A Brief Guide to Managing Remote Teams & Boosting Productivity

Becky Halls

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Becky Halls

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The global Covid-19 outbreak left every corner of the world in a state of panic. With strict lockdowns, most organizations had to adapt to telecommuting almost overnight. From school teachers to hedge fund traders, even professions that seemed impossible to do remotely somehow had to manage everything from home.

After a year since the pandemic started, the vaccine is finally here but the cases are still surging in some parts of the country. But a silver lining of this calamity is perhaps that businesses recognized the potential of working from home. Remote working offers a range of benefits to organizations, including:

Lower Business Expenses

There is a significant amount of money that goes into managing a workplace. In addition to rent, organizations also have to pay for electricity, WiFi, water, equipment, building maintenance, furniture, and so on. You can try to keep these expenses to a minimum, but these are permanent expenses every business has to incur. By switching to remote working, you can virtually eliminate such costs.

Wider Talent Pool

When you’re operating out of an office, you have limited options for hiring new employees. You will likely have to limit your search to the local area or city. On the other hand, remote working gives access to a wider talent pool. Your organization is no longer restricted to a geographical location.

Reduced Absenteeism

If an employee is commuting over a long distance, they will probably take a leave if they are feeling under the weather or they have an appointment. Working from home gives employees the option to plan their work accordingly, so they don’t have to take time off. Organizations also don’t have to worry about employees running late.

High Morale

An employee’s morale may take a hit because of long commutes, frequent in-person meetings, or irksome coworkers. Remote working more or less gets rid of all such issues that impact employee morale.

Better Productivity

Remote workers aren’t lethargic or any less professional than office workers. Telecommuting gives employees a sense of autonomy that makes them feel empowered. And this translates into better productivity. Giving employees the opportunity to schedule their workday as they seem fit results in improved overall productivity.

Reduced Carbon Footprint

Electricity is something every business needs to function. Organizations can reduce their carbon footprint by implementing work from home policies. Besides helping the planet, reducing your carbon footprint will also help you gain environmentally-conscious clients.

Improved Communication

In a workplace, employees often have to read in between lines or interpret non-verbal cues to understand various tasks. However, these tools aren’t available to employees when working from home. This encourages every worker to clearly communicate with each other.

Considering the numerous benefits of remote working along with the lack of surety about when the pandemic will come to an end, many companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and Square are planning to allow their employees to work from home permanently.

Moreover, working from home is not just as beneficial for employees. At first, it may seem strange to work by yourself and connect with others virtually. But here are few ways the option to work remotely is helpful for employees.

Cost Saving

Whether employees are driving to work or taking public transit, a chunk of their salaries is spent on the everyday commute. Employees also have to spend on lunch, professional clothes, and numerous other expenses. If they have children or elderly parents, then they also have to pay for a caretaker.

Moreover, people may be living in a costly city simply solely because of work. If there is no obligation to go to the office, they can move to a more affordable location.

Time-Saving

Commuting is not only expensive but also inconvenient. Spending long hours stuck in traffic is such a waste of time as well as physically exhausting. A remote workforce doesn’t have to go through the hassle of everyday commute. They can save a lot of time that can be used for other tasks.

Better Focus & Productivity

If employees are working from home, they are likely to have a more manageable morning. They don’t have to wake up super early, get ready, help their families and rush out to beat the traffic. This minimizes stress and helps employees focus better on the work.

Flexibility

Remote working gives employees the flexibility to plan their day. Instead of leaving work for a personal commitment, employees can come up with a schedule that allows them to meet deadlines as well as attend appointments.

Enhanced Comfort

Even if your workplace has a casual dress code, employees still have to make an effort to dress up. But if they are working from home, no need to worry about coming up with an outfit every day. They can wear whatever they find most comfortable.

Avoid Office Politics

From a small business to a large corporate, office politics is present in organizations of all sizes. And despite implementing necessary measures to prevent office politics, it’s not always possible to completely avoid it. A virtual workplace digitalizes every interaction and promotes a positive working environment.

Work-Life Balance

When employees are working remotely, they are not traveling long distances back and forth from home. They don’t have to keep up with a strict 9-5 workday. By working from home, employees can give time to their families and personal interests. Therefore, they have a work-life balance as well as job satisfaction.

Leading a team is not an easy task. And top of it, managing a remote workforce can make it more complex. How do you keep employees motivated? Is it possible to virtually improve employee engagement? What encourages productivity and boosts morale?

In this next section, we’re summarizing some ways employers and managers motivate, manage and retain a remote workforce.

Cut Back Emails

Even under normal circumstances, it has become quite common for employees to have an overflowing inbox. And that combined with working remotely is going to further increase the number of emails being exchanged every day. Being bombarded with emails the first thing in the morning can be overwhelming.

