Working from home has become massively popular due to the coronavirus pandemic. Slack estimates that by the end of March, 16 million American workers had started to work remotely. It's thought that many more now are.
Remote teams aren't going anywhere fast. Twitter has announced that it will, from now on, always allow employees to work remotely. Remote companies are going to be more and more common.
This means that knowing how to be a better remote manager and knowing how to manage a distributed team across different time zones is a vital skill for IT professionals. How can we adapt to this new normal? What are the primary skills necessary for managing remote employees?
In this article, we'll advise you to help make the shift to managing remote teams long term a little easier. Ready to learn more? Then please, keep reading.
When managing remote team members from your home office, communication skills are of the utmost importance. It's not as easy as it would be face-to-face, but you can still do all you can to make sure that you communicate well with your employees.
Slack and Microsoft Teams are both great for messaging employees, but there's a fundamental problem inherent in relying on them. That problem is a lack of verbal cues. Text can only convey the core part of a message; it misses out on tone, volume, and many other cues that are part of verbal communication.
This means that you shouldn't only use Slack or another IM program when you're managing remote teams. If you need to communicate something mission-critical and avoid all ambiguity, turn to video conferencing software. Video calls allow for verbal and non-verbal cues to be picked on.
Phone calls will also be useful for managing remote teams and can be easier to arrange than a video call.
Project management can be made more effective with regular check-ins. Why not have a phone call or video meeting with your employees every morning to assign work for the day?
Your remote team members are not to be left isolated from your top-level employees or any who are working locally. As an effective manager you need to make sure that they have the right tools to do their jobs.
Part of this is supplying your team working with the right tools, but it's also important that they know how to use them. For instance, if you are asking employees to use an FTP program or access their work computer remotely, training them on how to do this is critical. Now is the time to invest in IT training for your employees: you don't want anyone struggling while working remotely.
You should also create a central hub for resources if you don't already have one. These could include manuals, procedure guides, and more. When done, send a link to all employees so that they can easily get the info they need at any time.
One of the most useful tips for managing a remote team is to embrace the different work styles that different employees work with. Some employees may work different patterns and be productive at different times of day than if they were in the office.
Managing remote employees is not about breathing down their neck and ensuring that they're never slacking. It's about setting goals. Set realistic, attainable, and managed goals for your employees.
Announce these goals in a virtual team meeting on Zoom or another video conferencing program, then reinforce them at regular intervals. The goals should also be designed with each of the product teams in mind: there's no one-size-fits-all solution.
The only time that you should look at individual workers' productivity and activity is if they aren't meeting their goals. If they are, that's all you need to be concerned with.
One of the most common complaints we hear from every employee who works at home is how isolated remote workers can feel. Being in your own home all day can make you feel cut off from the rest of humanity. This has even been memorialized in webcomic form, and it's a little too accurate.
Were you managing employees in person, you would congratulate them on good work and let them know if you think they can improve. Managing remote teams means that this is even more important.
If you think an employee could do with some constructive criticism, talk to them on the phone or schedule a video call to put them back on the right path. If an employee has excelled and performed well, get in touch with them to let them know that you appreciate their work.
You should also consider giving employees opportunities to socialize with each other. For instance, you could have a Slack channel dedicated to non-work chat or ask how your team members are doing during the daily check-in.
Working from home has some tremendous challenges in terms of distractions and other drains on productivity. While you shouldn't be demanding that your employees work a certain way, it can be helpful when managing remote teams to help them create a good work environment.
If they don't have the equipment that they need, such as a laptop or home computer, pay for one. If they need specialist support to cope with disabilities, pay for that.
You should also help them design a good workplace away from distractions. Let them know that you're here for them if they need any help.
Managing remote teams can be difficult, as can working from home. We offer a selection of IT training courses that can help make remote working less of a struggle.
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