Managing office workers is not the same as managing remote employees. A remote work setup offers different advantages and challenges, especially for managers and team leaders. Even seasoned work from home managers still struggle. What more for new ones?
If it’s your first time handling a team of remote workers, our tried and tested strategies can help you figure out how to keep your virtual team productive and motivated.
11 Tips on How to Manage Remote Workers
Managing remote workers can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time. But having the right game plan and remote worker management tools can make a huge difference.
1. Schedule daily check-ins
This may sound excessive, but it’s a necessity, especially when managing a remote team. Having daily check-ins is a great way to see how everyone is doing. Plus, asking for daily updates helps keep your team accountable. You can also use this time to ask if anyone has concerns or feedback, letting them know they can talk to you.
But emails and text messages only go so far. You need to see them, and they need to see you. Fortunately, various video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime are now available, making remote face-to-face meetings possible.
2. Use technology to your advantage
There are tons of virtual team management tools you can use, such as Trello, Asana, and Jira. These are perfect for simplifying and streamlining workflow. Once fully implemented, they’re a great way to monitor project and employee progress. What’s more, many of them are free to use.
3. Use different communication options
Email is the most common form of communication at the office, but this isn’t enough for a work from home setup. Video conferencing is a better means of communication when visual cues from face-to-face interaction are important. It also feels more personal, which helps lessen the sense of isolation among remote teams.
Group messaging tools are also a great alternative for quick collaborations that don’t need a lot of visual detail. They’re simpler to use, offer less formal conversations, and encourage instant feedback from your team members.
4. Establish rules
Remote work becomes more effective when managers provide guidelines and boundaries. Be clear when setting milestones, priorities, and performance goals. It’s also a good idea to set rules for the means, frequency, and timing of communication.
For example, video conferencing is for daily meetings, while instant messaging is for urgent matters. Additionally, let your employees know the best time to reach you.
5. Set expectations
Creating clear and realistic expectations can help your team figure out what they need to do. Help them understand how you’ll measure their performance. That means defining the scope, deliverables, and deadlines for each project or task your team is handling.
6. Focus on the outcome
Strictly monitoring your team’s work hours is not just stressful, it also sends a clear message that you don’t trust them. Some finish their tasks faster than others. Having confidence that your team is efficient enough to finish work before the day ends saves you more time than stressing over how much time they’ve actually worked. Focusing on their output is a better way of measuring your team’s performance.
7. Show empathy
Whether your team had a sudden shift to remote work or that’s your setup from the get-go, it’s important that you acknowledge what they’re going through. Check up on them from time to time, especially the ones new to the remote work setup.
Empathize with their struggles. Show them you understand the many challenges remote workers face and that you’re ready to listen to their concerns and anxieties. Such a simple gesture can make your team feel less isolated. Plus, it helps you build a strong, positive connection with them.
8. Trust your team
You’ll be tempted to micromanage, but breathing down someone’s neck isn’t the best way to manage virtual teams. When you try to control everything, you’re telling your team you don’t trust them to work on their own. This won’t just demotivate your employees, it can also damage their trust in you.
The best managers are good mentors and listeners. They inquire about workload progress and communicate respect and trust. We’re not saying you shouldn’t stay on top of things, but give your team enough breathing room to do their work. Trust that they’ll do their job and do it well.
9. Encourage remote social interactions
Who said remote workers couldn’t have fun? Technology makes everything possible now. Open a fun chat room, have coffee together, or do themed workdays. You can also order pizza and beer for everybody and have a virtual happy hour—preferably after work hours, of course. Do whatever reminds them they’re not an island working alone.
10. Lead by example
The best way to manage a team of remote workers is to lead by example. You’re the one who should teach them how to be productive while working remotely, not the other way around. If they see you slacking off, they’ll lose respect for you. Always be on time for work and look your best during your daily check-ins.
11. Celebrate success
Look for opportunities to celebrate your team’s success, no matter how big or small. Organize virtual recognition sessions to acknowledge all their efforts through video conferencing.
You can also stream your awarding ceremony on YouTube or other social media platforms and make it look like you’re at the Oscars. Be creative. Make it fun. Show them that social interaction isn’t lost just because you’re not working in the same room.
The tips we’ve shared are simple but not easy. Each requires attention, time, consistency, and experience to master. If it’s your first time handling remote workers, cut yourself some slack. You’ll eventually get the hang of it. The important thing here is to never give up on yourself and your team.