How we manage to keep our remote teams on track?
The rise of technology and its pervasiveness in the business sector has redefined the workplace. Today, employees tend to prefer telecommuting over signing up for in-house positions. This is because it provides them with greater flexibility, which is conducive to a better work-life balance.
Employers, too, are shifting over to remote teams as it allows them to tap into the international pool of talent without being constrained by time and/or space. Hiring employees from overseas renders the unavailability of local talent moot.
With this restructuring of the workplace, a different approach to the workplace dynamic is required. Managing an in-house team, employees and co-workers you meet every day, spending hours together huddled in meeting rooms or chatting at the watercooler, is fundamentally different from managing a remote team. Like with other workplace relationships, remote teams require equal, if not more, engagement and investment in terms of time and efforts by the management.
Discussed below are four ways in which we managed to establish and maintain a healthy relationship with our remote teams, while simultaneously keeping them on track.
Alignment of Responsibilities and Expectations — You can’t expect your remote team to deliver the results you want unless you tell them what you want. You need to be extremely clear about what you expect them to do and how you want them to do it. Let them know the responsibilities you want them to take on and understand whether this is possible or not. Being on the same page is important, as virtual conversations might often result in miscommunication. Hence, aligning all responsibilities and expectations by setting some ground rules for all to follow can prove to be effective. Any discrepancy regarding the roles and duties of either party will create unnecessary complications that will only hamper productivity and problematize workplace relationships.
Centralized Control — Having a clear command chain is crucial. Let your remote employees know who they are to contact in case of any queries. For instance, if they need to ask a question about a project they have been assigned, or if they need to coordinate with someone from another department, or if they are running short on a deadline and need more time, it is going to be problematic if they are to contact different people for all these things. It would be much easier if each remote worker is assigned an in-house lead to act as the bridge between the in-house team and the remote employee. Centralized Control, therefore, will save a great deal of time that would otherwise be spent on redirecting calls while trying to find the one person who can answer the specific query.
Tracking Deliverables — Managers are often apprehensive about the kind of productivity they get from remote workers. They believe that a remote employee, due to lack of supervision, works less than an in-house employee. If managed correctly, a remote team has the potential to work more (as it saves the commuting time), while also allowing the individual remote worker to work flexibly. To ensure that an expected degree of productivity is maintained, it is important that the remote employees are aware of each day’s task well in advance. Also, using tracking tools with open access allows both the management and the employees maintain accountability. When they know that their work progress is being tracked, their productivity is optimal. Also, with a time tracking method it can simplify payroll calculations and prevents overpayment or underpayment as it is transparent to both parties the exact amount of hours an employee has worked in a given period.
Communication and Relationship — The Core of all relationships is communication. If remote workers find you inaccessible or are not able to reach you when they need to, or if they feel like they cannot approach you with their problems, it will hamper their productivity and lower their enthusiasm toward working with your company. It is important that executives put in the effort to make remote teams feel like a part of the company. If employees (remote or otherwise) feel personally engaged with the company they are working for, and the people they are working with, it will create a sense of job satisfaction that is crucial for all employees if they are to achieve success. Communication and Relationship can be improved by ensuring regular telephonic conversations, video chats, virtual meet-ups, etc. The more involved they feel, the longer they will stick around.
The emerging remote work culture is a trend that benefits both founders and their teams. Though it has its own challenges, they can be effectively managed with regular communication, mutual trust, and accountability.