You don’t need to send an email for everything. If a team is collaborating on a project, they are likely to communicate frequently. Rather than asking employees to send an email for every update, use a chat tool instead. Slack and Google Hangouts are two popular options.

Build Rapport

Since you are running a business, you are probably calling employees, discussing the work, and ending the call. While this may be necessary when you’re on a tight deadline, don’t make it a norm.

As a manager, you are responsible for building a rapport with your employees. Instead of keeping it strictly about work, start the conversation with pleasant small talk. Asking employees about their day, interests or family makes them feel seen. And this in turn invites loyalty from your remote workforce.

Set Clear Goals

To prevent misunderstanding, it’s crucial to set clear goals. Rather than leaving things up for interpretation, explicitly tell your employees what is expected out of them. As previously mentioned, interpreting facial cues can be difficult in a remote work setting. And when things get lost in translation, it can lead to mistakes and unnecessary delays. You should also use emojis, gifs, and other visual tools to provide clarity.

Additionally, when you are assigning tasks, you should also inform your team of the order of priority. This ensures that more important tasks are taken care of first.

Don’t Micromanage

Providing clear instructions and project details is one thing, but don’t end up micromanaging your team. Being physically away from your employees can make you think that you need to constantly check with the team about the progress.

However, hovering over your team does more harm than good. Your employees will feel that you don’t trust their judgment. Excessively controlling employees’ every move also impacts their ability to innovate. Therefore, refrain from micromanaging and give your employees an adequate degree of autonomy.

Find Suitable Collaboration Tools

Many job profiles involve people working as a part of a team. But is it possible to collaborate if employees are not present in the same room? With the right tools, you can achieve the same level of efficiency when it comes to collaboration. From digital whiteboards to project management software, you can get your hands on a variety of software that makes virtual collaboration convenient and seamless.

Trello, Paymo, Zoom, and Google Docs are some common platforms used by numerous organizations.

Personalize Messages

Every piece of information is not relevant to every employee on your team. So why are you sending irrelevant emails? Going through emails is a time-consuming as well as tiresome task.

Help employees save their time and focus by sharing relevant information. Similar to email personalization for marketing, sending out personalized emails ensures that employees only have to deal with essential information that is pertinent to them.

Make Time for One-on-Ones

Even if you conduct a virtual team meeting every day, there are some employees who probably find it difficult to chime in to express their opinions. To encourage such employees, managers should have weekly or monthly one on ones with every team member. You can discuss if they are feeling productive, their development plans, and any specific issues they might be facing.

Also, avoid canceling one on ones at the last minute. The employees have likely thought about issues or topics they want to bring up. And not having the opportunity to express their opinions can be disappointing.

Recognize Achievements

Whether an employee did exceptionally well on a project or recently got married, make sure you make an effort to recognize their professional and personal achievements. You can either send them a congratulatory email, congratulate them during a team meeting or even send a gift. Being recognized for achievements boosts an employee’s motivation, which influences productivity and morale.

Try Video Meetings

Working from home is incredibly convenient, but it can also be isolating. Earlier, people could go to a coffee shop or a coworking space, but because of Coronavirus that might not be an option. And staying indoors all day with minimal human contact can get lonely.

Instead of exclusively communicating via emails or phone calls, try to get your team on a video call on a regular basis. Also, you should give your team advice about how to deal with loneliness. You can suggest to them to go on socially-distanced walks and maintain a healthy daily routine.

Provide Necessary Tech

Most organizations provide employees with desktops, laptops, high-speed Wi-Fi, and other tech aids for their job. Now that employees are working from home, you cannot expect them to pay for all these things out of pocket. It would be best to provide your employees with a laptop or anything else they might need.

Encourage Breaks

Since employees are working at home, they can lose track of time and continue working past their shift. This is not a healthy practice for long-term productivity. Just because employees are at home doesn’t mean they have to work extra hours. Encourage your employees to take breaks and wind up at a reasonable time.

Ask for Feedback

There is no one better than your employees who can tell you what they need. If this is your first time working with a remote team, ask your employees about ways you can improve their experience.

Plan Virtual Get-Togethers

Most responsible people are still avoiding social gatherings. But that doesn’t mean you cannot host an online get-together for your team! Your team as well as you deserve a break. End the week with drinks over Zoom or plan a fun virtual team-building event.

The Bottom Line
Maybe ten years ago, having a remote workplace was a futuristic idea that wasn’t possible for every organization. But today, we have the technology and a plethora of benefits that make telecommuting feasible for organizations of all sizes.

In the beginning, adapting to remote working can be challenging for employers as well as employees. But finding suitable collaboration software, establishing clear channels of communication, having empathy for your employees during these trying times is certainly a great place to start.

Becky Halls is a Co-Founder of Hyperise, a Hyper personalization toolkit for B2B marketers. She’s an experienced Growth Marketer, passionate about product design/development and online marketing.

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