How to Manage Your Remote Team and Keep It Happy
The world has shifted to remote work since COVID-19 and the trend doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Numerous reports state that employees are more than happy to work remotely and companies, in turn, are gaining access to an international talent pool. But with great freedom and flexibility comes great responsibility. Managing remote teams is far more challenging than management of in-house ones and even now, not all companies have fully grasped the concept of remote work.
This article is aimed at helping you identify the possible blind spots in managing your remote employees and also provides a few good ideas on how to keep remote workers engaged. Let’s get started!
The state of remote work today
If we refer to statistics across Europe from 2019, only 5.4% of people worked remotely. Then, when COVID-19 hit, 70% of full-time employees shifted to remote work (and some of them did not do it willingly). As for today, a report by FindStack states that 16% of companies across the world are 100% remote while 44% do not allow remote work. That means, we have 40% left that opted for hybrid work (aka combining remote with office).
As we shifted to remote work, employees also started looking more actively for candidates outside their physical location aka for international candidates. According to research by Robert Half Talent Solutions, over 70% of businesses planned to hire international talents in 2022. And it’s not surprising at all: access to the international talent pool significantly increases the chances of finding perfect candidates with needed skill sets.
Such a shift has been highly rewarding for outsourcing, especially IT outsourcing. As per a report by GrandViewResearch, the international IT service market was estimated at about $715.93 billion in 2020 – and outsourcing accounted for 77.75% of it.
As you can see, companies and employees across the globe gladly embrace remote work but that also means, organizations need to review and rethink their HRM practices to adapt them to a new reality. This is where companies may face challenges and this is one of the biggest factors that impact remote workers’ well-being and motivation. But before looking at the main challenges and best practices of managing a remote team, let’s first review the benefits that it brings to an employer.
Advantages of hiring remote employees
Companies hire remote workers for plenty of reasons and all of them are really valid and worth attention. Below, we list the biggest benefits of having a remote team (or at least, a few remote employees):
- Better productivity: remote employees tend to be more focused, motivated, and productive and their results are as good as the results of employees who attend the office.
- Lower costs: for employers, remote employees mean lower office costs which may save you a lot of money in the long run.
- Wide talent pool: yes, we’ve talked about that already but let’s repeat it one more time. By choosing to work with remote employees, companies access a wide talent pool that consists of amazing professionals.
- Increased employee satisfaction and higher retention: happy employees are more likely to stay in your company and if remote work makes them happier, so it be! As well, high employee satisfaction directly impacts their productivity and motivation so it’s a definite win-win.
As you can see, a shift to remote work may bring your company several tangible benefits. However, it also brings several challenges that not all companies can effectively deal with. Let’s look at the biggest bottlenecks of remote work that managers face most often.
The main challenges of managing remote teams
Before we start listing the challenges, please note that these are not issues but rather things to consider and keep in mind. Management of a remote team requires a different approach than management of an in-office team and hence, certain things that you might be used to simply won’t work.
Lack of efficient and transparent communication
In the office, you can easily approach your team members in person whenever you need to discuss anything and this person can immediately clarify any possible questions. But with remote work, the topic of efficient communication is probably the most acute one. Different geographic locations, different time zones, and a lack of proper communication tools (i.e. messengers) – all of these lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding.
With remote employees working separately from different locations it might be hard to keep the team united and cohesive. For example, you may provide specific perks like lunches to your office colleagues but how can you do it for remote workers? Or you may hold team-building activities in the office but what about those who work from home? Remote work may lead to team fragmentation and to a decrease in employee engagement.
Issues with performance monitoring
Remote work calls for trust from the employer’s side but at the same time, it requires closer performance monitoring. Managers really need to find a happy medium between trusting remote workers (without micromanaging them) and retaining efficient monitoring of their productivity. This also requires the use of specialized performance-tracking tools which many companies may lack.
Poorly organized processes and workflows
Due to the different locations of your remote employees, it might be hard to properly set up all processes and workflows. Management of a remote team calls for the use of specific tools (i.e. Trello, Slack) so if your company has not used them before, you might find yourself in a bit of trouble.
Managing a remote team: best practices
We’ve learned about the main issues that you may face when working with a remote team – but how do you do it right? Below, we describe the best practices for setting up and managing a remote team so everyone is happy and engaged.
Set up clear expectations and guidelines from the start
When you hire remote workers, you normally expect them to be independent and work without too much supervision from your side. But for efficient independent work, employees need to understand what is expected from them and in what direction to head. Hence, rule number one is to always set clear expectations for every remote employee and explain the core work guidelines to follow.
If you have a strong company culture, it would be a really good idea to share your values from the start. In this way, employees will better understand how things work in your specific company and in what way they should communicate and approach each other.
Use efficient communication and collaboration tools
Despite various geo- and time zones, you want everyone to be on the same page in terms of both communication and productivity. For that, you need to use specialized tools that will make your work easier and will add transparency to your processes.
Examples of tools that you can use for communication:
- Google Chat
- Internal messengers
Examples of tools that can help you optimize workflows and processes:
There are hundreds of solutions available in the market – also, don’t forget that many companies opt for the development of custom solutions (i.e. internal messengers, Intranets, mobile apps) for the automation of specific tasks and processes. Just define what needs to be automated and optimized and select your tools based on that.
Establish regular reporting and meetings
As we already said, you don’t want to micromanage people but you do want to know what’s going on and what progress has been made. For that, you’ll need to establish regular meetings and regular reporting.
