Remote work is becoming the new normal, more than an exception. This is why managing a remote workplace is a necessary skill for leaders to learn and develop. In this video, I will share with you 5 tips on how to manage your growing remote workforce.
In 2021, a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that more than 40% of employed Australians worked from home. Many companies, including the Disney Company, have job roles that are considered remote on a permanent basis. There are many advantages to remote work, not just for employees but also for the companies themselves. It opens the company to more candidates, because the geographic location no longer becomes a limitation for work. It is also more inclusive, as it opens job roles to individuals who may usually be passed over because of their inability to work in an office setting, such as parents with young kids or even individuals with disabilities.
What are the best practices for managing remote employees? What do managers and business owners need to consider when they are managing a remote workforce?
- Create a remote workplace culture
Culture is a way of doing things. We do things differently in the office, which means we need to set a different tone when not everybody works in the office. The focus of building and nurturing a remote workplace culture should be in belonging—in making everyone feel that they belong in the team.
Google has found that high performance teams thrive in an environment with psychological safety. How will team members feel safe if they don’t feel that they belong to begin with?
A culture where everybody feels that they belong begins with clear, honest, and respectful communication. Communicate expectations on how to behave and how you measure performance clearly. Provide honest and constructive feedback, and make sure that you deliver it in a respectful manner.
- 2. Take advantage of virtual communication tools that adhere to your remote workplace culture.
Contextualise your communication. In the absence of face to face communication, some non-verbal communication cues are lost—body language that convey emotions, for example. In the office setting, we hold formal and informal discussions. In a remote workplace, we should also establish communication rules of conduct that distinguish between formal and casual conversations.
Previously, email was the primary mode of virtual communication in the office setting. However, email is not typically an ideal platform for casual conversations. You may want to use instant messaging platforms such as Slack, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams for these types of conversations. For more structured communication required in managing projects, you may want to use project management platforms such as Monday, Asana, or Trello.
- Learn how to coach and train remote employees
Just as communication changes in a remote workplace, so does mentoring employees. The downside of remote work is that it is a lot easier to feel isolated from your teammates. It becomes important for managers to regularly check in on their team members, perhaps even more regularly than in the office setting.
Managers should learn how to be more intentional in connecting with their teams. It is helpful if they talk to individual members of their team about what they enjoy doing, what they don’t, what they want to start doing. In these conversations, it is appropriate to start working on a training and development plan that can be incorporated into their workload.
4) Learn how to focus on results
The most common reason why many managers seem to prefer having a team onsite rather than remote is because they don’t know how to keep tabs with their team members. The traditional office setup placed a value on showing up and staying late as a measure of commitment. A lot of evidence shows that that is not true—and in fact, in hustle cultures, it is counterproductive because it places a lot of stress on team members.
Managers should instead focus on results and team performance, rather than on how many hours team members spent working and how they spent these hours. Managers should learn to nurture employee autonomy—allow them to decide on what, how, when, and where to work as long as the work that they are accountable for gets done.
There’s no reason to mistrust an employee that you need to micromanage them. Because if you don’t trust them to do the work that they were hired to do, why hire them in the first place?
5) Train the next generation of virtual staffing leaders.
Managers are also responsible for nurturing the next generation of remote team managers. The best way to teach is by example, because team members have a model to follow.
This is also why it is important for remote team managers today to embrace flexible working arrangements. This entails understanding why employees prefer to work remotely and that life sometimes happens, which will affect some aspects of work. But it is also important for managers to learn how to hold their team members accountable for their work.
Thanks to technology, remote work is going to be the norm. This is why managers today need to learn how to manage a remote team—it’s an important skill to possess. Managers need to learn how to build and nurture a culture of belonging. They need to learn how to communicate with team members using different communication platforms to contextualise dialogue. They need to learn how to mentor their team members and develop them into the next generation of remote managers. Most importantly, they need to learn how to embrace autonomy and flexibility by focusing on results not hours spent working.