This year has been the catalyst that supercharged the rise of the distributed workforce. That means that for many solo pros, small businesses, and even large-scale organizations, the need to adapt to managing remote workers has skyrocketed.
In fact, Upwork estimates that 26.7% of Americans will be working from home through 2021 and that 36.2 million Americans–22% of the workforce–will remain working remotely by 2025. This represents a staggering 87% increase from the number of remote workers prior to the pandemic.
So, whether you work from home, a coffee shop, a coworking space, or a satellite office, there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself managing remote workers in some capacity before long.
Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 11 tips to do it successfully.
1. Implement the Right Tools
If you’re going to be managing a remote team, the first thing you need to do is have your systems in place. That means things like:
Instant messaging apps like Slack for quick conversations that don’t require a call and aren’t worth an email
Project management tools like Trello for keeping track of where deliverables stand as well as deadlines and notes
You should also make sure every remote worker you interact with has access to these tools so that nothing is lost in communication.
2. Define Parameters for Availability
One of the perks of remote working is that it doesn’t require you to be in the office. But this also presents challenges in terms of when people are “online,” what their work hours are, and when they need to be available for meetings. You should decide right off the bat whether you want your remote work relationship to be structured like a traditional 9-to-5 office environment or if flexibility will be accepted. This way, nobody feels confused or misled about what’s expected of them.
3. Connect One-on-One Often
A common downfall of remote working is that it can be easy to feel disconnected from one another. In fact, 54% of remote workers feel disconnected from their company. For that reason, connecting with remote colleagues one-on-one is critical on a regular basis. Even if it’s quick meetings to check-in, the value of staying in touch when working remotely can’t be overstated.
4. Don’t’ Overlook the Value of Chit-Chat
When you work remotely, you lose that “watercooler conversation” that happens in a regular office environment. This socialization is vital for maintaining strong relationships. So, rather than discouraging chit-chat when working remotely, you should encourage it–especially with tools like Slack. It allows you to keep that healthy banter with colleagues in order to maintain a strong and positive rapport.
5. Give Some Leeway and Be Flexible
We just mentioned flexibility in a previous point, but it’s worth elaborating on. Remote work has been well-documented to provide an increase in work-life balance (75% of remote workers agree, according to a survey by Polycom Inc.)which in turn benefits workers’ mental wellbeing. This doesn’t just benefit them, either. It benefits you do. Believe it or not, remote workers have been shown to be 20% to 25% more productive than their in-office colleagues. So, it’s advisable that you adopt a mindset of flexibility with your remote colleagues and be understanding when they need to attend to personal matters during the workday–so long as they communicate it in advance!
6. Give Praise and Celebrate Successes Often
Celebrating wins can be easily overlooked when working remotely. It’s important to make sure you don’t lose track of this, though. Giving praise and celebrating success often reinforces workers’ morale and sense of purpose, in turn helping to create more inspiration and productivity.
7. Over-communicate with Remote Colleagues
In a traditional office setting, it’s easy to do things like drop by someone’s office to talk to them, check-in on the status of a project, or to make note of when people are away from the office or unavailable. But working remotely means you don’t have that same access to people. So, it’s essential that you over-communicate with remote colleagues, even if it feels a bit annoying. It’s better to be proactive with people than to leave them guessing.
8. Adapt the Length of Your Meetings: Virtual meetings can be draining because they lack the engagement of traditional in-person meetings. For that reason, you might want to consider adapting the length of your virtual meetings accordingly when working with remote folks. Don’t stretch a meeting out to 45 minutes when a half-hour will do. Have some chit-chat, get to the priorities, and let everyone go as quickly as you can.
9. Find Ways to Build Connection
The lack of in-person facetime when working remotely can be tolling on relationships. So, look for ways to keep connections alive, even if it’s doing things like Zoom Happy Hours so people can socialize outside the context of work.
10. Avoid Micromanaging at All Costs
Micromanaging can be annoying and damaging at the best of times. Micromanaging via virtual platforms while working remotely is even worse. Do your best to trust your remote workers rather than micromanaging them from a distance. Your professional relationships will benefit from your ability to do so. This leads us to our final point…
11. Focus on Outcomes Rather Than Activity
We already know that remote work presents a ton of benefits for work-life balance, productivity, and morale. So, try to shift your focus to prioritize outcomes rather than activity. Don’t worry what time of the day somebody gets something done, as long as it’s delivered on time. Don’t worry about whether somebody’s in the “office” at three o’clock as long as they’re available for scheduled meetings and getting their work done in full and on time.
It seems that remote work is here to stay. So, there’s no better time than the present to start fine-tuning your skills when it comes to managing remote workers.
If you work remotely and you’re looking for a professional workspace loaded with incredible amenities and support staff, a coworking space may be perfect for you.
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