In the last few years, organizations across many industries have become increasingly open to the idea of offering remote working arrangements. In lieu of traditional onsite work setups in which employees report to an office or equivalent facility every day, fully remote positions allow them to work from home or from any other location with the help of digital communication tools. The advantages companies stand to gain from offering fully remote or hybrid setups include significant boosts to productivity, business flexibility, and job satisfaction.
However, although work from home (WFH) setups afford organizations undeniable benefits, leading remote teams of workers has also historically been challenging for managers. The appropriate technology, communication strategies, and workflows required for a remote team to function well may not always be the same as those that an onsite team needs. More traditional managers who are used to measuring employee productivity in terms of visible activity and “desk time” may struggle in particular to readjust and redefine their expectations in this vastly different setup.
If you’re interested in work from home management jobs but have never managed a remote team before, know that the experience isn’t without its challenges. However, having an idea of what to expect and what best practices generally work for managers in similar positions can help you find your footing in your new role. The following tips will help you lead and supervise a team of work-from-home employees effectively:
Familiarize Yourself with Common WFH Challenges
There are a few common challenges that business owners and supervisors working primarily with remote employees tend to face. One of these is employees’ lack of “face time” with their colleagues and managers. Many virtual employees can feel isolated and disengaged from their work due to this marked lack of meaningful in-person communication.
Communication bottlenecks and breakdowns are also common among WFH teams, as it’s not possible for employees to simply seek out their supervisors and co-workers in the office whenever they have a question or concern. Instant messages and emails may be convenient, but it’s also easy for these communications to pile up or go unnoticed, particularly on busy days.
Lastly, employees working remotely often have to do so in environments that aren’t expressly designed for work in the way that office spaces are. Many will be working from their homes or from public establishments like coffee shops or co-working spaces. Hence, they’ll often be contending with noise, cramped or suboptimal workspaces, other responsibilities demanding their attention, and many more sources of distraction during the workday.
The good news is that it’s entirely possible to address or work around these issues in ways that benefit both you and your team. Once you’ve identified and learned a little more about the specific challenges you may face, you can then begin brainstorming possible solutions. As every remote work setup has its own unique needs, patience and empathy will be especially helpful.
Establish Clear Standards and Expectations
Some remote workers, particularly those who are new to work-from-home setups, may struggle to understand what behaviors are expected of them and how their productivity and performance will be measured under this working model. Thus, it’s important for you to discuss productivity standards and other expectations upfront with your remote team.
Make sure that all discussions of expectations and standards are well-documented and that the information communicated in them is readily available in written form for your team’s reference. Some things you may want to write down include the required work hours or shift schedules, the digital communication and collaboration platforms the team will be using, and other important company policies on remote work. If you want to implement measures like daily huddles or weekly one-on-one check-ins, be prepared to explain the purpose you intend these to serve, as well as how and when they’ll take place.
Provide the Right Tools for Remote Work
Leveraging the right technologies is currently one of the most efficient ways to get around the challenges of working from home, particularly those that have to do with communication and interpersonal contact. Digital solutions make it easier for remote employees to communicate both with their supervisors and each other. Reliable video conferencing and instant messaging programs, secure cloud-based file-sharing platforms, online collaboration software, and other similar tools all help employees complete their tasks on time and to a high standard of quality.
Many conventional work environments already struggle to maintain efficient and open communication systems. This difficulty increases significantly in remote setups, where miscommunication has the potential to derail work and create misunderstandings among employees. Managers who communicate effectively, meanwhile, can look forward to smoother workflows, higher engagement from team members, and better productivity overall.
As a manager, it’s your job to keep your team members well aware of deadlines, changes to company policy, meeting and activity schedules, and any other vital information they need to know. You should also provide adequate guidelines on how and when your employees can offer you feedback or bring you their questions and concerns. Maintaining secure and open communication lines within your team will make it easier for them to deliver their best work on every required task.
Managing remote workers can be a challenge for even the most experienced of supervisors, but those who understand the demands of their role will be more than able to see it through. As long as you stay communicative, patient, and flexible, you can look forward to working with a motivated, high-performing remote team in the long run.