Managing remotely or just remote?
The old joke about time and space is that you put them together and you have a continuum (I never said it was a funny joke!) But combined they can also be a significant management challenge: managing a remote team.
The challenge of managing remote workers
Until you’ve managed a remote or virtual team, or been a member of one, it’s easy to take for granted the casual and constant communication that goes on between members of an all-in-one-place team. Yet remote workers are an increasing part of the modern workplace – ‘field’ workers, home workers, freelancers… not everyone is in an office and even those who are may well be in a different office to their manager.
The challenge is to create the same environment of trust, confidence and regularity of dialogue for remote workers that you do for non-remote workers.
The ingredients of successful remote management
The fact is, remote workers are geographically cut off from their closest colleagues and overcoming that isolation is down to the manager using the necessary techniques and technology to include them. The following is your shopping list of factors to consider:
- Creating a team environment that doesn’t depend on co-location and line of sight – the 3Cs of virtual management are Collaboration, Communication & Coordination.
- Adapting to the fact that virtual teams form and behave differently.
- Setting up communication protocols, both formal and ad hoc; use technology to support your team communication strategy.
- Accepting that different remote workers will have different preferences and needs re: interaction and communication (also bear in mind that they may not volunteer those preferences and needs; the manager needs to raise and discuss the issue).
- Motivating at a distance – when you’re all in the same room, acknowledgement and encouragement are easier and often embedded in brief, casual conversations.
5 points to remember when managing remotely
- If one person is remote, the whole team is remote. In other words, be wary of treating different team members differently in ways that might exclude people.
- Agree a single language – virtual teams may be scattered across borders and countries and you need to agree a common tongue.
- Technology can now replicate more closely the type of casual and constant communication that co-located team enjoy (Slack, Basecamp, TeamSpeak… find one that works for all of you).
- Team meetings are essential, either using video-conferencing or travelling to all be in the same room (obviously, there are logistics and expense issues to travelling and, if you do opt for the travel option, think about fairness – is always the remote worker who has to get on a train?)
- Openness and transparency – both in communications but also in availability of information and resources (do your remote workers have the same or alternate-but-equal access to what they need?)
It’s been said that remote workers are more productive, happier, and less likely to leave the company. That might sound like a Radiohead song but it’s also compelling motivation to manage through and around any remote working challenges and ensure that they have the place in the team they deserve. If you want to explore remote management further, join our free webinar on the 1 October 2021 or give us a call on 01582 463460. We’re here to help.