managing remote teams

The reality that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is changing the idea of work can no longer be disputed. By the end of March 2020, over 100 countries had instituted some form of lockdown, confining millions of people to their homes and forcing many companies to ask their employees to work remotely.

Even though COVID-19 has added to the number of people working remotely, the World Economic Forum reports that an estimated 7% of employees in the US already had the option to work from home before the pandemic arrived. This implies that the virus may have given a boost to a trend that was already moving in the direction of remote work. 

Figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 23.8% of full-time employees worked an average of 3.40 hours at home per day in 2019 (Source).

Those who may dismiss the move towards remote work experienced during COVID-19 as a passing fad probably has not seen the numbers. The research and consulting service, Global Workplace Analytics, reports that “surveys showed 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time.” The same organization estimates that, by the end of 2021, up to 30% of the global workforce will be working from home several days a week.

For those managers who suddenly find themselves responsible for supervising remote employees, this may feel like being thrown into the deep end. Indeed, managing virtual teams is something that needs to be done in a specific way. This implies that, as a manager, you will not just continue with business as usual.

We have put together 27 tips for successfully managing remote teams to help managers sail across a new normal.

The Challenges of Managing Remote Teams

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With more employees working remotely, the job of the manager is also evolving. Managers are left wondering how they are supposed to manage people they rarely see in person. This presents new challenges that managers have to deal with; hence, the tips we present in this article.

To understand the 27 tips in this article, let’s start by looking at some of the problems they seek to solve.

Failing to Differentiate Between Remote Work and Traditional Work

Several elements make remote work different from the traditional work structure. Thus, remote work requires different skills from those needed in the typical work arrangement. For instance, remote work calls for better time management, the ability to follow written procedures, and the knack to communicate using information and telecommunication technologies effectively. 

Both the employees and the manager may not have remote work experience and assume that the rules that applied in the office can be taken as they are and transferred to the remote environment.

The differences between remote work and typical work imply that managers may need to start looking at how to hire employees effectively and how they onboard them. If this is not taken into account, managers may find themselves with employees who would be great in the co-location environment, but struggle in a remote setting.

Lack of Clear Expectations

As a manager, it would be a mistake to think that since people already know what they should do in the office, it should be clear to them what is expected when working remotely. Thus, it is vital to ensure that everybody clearly knows what is expected. For instance, you may want to look at issues like when team members are expected to respond to communication, or when they should attend virtual meetings.

Lack of Communication

When employees come to the office in the morning, it’s easy to discuss ideas with them when you meet at the cafeteria or wait for a meeting to start. However, when they work remotely, it’s easy to neglect such engagement. Thus, managers of remote employees need to consider how they will use different forms of communication to replace the face-to-face interaction at the office.

Even though it may be exciting in the beginning, remote workers may feel isolated and lonely. If the manager has not devised methods on how to deal with this, it could become debilitating.

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by Ben Aston, People Managing People

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