Remote working is a godsend to business owners. Whether you’re looking for a developer with hard-to-come-by skills, a native translator of rare German dialect, a Lean Manufacturing content writer or another niche professional, finding them online is not a big problem now.
In the UK, remote working is on the rise: BBC found a 74 percent increase in the number of employees working from home between 2008 and 2018. This translates into over 1.54 million people, and they come from a variety of industries as well as companies of all sizes.
With remote working becoming increasingly popular, companies seek out leaders with skills to manage remote employees. This is, indeed, quite a unique challenge, considering the barriers like time zone difference, a lack of physical presence, and the need to collaborate on online projects.
Here are some of the most effective strategies for making a remote team successful.
1. Set up the Communications
Many team leaders make a mistake by failing to outline the communication plan for remote workers. With all those online communication and tools available, it seems that the choice of the most suitable one is enough.
Setting up an effective communication plan, however, is more complex. The leader needs to:
- Define what needs to be communicated and when, e.g., the growth team leader reports weekly to the department head on 11 am on Friday
- Identify the primary use of the information, e.g., the user of the work of a graphic designer is the growth team
- How the communications will be held, e.g. live chat, Google hangouts meeting, or a combination of meetings
- Who is responsible for making meeting reports; for example, the head of the content team prepares meeting agenda and reports
- Distribute goals for each quarter or another time period. If you do your work in sprints, make sure that each team leader has the goals for each member.
It’s totally up to the leader to ensure that a remote team knows how to communicate effectively. I can’t stress the importance of communicating enough, as it can really make or break your work.
In fact, that’s why having effective communication skills and previous remote work experience are some of the best skills that hiring managers look for in remote employees.
2. Have One-On-One Meetings with Each Member
This is a technique that many leaders use to understand how to best engage every team member, and it totally works for remote teams, too. Whether you’re a new team leader or an existing leader whose team just received a new project, hosting one-on-one meetings could to:
- Understand what kind of challenges every team member faces with a particular project
- Understand how to motivate and engage a team member
- Share feedback and get feedback on your performance as a leader
- Keep yourself updated on the progress made by the team
- Let them know that you’re thinking about them and don’t want them to feel isolated.
To make employees feel appreciated and keep them motivated, businesses also often use talent growth strategies for remote teams, including arranging events for knowledge exchange and providing access to online courses.
There are virtually no downsides to having regular one-on-ones with every team member, you’re letting them know that you’re there for them.
3. Set Your Expectations Early
There’s a lot of expectations that team leaders set to ensure that their teams work effectively, including:
- Availability. Establish work hours for every team member from the very beginning; it helps with avoiding misunderstandings due to different time zones etc.
- Timely meetings. Being present at every meeting can be a challenge for remote employees, so try to ensure that most of them can be there. This includes setting times and sending invitations on whatever calendar app you’re using
- Response times. It can be frustrating to wait for hours until someone responds to your emails, so try to negotiate some standard response times to keep the work going
- Deadlines. Share your vision of work with the rest of the team and discuss how you should treat the most typical tasks; for example, you can agree that doing a specific task shouldn’t exceed a specific timeframe and plan from there.
4. Host Quick Sync Meetings
The practice of daily stand-up meetings comes from software development teams. Even though remote teams generally don’t practice it because of the obvious reasons, using it actually makes a ton of sense.
Just think about it: every day at a specific time, every team member writes a couple of lines describing what they did yesterday and their plans for today. This keeps you in sync with everybody else and updates you on the project progress.
These meetings can really help you as a manager. There are two major benefits to expect.
First, they keep you updated on what everyone is doing. Each team member participating in a daily scrum meeting has to answer three important questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What tasks are you planning to complete today?
- Are these issues blocking your work?
The answers to these questions are helpful for the leader to understand how the team is doing.
Second, daily remote scrum meetings are also about the social aspect and collaboration. Even a quick face-to-face video meeting is a good way to bring everyone together and have a conversation.
Here’s what to talk about during these daily meetings (on top of checking the three abovementioned questions):
- Come up with a list of topics on the spot based on the recommendations from the members. No agenda unless absolutely necessary
- Make some room for non-work related conversations. Otherwise, the motivation to participate might suffer
- Always ask at least one question for every team member to increase their engagement and get more details on what they’re doing.
5. Use the Essential Tools
There’s no way you’re going to effectively manage a remote team without tools. Thankfully, there’s a whole bunch of them available out there for just about every need.
Here are some of the best.
- Slack. A must-to-have app for team collaboration, communication, file sharing, announcements, and meetings
- Zapier. A work automation tool for remote teams that connect over 900 different web apps for email management, project collaboration, customer support, eCommerce, and others
- Time Doctor. This tool is designed to help leaders track team time and keep a log of each member’s productivity
- Zoom. A go-to app for video meetings for remote teams designed specifically to make online meetings easy and comfortable.
Remote Work is Here to Stay
The number of remote workers in the UK grows every day, so the demand for leaders able to manage remote teams will also increase. It’s easy to understand why remote work becomes more popular, so companies should prepare for the day when a share of its employees won’t be working in the office.
To make sure that the remote workforce is as productive as possible, effective management is a must. That’s where the strategies like these ones come in, and they should make a lot of difference for many companies in the next decade.
Author’s bio. Daniela McVicker is a blogger and a freelance writer who works closely with B2B and B2C businesses providing blog writing, copywriting, and ghostwriting services. Currently she blogs for Grabmyessay and Trustmypaper. When Daniela isn’t writing, she loves to travel, read romance and science fiction, and try new wines.