Regular meetings that are obligatory for attendance bring many significant advantages:
- Help every team member understand what their colleagues do;
- Ensure everyone is on the same page;
- Provide opportunities for employees to share their ideas;
- Help understand the status of the project, the progress that was made, and the next big goals.
As for reporting, you don’t need your employees to report every single thing they do. However, a weekly report would be very helpful to understand whether the person is efficient or whether there are any struggles that should be addressed.
Regularly collect feedback when managing a remote team
The collection of feedback from employees is the best way to learn whether you do everything right or whether there is room for improvement. In general, it’s important to ask your employees for feedback regardless of whether they work in the office or not. But it becomes especially important with a remote team since you can’t just approach it any time you want and ask if everything is fine.
For feedback collection, you can use questionnaires and surveys that can be sent out on a regular basis (i.e. monthly). Such questionnaires can reveal certain hidden needs of employees, issues that they wish to discuss, or other important things.
Embrace and welcome diversity
When working with a remote team, you will most probably encounter people from different countries. This is a great opportunity to learn about various cultures and get a broader view of the world. However, a frequent mistake that companies make is trying to fit all their employees under a single standard of work and/or behavior.
With a diverse team, you will need to ensure that every culture is appreciated and every voice is heard. In this way, you will see how uniquely people think and behave and what the differences and similarities between cultures are.
Provide sufficient training and access to needed resources
If you have an in-office library, that’s great – but it’s definitely not enough for your remote employees. And considering the fact that more and more companies switch to e-learning platforms, it might be a good idea to set up an internal e-learning portal to provide all your employees easy access to needed information and resources.
As well, don’t forget about providing efficient training to your employees. There are many ways how you can do it: through videos, simulation software, or learning platforms. The main thing to remember here is that training should be convenient for all employees in terms of format and information and it should be valuable and helpful.
Do not micromanage when you manage a remote team
We’ve talked about it before but let’s repeat once again. Do not micromanage your remote employees in an attempt to control their work and productivity. When working with a remote team, trust is the priority and employees should be able to work independently and deliver expected results without micromanaging or strict control. For that, you’ll need to do the following:
- Ensure that people whom you hire are independent enough and can motivate themselves;
- Provide needed tools for automating certain work processes (i.e. GitHub for managing project sprints);
- Set up clear and efficient workflows so everyone understands what to do and how;
- Encourage transparent communication so people approach you in case of a question or an issue.
Bonus: how to engage your remote employees and make them feel part of the team
The biggest challenge that working with remote employees brings is their engagement with the company’s culture and activities. According to numerous stats, remote employees most often report the feeling of loneliness and detachment from the company due to their physical location. To help you make the situation better, we’ve collected a few tips on engaging remote teams and keeping them happy and satisfied.
Host regular online events to manage a remote team
Team buildings are great. But have you ever thought about hosting online events for your employees? There are numerous ideas on what you can do:
- Hold a master class to engage everyone;
- Hold a quiz or a game (prizes would be a great additional motivator!)
- Hold a “happy hour” meeting where employees can simply chat and get to know each other.
The biggest challenge here would be to engage everyone. Since some people tend to be quieter, there is a chance that they will remain silent during the event. Hence, you need to think about how to organize the event so that everyone is comfortable and engaged.
Celebrate your employees and recognize their achievements
It’s easy to miss out on one’s milestones or achievements, especially if the company is big and employees don’t even know each other. The problem becomes worse if you manage remote team. In this case, those who work in the office may not even be aware of certain accomplishments that their colleagues did.
Establish a practice to celebrate your employees and make their achievements visible. This will significantly increase their satisfaction and loyalty as well as it will contribute to better transparency in your organization.
Emphasize your company’s culture
There is no better way to make everyone feel part of the team than to educate people about your company’s culture and emphasize it. Every company is unique and for sure. This applies how to manage remote teams topic. So your organization has its own awesome values that employees should know about. Hence, take every chance to remind people about the culture and values of your organization but be careful not to overdo it. Instead, be creative and don’t be too pushy. Because you want people to truly adopt the culture, not just pretend to do so.
Prioritize personal wellness and mental health of employees
The biggest green flag of a good employer is when they genuinely care about their employees and not only in a sense of professionalism. But also in a sense of their mental health and well-being. Hence, when asking for reports and progress on a project, don’t forget to do regular checks of how they do in general when managing a remote team. Informal human interaction is vital for making employees feel like they are part of a family which cares for them. And obviously, in case your employees need any help, be ready to provide it to them, be it just a piece of advice or an employee. discount for therapist’s services.
Offer help with professional development
In addition to caring about the personal well-being of your remote team, it’s also important to give them a sense of direction in terms of their professional growth. Your remote employees should know and understand all opportunities for growth and you should be able to provide them with needed information and resources. This will not only motivate employees but will also boost their loyalty and trust in your company. Not to mention that regular upskilling will benefit your company in terms of productivity and results.
Final word on how to manage remote team
Working with a remote team and managing a remote team is highly rewarding in multiple ways: it expands your geographical presence, offers a chance to learn about various cultures, expands your talent pool, and strengthens your company in a professional way. However, when you decide to hire a remote team, be ready to change certain processes and adjust them so all employees in your company receive equal opportunities. In this way, your company will thrive and we hope this article will help you reorganize or improve your current processes.
Irina Linnik is a Head of Content at SoftTeco, a company that designs custom software products for enterprise clients. With over 10 years of experience in copywriting, she enjoys creating compelling and informative copy that never leaves any questions unanswered. Irina is also a frequent contributor to external blogs and websites and has collaborated with clients from the USA and Europe as part of her copywriting journey.