. Base Performance Reviews on Deliverables
It is common for efficiency to be determined by analyzing the time workers spend on a project. For remote work, this is not as effective and often detrimental. Remote workers may find it more difficult to accurately record the time they spend on tasks, and they will have less structured work schedules that are full of interruptions. This is especially true of remote workers who have families at home. The result is that performance reviews will be more effective when they focus on outcomes like deliverables and deadlines.
5. Include All Team Members in Meetings
Again, direct communication between team leaders and members is key to a successful remote workforce. In a traditional workplace, employees often skip meetings that are only tangentially related to their tasks, since they can typically get relevant notes from colleagues who attended the meeting. This does not work as well for remote workers. Due to the lack of face to face contact they are likely to drop out of the communication loop. Therefore, it is best to require and enforce that everyone invited should attend remote meetings.
6. Encourage Workers to Socialize
This is perhaps the most challenging aspect of remote work, and the social distancing rules imposed during the pandemic have made it even more challenging. It has been proven that remote teams perform better and develop proactive communication habits when they socialize outside of formal meetings. In the past, this was achieved with team building events and occasional social gatherings. Video-conferenced events and frequent chatting through messenger apps are good alternatives for a team that is observing social distancing rules.
7. Give Moral Support to Remote Team Members
Remote team leaders find themselves giving moral support to their team more often than traditional managers. This is partly because remote workers are less likely to forge close relationships with each other. Remote work is also more stressful at times because of the challenge of juggling home and work responsibilities in the same space. Managers should be skilled at giving their team members moral support both individually and as a group.
8. Provide Frequent Feedback and Rewards
Remote team members thrive when their managers give them frequent feedback and rewards for their work. It is more difficult for team members to know whether they are meeting expectations without proper feedback especially since they have fewer ways to check with their coworkers. Morale may also suffer without encouragement and rewards for successfully completing difficult tasks.
9. Document Business Processes and Procedures
Tribal knowledge often serves as an informal way of training workers in a workplace. This informality does not have the same effect for remote workers because they typically do not communicate as well as when in the workplace. It is important to draw up formal documents that detail the processes and procedures managers expect their workers to follow, and those documents should be kept up to date. They will be indispensable for conducting remote training and resolving later questions.
10. Closely Monitor Remote Workloads
Remote team leaders need to closely monitor their worker’s progress towards goals and whether they may be overloaded with tasks. Independent workers sometimes fail to accurately estimate how much they can accomplish because working from home can take more time than focused work in an office environment. Managers who closely monitor progress and regularly check-in with their workers will catch bottlenecks and slowdowns before they threaten the success of a project.
Overcoming the Remote Work Challenge
Remote work presents a different set of problems and opportunities than the traditional workplace. Even under ideal conditions, it is better suited to professions that work independently. Social distancing requirements imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic make remote work even more challenging. Despite these challenges, remote work has proven benefits such as reducing costs and increasing efficiency for certain independent workers.
Outsource IT is ready to help business organizations looking to implement an efficient remote working environment. We provide highly secure remote working solutions tailored specifically to your business needs. Contact one of our account managers today to learn more.