Compulsory face masks, social distancing mandates, stay at home orders — we’re living in unprecedented times, certainly unlike what current generations have experienced before.
In response to the times, many businesses have opted to go remote wherever they can. If you’re shifting from an in-person office environment to a remote one, you need advice on how to transition as seamlessly as possible. While the shift will require an adjustment, you can manage it gracefully with the below tips.
Acknowledge the Challenges of Remote Work
Before we discuss how to successfully work remotely, let’s discuss what makes remote work so challenging.
Challenge #1: No Face-to-Face Interactions
Over half of communication is non-verbal. We use body language, such as eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, and also intonation to communicate with each other. In a remote environment, your team members won’t have that instant feedback.
Challenge #2: Lack of Self Discipline
Let’s not kid ourselves. Being at home, especially if you’re not used to working remotely, can cause a ton of distractions. Working from home requires a level of self-discipline that’s not needed in a traditional office environment. Working remotely requires a shift in your worker’s mindset.
Challenge #3: Poor Communication
Email is the go-to communication for remote teams, but email isn’t the best way to stay in touch with your team on a daily basis. Email is slow and easy to get lost. Your team may spend a long time in limbo, not sure if one team member has actually seen their email. Plus, email doesn’t convey tone and can easily be read in a way that the sender didn’t originally intend.
Even though you’re committed to working remotely (maybe because you have no other choice), it’s still important that you look at the reasons why remote work is challenging. Understanding these challenges can lead to unique solutions that meet your teams’ individual needs.
Plan for Success
Now that you’re aware of the challenges of working remotely, it’s time to make a plan for how you’ll transition to a remote work environment. If your team is already working remotely and you don’t have a plan, you need one as soon as possible. Here are a few considerations:
- Choose a mobility infrastructure that works for your team members
- Decide which apps and software you’ll use to stay in communication
- Develop a list of procedures for your team to refer back to while transitioning to remote work
To manage your team remotely, you must first set expectations on three major areas:
- Communication – What communication methods will you use? How often would you like to communicate with your team? What are your expected work hours for the team?
- Job responsibilities – What are the assigned responsibilities of each team member? Is there a clear command hierarchy?
- Deadlines – What is your timetable for every project? Make sure that everyone on the team is on the same page.
Setting expectations provides clarity for team members, encourages accountability, and ensures transparency — all of which are necessary for a successful remote work arrangement.
Set Up Communication Channels
Communication is always important but it’s even more crucial when managing a remote team. You need to establish several communication channels. Consider the following:
- Email – Email is the standard channel for communicating, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always the best or fastest. While you should use email to share policies and procedures, it’s not good for daily interactions. For that, you’ll need to chat.
- Chat – Chat platforms, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, allow remote teams to stay in touch through the day. Like email, chat is asynchronous, however it tends to be more immediate because it lacks the same formality of email.
- Video Chat – In an online environment, you don’t have the benefit of being in-person and communicating via body language. However, one way to get around that is through video. You can pick up on visual cues through video, which makes it an indispensable part of your remote team communication.
Empower Your Team With the Right Resources
To manage your team remotely, you must use the right tools. In addition to communication and video conferencing apps, you need tools that empower your team and give them the ability to:
- Organise and oversee your entire project
- Manage time effectively
- Share files securely and collaborate successfully
- Ensure that your company’s resources are safe
- Recognise team members and reward their efforts
Track everything and figure out what works best for your team. This includes schedules, response times, and employee sentiment. Feedback is vital to this process. Conduct frequent surveys to identify what your team needs and how you can support them as they work remotely.
Focus on Onboarding
It’s important to orient your employees to your remote culture. Make a checklist so that you can successfully transition your team. Introduce them to the apps that you will use and provide them with any policies and procedures that you plan to abide by.
The more insight and support you can offer your team, the better, especially as remote work is largely uncharted territory. So much of the remote work environment is still experimental. You may need to make adjustments to your onboarding procedures as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
Clearly Communicate Deadlines
It’s important that your entire remote team is on the same page when it comes to project assignments and time tables. Everyone should know what’s expected and when. It’s even more crucial when you’re not in-person and typically must communicate asynchronously, which can delay completion.
Set a strict guideline and publish it publicly so that your entire team can see. This type of transparency reduces remote workplace frustration.
Meet With a Clear Agenda
When managing a remote team, don’t meet just for the sake of meeting. Meet because you need to resolve a specific issue. Otherwise, your meeting will waste time and resources that could be better diverted to elsewhere. Remember that a remote team can be more productive precisely because they aren’t obligated to “stay clocked in” for eight hours a day. Meetings fill that obligatory time, but when your team isn’t tethered to the office, meetings become unwelcome distractions.
However, if you’re committed to meeting, consider coming to a daily huddle with a specific agenda. Keep your meetings short and opt for video instead of voice-only so that you can socially connect and glean the benefit of non-verbal, visual communication.
Celebrate Your Team
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to motivate your team. It’s even more important to create a culture of team celebration. Congratulate and acknowledge your entire team when a project is a success. Recognise team members who’ve performed above and beyond their job duties to not only promote the individual but also to show the rest of your team which behaviors they ought to emulate.
Celebrating your team shows them that you value them. You can use monetary gifts, such as cash or gift cards, to incentivise good employee behaviour, but non-money gifts can also work, which include branded t-shirts and other company swag. This makes your employees, no matter how remote, feel part of a cohesive team.
Remember to be forgiving with yourself. Not everything will go perfectly, especially in the beginning. Be forgiving with yourself and your team during this transition. There are a lot of challenges to a remote arrangement, but the benefits outweigh the challenges (like less work distractions and more productivity). However, the switch to working remotely can be bumpy, so use the above tips to smooth the transition.