Just one decade ago, the concept of working remotely was considered a perk for forward-thinking companies and creative agencies. Now, it is showing signs of quickly becoming the norm for companies of all sizes worldwide.
While telecommuting does present many perks for professionals, it can present a unique set of challenges for those in managerial roles. Is it possible to create a cohesive team when that team consists of remote employees, freelancers, and consultants all in different locations- possibly even different time zones? Absolutely.
Remote working arrangements can prove to be extremely effective when done right. Some of the pitfalls that must be avoided include:
- Lack of engagement with/between team members
- Team members between departments not being on the same page
- Employees feeling undervalued
Many quick-fixes were tried and tested over the years as telecommuting rose in popularity, all in an effort to avoid feelings of disconnectedness. These quick fixes included creating virtual social events and implementing a buddy system. While such methods may provide a boost in connectedness, they aren’t particularly effective in terms of long term productivity.
Here are our top five tips for effective remote work (and team) management:
1. Foster a Collaborative Digital Work Environment
Proper communication and collaboration must be set in place in order for remote teams to be productive, without feeling isolated or siloed. This is a large reason why we created Ment.io.
Our collaborative decision-making tool helps companies take their discussions online to help teams make better-informed decisions sooner. Everyone gets to contribute their insights into team discussions, and their voice is guaranteed to be heard. Ment.io’s proprietary scoring mechanism allows experts in certain arenas to have more weight in discussions that specifically revolve around their strong topics. In the end, team members gain transparency on the decision-making process, and why each decision has been made.
It is also advisable for team members to have open access to the schedules of other team members, as well as project timelines and work progress. It’s best for this information to be in the central location of all other digital files and documents of the company.
Messaging apps such as Slack or Microsoft Teams should also be used to share information and updates on a per-project basis, as well as general watercooler conversations to simply liven things up and to add a personal touch to interactions.
2. Generously Give Recognition
Many remote teams have weekly/bi-weekly/monthly video conferences that serve as all-hands meetings, in which updates, events, and milestones are discussed. It’s usually team leads that get recognition on such calls, but more creative things can be done to give recognition to other team members that also went above and beyond in their roles.
For instance, digital gift cards can be given to exemplary employees. They could also be sent a parcel of branded items to further boost team spirit. And of course, an occasional email of appreciation or recognition of efforts will also make a big difference.
3. Remember the Importance of Work-Life Balance
Sure, remote work arrangements spare team members the morning commute, and might also give them an extra hour of sleep. Those go a long way in terms of job satisfaction, but there is also a flip side. It doesn’t take much for them to become workaholics, because their ‘office’ is always right there.
Respect their need for a work-life balance. This can be done by encouraging proper time management, by setting official start and stop times. It is also advisable to make it a practice to refrain from contacting team members outside their office hours, and not to expect responses from them when they are clearly offline.
4. Steer Clear of Micromanagement
While daily contact with team members is appreciated, micromanagement is not. The latter can be avoided by setting specific meeting times well in advance and letting team members know when and how they can contact you throughout the day. Bear in mind that different team members would prefer different methods of communication. Do your best to cater to the method that makes them most comfortable to build a personal rapport with them.
5. Meet Face-to-Face When Possible
When possible, try to bring the entire team together, at least annually. It would be most ideal to have physical team meetings right before major project kickoffs to talk about the game plan. Not only would it help in terms of boosting morale and adding faces to names, but it also helps everyone understand one another better for future email/text communication.
If that isn’t possible, video conferences are the next best thing. It makes a big difference for people to read facial expressions and body language, and ultimately also helps avoid miscommunication.
Follow these tips to increase morale and productivity in the digital work environment. And to make better collaborative decisions, enjoy a free trial of Ment.io!