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Tips for Managing a Remote Work Staff

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies were transitioning some or all of their workforce into a remote environment. Improved software and video conferencing tools have made it easier for workers to collaborate and meet in a virtual environment. Companies also benefit from reduced overhead and greater flexibility to choose from an expanded pool of candidates.

But it is impossible to deny that the pandemic has hastened companies' decisions to go remote and comply with state laws and keep their employees safe. While we don't know what the future holds regarding the pandemic, some tech companies are already moving to a remote environment or providing an option to all employees, allowing them to work at home permanently.

We have listed some of the benefits of a remote workforce. Still, there are some challenges some companies will have to overcome to manage remote teams and ensure productivity and sustained morale successfully.

This article will focus mainly on small business owners and managers who may be leading remote teams for the very first time, but it will also touch on best practices for making the most out of your remote environment to stay productive.

Do you need to make a change to your management style

The New York Times took a deep dive into the history of remote management and how some of the biggest companies fared. In many cases, they failed for various reasons, but one that was commonly cited was this sense of mistrust. Managers could no longer see their employees all of the time, so were they really working? To address this, managers would schedule additional meetings and micro-manage more, which affected employee morale, so nobody was happy.

As a manager, does your management style align with a remote environment? The important thing is not to stress or begin overcompensating as your team will see this and start panicking themselves. Your team has had to adjust to working at home, where they may have more distractions or had to take a crash course in Zoom and other collaborative software. You may need to make a few adjustments as well to lead your team effectively.

It's been more than a few months since many companies have gone remote, so you probably have some idea of what has worked and what hasn't worked so far. Here are some tips from Harvard Business Review, Gartner, and other business experts on how to manage remote employees more effectively.

manager having a remote meeting with employees

Set clear role expectations

As a manager, your team will be looking to you to establish clear guidelines on what's to be expected of them. They will want to know any changes in the company or team policies, if and when they should check in with you, how to collaborate with other team members, what they should do about after-hour communications, etc. Remember, your team won't be together, and each member of your team may feel isolated as they no longer are in a shared setting. Communicating expectations early and often is vital to keep everyone on the same page and eliminate any staff confusion.

Rethink how you measure productivity

Flexibility is going to be a significant component of how to manage remote teams successfully. Workers now at home may have distractions or interruptions that could affect how they could get work done. A team member may be no less productive, but how and when they get work done may be different now that they are home full-time.

While determining how to manage your remote employees, be sure to discuss with team members one-on-one or as a group any issues they may have with processes in a remote environment to come up with solutions that enhance output or communications. Productivity tools can help you identify who is adjusting to remote work well and who may need additional help.

Provide team members with the necessary technology

As we said in the introduction to this guide, many companies were allowing employees to work remotely part-time or full-time because of emerging technology that facilitates more vital collaboration. Email and phone may work in a pinch, but they are not enough to replace on-site communication and cooperation.

Collaboration software allows team members to work on documents together in real-time, video conference, text chat, set up meetings, and more. There are so many platforms out there, so if you don't have these tools already, it may be something for your leadership team to review.

Additionally, make sure everyone has an excellent remote setup, including compliant hardware and a good internet connection, to ensure they can perform their job effectively. You should speak with your IT team to determine what is needed for performance and security.

man participating in a remote interview

Engage regularly with team members

Isolation is a concern for working remotely. Humans are social animals. There could be some behavioral challenges they may need to overcome and adapt to as they go from working in an office environment to working at home. Try to stay in contact with your staff at least once a day, if possible, to help them feel motivated and valued. You don't have to have a formal meeting every day. Still, a simple chat message or quick email can go a long way in helping your staff feel connected with you and the rest of the team, which will ultimately help them produce stronger work and collaborate better with other team members.

Display confidence but also empathy

There is an article in the Harvard Business Review that examines how emotional intelligence impacts performance. The truth is that as a manager, how you act and feel will impact how others act and feel as well. If you are showing confidence, you can expect your employees to show confidence as well. If you are outwardly angry or anxious, your employees may start to worry or disengage in response. You are certainly allowed to have a bad day, but try to see if there are ways to mitigate any negative feelings, so they don't affect your employees.

And remember, you are human, as are your employees. If you check-in with a staff member and they are feeling down, it's okay to take your mask of confidence off for a minute and show empathy and humility. We are all in this together, and all of us are learning to cope with these new environmental conditions. Your job as a manager is to provide support.

Tips for Hiring Remote Employees

Whether your organization plans to go back to the office when there is a vaccine or if remote work will be a permanent staffing structure, you will always need talented team members to help your organization grow and thrive in any business climate. Things might be a little different now, but you must do some tried-and-true things to find the right people for your organization.

  1. If you can, conduct the interview remotely. Even if your company is back in the office, it's probably a good idea right now to schedule remote interviews for at least the first few steps of the hiring process to ensure the safety of you, your employees, and the candidates.
  2. Create more digital materials. Now is the perfect time to update your Careers page, add a chatbot to your website, and create other digital materials that help answer questions about your company and available jobs, so candidates know what to expect and how to convey their relevant skills and experience best.
  3. Invest in your hiring tools. Just as you should invest in technology to enhance collaboration within your team, it's a good idea to consider investing in high-quality remote interviewing technology that facilitates interviews and assessments, enhances scheduling, and provides ongoing support.
  4. Set up a consistent process. It's essential to coordinate with your hiring team and ensure everyone is on the same page and committed to the hiring process. Write out steps and interview questions in advance, so there's less risk of spontaneity or instances of unprofessionalism that may affect the interview and the candidates' feelings of your company.
  5. Consider hiring professionals. If you don't have the time or resources to find high-quality talent effectively, it's okay. There are professional staffing organizations out there that specialize in helping companies find candidates that are not only experienced but are a good fit for the company. Outsourcing staffing services may free you to address other business issues that are impacting your organization.

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