The trend of remote working has increased in the past five years with a net increase of 44%. And COVID really kicked the trend on to a new plane. The sharp increase of telecommuting culture seen soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world was immense. And it is expected that 73% of all departments will have remote teammates by 2028.
The growth in telecommuting also showed that most remote workers deliver better productivity when working from home. But unlike traditional in-office employees, remote worker integration is different. Communicating must be intentional and frequent. Structures for regular interaction need to be in place. Especially voice and video calling. Facetime with remote teams is crucial when integrating remote teammates in the work process of an organization.
Let’s look at some best practices and tips for managers to make their remote teams successful.
The successful integration of remote teams in organizational culture starts with identification and addressing the challenges remote workers might be facing. It also includes the challenges of managing remote workers for organizations.
Leading a remote team is not different from an in-office team when it comes to performance management. We know what to expect and when to expect it.
However, the organization and management of remote teammates require a different perspective from the manager’s side. For example, instructions must be clear and communication of expectations should be thoughtful. Clear communication is important in any context but more so in remote teams since much of the communication is in writing and therefore body language and other non verbal communication are not available to emphasize points.
Business owners, managers, and supervisors face the three most common challenges for managing remote workers:
There is no, or very rare, face time of managers with the employees and between employees.
-Communication breakdowns and bottlenecks
-Distractions in communication
Similarly, remote employees also face some challenges when working from home:
-Maintain a work-life and home-life balance
-Communication gaps due to difference of time zones
-Accountability and management issues
Viable solutions are available for a smooth and efficient remote work environment.
However a proper management approach is required to find the solutions. A manager that looks to develop a high functioning team and knows how to get people moving in the direction without too much micromanagement will get the most out of any team, and remote teams will be no different. That is not to say that other management styles will not succeed, there are certain tactics and standards that will not be available given the remote nature. At the end of the day, you will be able to get the same if not better productivity from remote staff as long as you handle them with just as much care as other employees.
Most of the challenges in telecommuting are miscommunication or no communication. Unlike an in-office space, two people working on the same project cannot visit each other’s cubicle for a quick chat about the ongoing project. Similarly, without a set up geared for remote work, managers can find it hard to get in touch with an employee for a revision or change demanding prompt action.
As already mentioned, setting up structured and intentional communication is key. Having scheduled meetings, policies on how routine messages are sent and received, and setting up the right tech stack are key to ensuring that this part of remote team management is nicely tucked away. We will get into some of these details in later parts.
The emails, messages, or calls might get missed, increasing the frustration on both sides. Managers and employees need to come to a table and make some agreed-upon communication standards for quick turnaround time. There are so many SaaS software and platforms to manage remote teams. Peach uses a combination of email and Slack to ensure communications are rapid and fluid in the company.
Secondly, there must be a standard about how often a remote worker must check in. Peach recommends meeting at least once a week over video to interact with remote teams for fostering the inter-communication between employees. Initiating daily messages is also highly recommended to gain communication momentum at the onset of the relationship.
Standard operating procedures and policies on productivity expectations, accountability, and communication between employees and management should be developed. For example, when a project team needs to notify AR to create an invoice to a remote worker a direct email may not be the best option. This creates a single point of failure and could end up getting lost. However, having a standard process with a dedicated channel of communication (be it a chat channel or a group email) will ensure everyone knows where the email requests are going to appear.
The key here is to identify channels of communication that are important to your company and standardize it as much as possible. Peach for example uses a chat program for internal communication only that way we can be certain if anything comes from that program it will be from someone within Peach. Conversely, email is mainly a tool for external communication. Having this distinction not only keeps the channels cleaner, but it also helps to know ahead of time some of the key context for the inbound messages.
Having dedicated channels of communication is essential too. Get a sales only email, same with accounting, customer support, or any other department. Have all stakeholders and key people on that channel to create visibility and so everyone is in the loop.
These may seem like obvious good communication tips. And you would be right. Any organization should be striving to tighten up communication gaps. Good communication, however necessary in local workspaces, is much more important in remote work conditions because of the fewer spontaneous interactions. Creating dedicated channels that are visible to all that need to see it will create an environment where the information flows naturally to folks that need it, and decreases the chances of things slipping between the cracks.
For maximum productivity, it requires managers to put all the puzzle pieces in order. The foundation of remote work is technology and the internet. A remote set up should include the following:
-Presentation templates and supplies as most of the communication and discussion are online
-Cloud storage and servers for improved online security and data safety.
-Cloud based software as much as possible. Cut down on desktop versions.
-Chat and messaging software like Slack or Discord.
-Easy to use audio and video software, preferably one that can make calls at least internally
-Ensure that every person has good internet, a good microphone and headset that provides clear sound too. At Peach we work with our members in order to ensure quality in this area as good audio quality is very important to a successful remote engagement.
-Any additional items needed will depend on the type and nature of your organization
For the successful integration of remote employees in organizational culture, training is also essential. It is true in both cases if you are hiring remote workers or transitioning in-office employees into remote teams.
You can set up calls, send emails, voice messages, or other communication methods to your employees for follow-up on assigned tasks. A one-on-one video session to discuss project updates, provide suggestions and feedback can also improve the culture of inclusion. This increases compliance as the employees feel motivated when they are accountable. Self-management is one of the biggest challenges faced by most remote teammates. Follow-up is the best way to help your remote teams overcome this challenge.
We have been emphasizing the importance of communication, standards, policies, and clear terms for remote working success. Another initiative to reduce communication breaks and bottlenecks is to create tip sheets and video guides for a smooth workflow. You can create a questionnaire to take feedback from remote teams about how to foster work productivity and communication during work.
The feedback can be employed to make short PDFs about FAQs, videos about different procedures, and workflows, etc. Some topics to cover in your tip sheets can be on work-life balance, self-management in remote working, managing tasks during different hours of days, mental wellbeing, social security, etc.
In a nutshell, remote employees, just like in-office employees, are an important part of your organization. Therefore, make sure to take all necessary steps to make telecommuting a success in your organization.
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