The Art of Managing Remote Workers Today
One of the greatest challenges faced by business owners and company managers in post-Covid times is that of managing staff remotely. Management needs to equate with resourcefulness and a very strong person-orientated approach is recommended when dealing with employees scattered locally, nationally or even internationally. The efficient use of collaboration technologies is a game some play wisely while others lose. The secret is to focus on a holistic approach to working productively and nurturing staff wellbeing.
GROUND RULES AND WORK PATTERNS
Rule No. 1 is to make a team decision on anticipated time patterns and availability of staff and managers: for example staff can work beyond the 9 to 5 usual work hours and can be accessible until 9 or 10 pm on any weekday (or even at weekends). Managers normally are available for support and advice 24/7. Common working challenges are discussed beforehand and industry or company solutions are frequently reviewed by staff and managers. Reporting and feedback mechanisms are integrated within the system, for everyone to understand and are made easily accessible. Targets and expected behaviour with customers and clients are agreed in advance and the proper training is given to staff to meet their work challenges. Focus is on work outputs and employee wellbeing, not on hours clocked in and out. Staff can have work done within their own time frames for example, meeting agreed deadlines instead of the usual 9 to 5 parameters.
COLLABORATION TECHNOLOGIES AND SHARING
The most common and current collaboration technologies such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet or Skype for video conferencing or the use of Slack and the same technical tools for messaging and document sharing are to be an integral part of the remote employee’s daily work life. It is essential to plan ahead for virtual meetings and virtual staff gatherings. The Cloud, One Drive, Microsoft Dynamics or HubSpot are highly recommended tools for file management, enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management. Users can easily be scattered all over the world and still share insights and information. The idea is to work anywhere, anytime. The new day manager needs to make sure that data is synchronised in real time and remote staff are happy to communicate and share work.
Training remote staff also requires a lot of resourcefulness and creative thinking as managers need to ensure that one-to-one interaction between the trainee and themselves as well as team training on the go are packaged using the right medium and respecting time zones. The manager can set aside specific days or times and choose preferred methods for training staff or for recurrent virtual huddles. Collaboration technologies are to be maximised for better people-orientated training.
Company information needs to be easily accessible by each and everyone so that work productivity can be enhanced. An intranet or a company newsletter for example or document sharing systems via One Drive and the Cloud are the manager's tools to keep staff informed of the latest trends and procedures within the company, build the team spirit and motivate staff.
TEAM SPIRIT AND A SENSE OF BELONGING
Maybe the most creative task for small business owners and managers is to foster team spirit among geographically dispersed staff, maintain a feeling of comradeship and allow social banter in cyberspace. Virtual huddles, video conferencing and messaging platforms are including some social space where people are exchanging social banter and small talk online before the proper virtual meetings start. Other popular methods are virtual parties e.g. virtual pizza parties or virtual office parties where pizza or other company gifts are delivered to all team members at the time of a video conference. Also the messaging platform can be used all the time for non-work conversations to instil team spirit.
One-to-one conversations between each member of staff and the assigned manager are also to be favoured (maybe as daily check-ins). Each person needs to feel valued and understand, agree and empathise with personal and team goals. Emails for example are not enough to create rapport between staff and their managers.
Another favourite method to instil team spirit is to involve the team in selecting new hires. This helps team members appraise their own values and foster a sense of belonging with new staff.
THE WAY FORWARD
Overall the focus is on employee wellbeing for enhanced work productivity, smooth team collaboration and excellent customer service. Managers have to focus on staff morale and motivation in a work from home set up and be constantly aware of what's going on regarding human interactions within their teams. They should go the extra mile and help remote staff create a routine at home in some cases so that boundaries between work and home life are not blurred. In other situations managers can help staff include regular activities such as dog-walking or food shopping within the working hour so that availability to respond to calls is not reduced. Old work patterns and prejudice need to give way to a new way of thinking. The human approach and a sense of empathy are key in remote management.
Here at Associate Planet, a boutique IT and technology consultancy, we can help you find the right strategy to bring about remote management and create a happy and productive workforce irrespective of time zones and work locations. Call Richard on 07831 196534 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for an informal discussion.
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