The coronavirus outbreak has many managers looking for ways to upgrade their ability to successfully manage their remote teams. What had been a finely tuned machine in the office has, in the wake of COVID-19, become a frustrating mess. Workers struggle to adjust to their new at-home routines, and supervisors scramble to create productive procedures on tight timelines and in the face of a confusing situation.
While coronavirus serves as a hard teacher in this regard, the lessons learned during the crisis will have a long-term impact. Successfully managing a remote team will become more important as the 2020s unfold. It’s good to get as much practice as you can, even under this stressful situation.
Even before the coronavirus forced a large number of workers into their homes, the market had already seen a significant trend towards remote operations. According to FlexJobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the number of remote workers jumped by 159% from 2005 to 2017, with nearly 5 million people consistently putting in time outside the office.
And even with those numbers, we’ve only really scratched the surface of the potential for remote work. According to government statistics, more than a quarter of workers (28.8%) have the ability to work from home, totaling nearly 36 million people.
Clearly, managing a remote workforce is more than a COVID-only skill. Going forward, you’ll have to master the ability to supervise a physically dispersed workforce in order to tap the full potential of your team. Here’s how:
Keep Up Communication
Outside the office, it’s easy for employees to get off track. We often take for granted how much casual communication takes place when everyone works together in the same space. Need to clarify something with a colleague? Walk over to their desk and have a quick word.
That becomes less possible when people work remotely. As such, you have to take a more conscious approach to keeping the lines of communications open.
Schedule regular meetings (by phone or through video chat) with members of your team. This way, you can stay updated, and everyone remains on the same page. Between these formal meetings, check-in with your employees in more casual ways. Ping them regularly by text to maintain contact and encourage a close connection.
You have to remember that your workers face different distractions at home than they do at the office. Working remotely, they have to fight for space and attention with spouses, roommates, kids, and pets. A continuous nine-to-five work regime might not be possible.
All this means you need to be open to new ways of operating. Accept that you have to give additional leeway when your workers are at home.
Manage Results, Not Processes
Flexibility doesn’t just come into play in day-to-day operations. It applies long term as well, extending to the way you measure performance.
After all, remote operations don’t lend themselves to micromanagement. You can’t have the same oversight as when your workers share a physical space with you. As such, you won’t be able to tweak every aspect of your employee’s process. You can only judge the result.
Provide Clear Targets and Maintain Accountability
Flexibility doesn’t mean a free-for-all. You should still expect an appropriate level of output from your remote workers. They might have some give on their methods, but you should still expect a high-quality result in a reasonable period of time.
To maintain this, be transparent about your expectations. Let your workers know how they will be evaluated and make them accountable for their output.
Use Technology Wisely
Find a technology infrastructure that works for you and your team. Use remote meeting software, like Zoom and Skype. Also, keep track of projects through work-flow management programs, like Asana.
However, don’t rely too heavily on tech to solve your management problems. Too many layers of software can create distance between you and your team. They can also become confusing and counterproductive, as employees invest more and more of their time updating various apps.
Get the most value out of your tech investments. Find the sweet spot and sufficiently train your staff on how to use the various attributes of the software you choose.
With the right approach, you can coax a strong performance out of your team under any circumstances. It helps when you have the right staff to start with. By partnering with a strong staffing firm, like PrideStaff, you’re sure to have the people you need to reach your maximum output.
Contact PrideStaff today to learn more.