According to Flexjobs, remote work has grown by 44% in the last five years. And that statistic was published before the remote work boom of 2020. Remote work is here to stay.
If your team is navigating the switch to working together while apart, you might be facing challenges that you didn't encounter while sharing an office. Learning how to manage a remote team is a must in 2020.
Working remotely can unlock your team's full potential. But it takes a conscious effort to ensure that everyone stays connected. In this article, we're going to share the top tips, tools, and techniques so that you never miss a beat while managing remote workers.
Three Top Benefits of Working Remotely
Too many workplaces see managing remote workers as purely a challenge. In reality, working remotely lends itself to benefits that lead to a happier and more productive workforce.
Let's look at three of the top reasons that'll convince you that managing remote workers is an advantage. With these advantages, you'll see that learning how to manage remote workers helps your team thrive:
1. Convert the Commute to Productivity
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American commute time is 26 minutes—each way. Add up the math, and you'll soon find this means more than 200 hours (or nine days!) just going to and from work. That doesn't even include the time spent preparing for or unwinding from work.
It's clear to see that this is a tremendous waste of time in most jobs. Plus, it's costly, thanks to transportation costs. And it certainly has an environmental impact.
It's hard to understate the value of eliminating a commute and the preparation time for work. It gives your team more hours back, which translates to a happier team. That's sure to lead to productivity, all the while reducing the load on our infrastructure.
2. Expand Your Talent Base and Embrace Inclusion
If you limit your hiring base to "driving distance from the office," you're sure to miss out on the best candidates. When you expand your search range, you might find the perfect candidate that might have been excluded.
It's important to note that remote work is becoming the norm, and it's highly appreciated by employees. Nearly half of the employees working from home want to keep doing so, according to a poll from The Grossman Group. Managing remote workers is a must to compete for talent.
3. More Time for Deep, Focused Work
I've worked in a traditional office environment for most of my career. I love spending time around my talented co-workers, collaborating on the challenges we solve each day.
But the office environment also includes too many distractions and interruptions that conflict with deep, focused work. Sure, it's easy enough to reply to emails and complete simple tasks in an office. But focused work requires uninterrupted thinking.
With a properly configured home setup, you can dive deep into an issue or interesting project. It enables hitting the "flow state," a feeling of full immersion where many creatives do their best work. Managing remote workers can be an advantage in the form of high-quality work.
5 Top Challenges of Managing Remote Teams
Here's what we know for sure: remote work is here to stay. It's clear to see the advantages that we highlighted above. So, learning how to manage your team remotely is vital.
But it's clear that remote work is a different way of working. You can't form fit the traditional way of working into a distanced setup. You've got to acknowledge that things are different, then find a way to solve them.
Office work is its own platform. Remote work is its own platform. Trying to simulate office work remotely is the wrong approach. - Jason Fried - Founder and CEO at Basecamp
Let's look at five elements that make managing a remote team unique. Acknowledging each of these as a difference in remote work is important to learn how to manage your team remotely.
You'll see tools for remote teams that each play a role in solving these challenges. Each of these tools has a role as you learn how to manage remote workers.
1. Onboarding and Training
It's easy to onboard an employee when they're located nearby. Training sessions and meet and greets come naturally when everyone is in the same location.
It's a different story when your team is totally remote. Imagine being a new employee on your first day. Opening your laptop at a brand-new job and not being sure where to start is a tough learning curve to conquer.
Onboarding is an essential part of managing a remote team. First, it's important that it goes smoothly so that a new teammate feels immediately at home. Moreover, it's crucial to get the employee onboarded so that they can do the job you hired them for as quickly as possible.
2. Staying in Sync as a Team
Teams exist in a workplace for a reason. Most often, it's because they're working together on common tasks and projects.
But it's not always easy to know exactly what everyone is working on. The larger the team, the more tasks, and projects are likely in motion at any time. The worst-case scenario is that projects conflict and productive efforts go to waste. This is one of the key challenges in managing remote teams.
Staying in sync is one challenge that really benefits from the tools for remote teams. These help your team stay connected and in sync. It's a crucial part of managing remote workers and staying aligned on strategy.
3. Communication Takes Conscious Effort
When we speak face-to-face, we infer meaning from others' body language. In a written format, we might try to "read between the lines" to really understand what's being said. Remote teams communication has to be managed closely.
Written communication requires a conscious effort. Try not to leave room for misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Carefully writing concise and straightforward emails is sure to save a lot of confusion in remote teams' communication.
As you start managing a remote team, it's crucial to coach and hire strong written communicators. It's important to remember that many employees can grow. It's as much a part of your journey learning how to manage remote workers and teach them ways to improve.
4. Building Community
Has there ever been a better time to be an introvert? With the entire world moving increasingly to remote work, many of us are benefitting from fewer forced social interactions in the workplace.
But many of your employees might look to the workplace as a source of social structure. According to Officevibe, 70% of employees say that having friends at work is the most important part of having a happy working life.
You can certainly make friends while working remotely. It requires a more deliberate approach (like remote team building activities). Remote work means you'll otherwise miss out on the casual exchanges that can lead to friendship.
5. Measuring Performance and Results
If you're used to managing a team in an office, you might be feeling nervous about your team going remote. Too many managers feel a degree of nervousness about monitoring progress in a world where they don't see their employees.
This is rooted in old school thinking. I've heard too many managers share concerns of "not knowing if employees are working" if their team is remote.
"Management, like meetings, should be used sparingly." - Jason Fried (as published in Inc.)
It takes a shift in thinking when managing a remote team. Don't focus on the "easy-to-observe" metrics like the number of emails sent. Instead, establish ways to measure your team's progress.
5 Best Tools for Remote Teams
To navigate the new way of working, you need tools for remote teams. These tools bridge the physical divide helping you with managing a remote team with efficiency.
In this section, I've separated top tools for remote teams into several key categories. Think of these as the technical pillars that every remote team needs to manage remote work. You'll see the recommended app options for managing a remote team:
1. For Meetings: Zoom
Zoom has capitalized on the remote working boom like no other application. It's easy to see why. Its simplicity, ease-of-use, and free tier make it a natural choice to stay connected with your team.
It takes an intentional effort to make your Zoom call a success. Make sure to check out our full guide that's sure to teach you how to use Zoom (or other virtual meeting apps.)
Here's a tutorial that'll help you learn more about running virtual meetings:
- PresentationsHow to Run Effective Virtual Meetings in 2020 (With Pro Remote/Online Tips)Sharon Hurley Hall
No matter which tool you choose remember: meetings can weigh on productivity and employee well-being. Many remote users report suffering from "Zoom fatigue" after spending too many hours on video calls. Make sure that you choose the meetings that matter most before pulling everyone into a call.
2. For File-Sharing: Dropbox
It's crucial to avoid the antiquated workflow of emailing files back-and-forth. That's simply a version control and productivity nightmare. You've got to find more efficient ways to share files so that you stay in sync and up to date.
File sharing is something that practically every team should consider while working remotely. Our top choice for file sharing is Dropbox, thanks to its reliable syncing and easy-to-use interface.
3. For Documents: Google Docs
Documents are a cornerstone of most workplaces. Whether you're building a spreadsheet for structured data or a presentation to show your findings, it helps to have a platform.
Google Docs is the original collaborative document platform, and it's still our top choice. It's another free option that helps you keep costs in line without missing a beat as a team.
Google Docs helps you capture ideas in a single place. Like other tools in this roundup, it's ideal for moving work away from email and into a more robust platform like Google Docs. Whether you use the document, spreadsheet, or presentation options, make sure to check out Google Docs.
4. For Onboarding and Documentation: Notion
Remember: one of the key challenges of working remotely is onboarding new team members. Experienced employees might already know what to work on. New employees need a roadmap.
Notion is a powerful tool for teamwork. It's combination project management, collaboration, and document creation inside of one flexible tool. Its flexibility makes it an ideal choice to build documentation and work instructions.
Notion is a great way to build out team documentation. It's got a built-in document builder with support for screenshots, linking to other documents, and collaboration with others. Use it to build the resources your new hire needs to be effective on day one.
5. For Chat and Communication: Slack
Many teams work better together in realtime. Quick answers to questions can keep your organization moving, especially if they're new to the team.
That's why instant messaging and chat can be a vital part of the remote work tool belt. Slack takes the crown for our top chat app. Instant messaging feels less formal than email. It can help your team's personalities shine through, building camaraderie and a sense of team.
Slack is also useful for remote team building activities. Consider holding a synchronized check-in to flag open items and set priorities. Deliberate remote teams communication platforms like Slack can address the challenge of building trust.
Chat and instant messaging are other types of tools that require conscious use. Employees shouldn't feel beholden to the "ping" of a new IM notification. The beauty of remote work is letting your team work asynchronously, so integrate chat mindfully.
Learn More About Remote Work
If you've still got questions on managing remote teams, we've got more resources. Here are more tutorials to study:
- SoftwareThe 15 Best Free Online Web Presentation Software Tools for 2020Laura Spencer
- Microsoft PowerPointHow to Share PowerPoints Presentations in Zoom Webinar Meetings in 2020Andrew Childress
- TeamworkFreelance Collaboration: How to Work Well Together When You're Far ApartLaura Spencer
You Learned How to Manage Remote Teams
Here's what I know: remote work is here to stay. Managing remote workers is going to be part of your journey as you grow as a leader. Companies and teams that adapt quickly will be rewarded by attracting the top talent and staying productive.
What tools for remote teams are you currently leveraging? Do you have any remote teams communication challenges you're still solving? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
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