10 Winning Ways to Manage Remote Teams

The increasing prevalence of remote work means businesses must prioritise effective remote work management. Successful management can result in a more productive workforce with employees who are loyal, healthy, and have a lower rate of turnover…
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The advent of remote work has prompted businesses to rethink their workforce management approach. With the current economic climate, work-from-home policies have become a strategic imperative for companies looking to retain their talent and promote employee well-being. The benefits of remote work are manifold, including enhanced work-life balance, increased productivity, and business cost savings. However, remote work has its share of challenges that must be addressed to maximise its potential benefits. Managing a remote workforce requires a clear plan, a sound infrastructure, and careful attention to culture and human resource management. 

Role of HR for managing Remote Workers

Managing a remote workforce can be complex, and human resources (HR) is essential in ensuring success. With the growing trend of remote work, HR professionals must have the skills and knowledge to navigate the unique challenges of managing employees outside of traditional office environments. In addition, HR teams must be equipped to handle issues such as communication breakdowns, isolation, work-life balance, and legal compliance. Effective HR management can create a positive work culture, ensure legal compliance, and maximise productivity and employee satisfaction in remote teams

Potential challenges in Managing Teams Remotely 

Managing remote teams involves unique challenges that require careful consideration to ensure successful outcomes. Some of these challenges include: 
  • Difficulty in distinguishing between remote work and in-person work, as what works in a traditional office setting may only sometimes transfer to a remote environment. 
  • Unclear expectations and boundaries can lead to a disconnect between remote worker and their manager, primarily if they work different hours or time zones. 
  • Communication can result in missed emails or phone calls, clear instructions, and an inability to answer questions. 
  • Feelings of isolation or loneliness can arise from the lack of office camaraderie and spontaneous interactions. 
  • Burnout due to the blurring of lines between work and personal life, leading to long hours and an increased risk of quitting. 
  • Lack of trust in remote workers can lead to micromanaging and a toxic work environment. 

If you are considering implementing a work-from-home policy, evaluating your current WFH policy, or have remote employees, it is essential to be well-informed on the best practices of remote workforce management. The following 10 strategies and best practices can guide you in navigating the complexities of managing remote employees.

1. Establish Document Policies and Transparent Expectations:  

Enabling employees to work remotely requires a well-defined framework. Whether an organisation is contemplating a WFH policy due to a crisis or as a long-term strategy, it is imperative to establish and communicate clear expectations for remote employees. These include outlining which roles are eligible for remote work, setting guidelines for availability, defining job responsibilities, and establishing performance goals. A remote work arrangement should also establish standard business hours, guidelines for tracking work hours, communication frequency protocols, and data security guidelines.  

When managers initiate a dialogue about expectations for remote work, it sets the tone for transparent and effective communication. This is vital for managing remote employees and facilitating their ability to produce quality work, ask questions, engage with their colleagues, and seek the support they need to succeed. This ongoing conversation should persist, whether the remote work arrangement is temporary or permanent. 

2. Overcoming Onboarding Hurdles:  

Onboarding remote workers can be challenging due to their physical absence from the work environment. Remote employees may need help to acclimate to the business culture, establish relationships with colleagues, and obtain timely answers to questions. These interactive aspects of work can be overcome with detailed explanations and follow-up in a remote setting. 
To ensure success, employers must provide remote workers with adequate support, including the necessary technology and training to use it effectively. Training should emphasise the business culture and allow new hires to build connections with their colleagues. For instance, pairing new employees with mentors can help them feel more comfortable and integrated into the team. Managers must also be available to answer questions and help remote workers access the necessary resources to succeed. 

3. Assess Your Tech: 

To successfully manage remote employees, it’s crucial to have technologies that promote collaboration and communication. This may require an update to your IT strategy, including investing in hardware like laptops, smartphones, and tablets or implementing a “bring your own device” policy. Cloud-based software systems and collaboration tools can facilitate remote work, enabling video chats, conference calls, and document sharing. In addition, providing technical training to employees and managers can promote using these tools. 
In addition, it’s crucial to ensure that your technology supports other business functions, such as HR and payroll services, with self-service features to help remote workers access information about their pay and benefits. By evaluating your technology and making necessary updates, you can help ensure the success of your remote workforce. 

4. Create Remote Collaboration Methods: 

Effective collaboration methods supporting remote and in-office employees are crucial for project success. With the rise of remote work, it’s essential to carefully consider which meetings require video and which can be handled through other means. Meetings should be adjusted in length and style to combat video fatigue to be more suitable for online communication. Grouping video meetings in a block can also improve efficiency. It’s crucial to acknowledge distractions that may arise during remote meetings and communicate with staff beforehand to make necessary arrangements. 

5. Maintaining Presence, Avoiding Control: Strategies for Remote Supervision 

Balancing supervision and trust is critical in managing a productive and happy team, and this is especially true in remote work environments where communication and visibility may be more difficult. 

 While respecting different work styles and schedules, managers should maintain regular communication with their team and find ways to keep track of work output without micromanaging. Having a conversation with supervisors beforehand is recommended to establish expectations and strategies for maintaining productivity and focus in a remote work environment. 

6. Develop HCM Infrastructure 

Managing a remote workforce requires an HR infrastructure that can provide employees with easy access to HR services and support. Cloud-based HR software can offer employees self-service options for time and attendance reporting, benefits enrollment, and professional development training. This software can foster collaboration and resource-sharing among managers and staff who may be located in different locations. A flexible human capital management infrastructure can help companies successfully manage remote employees and create a positive HR experience. By utilising HR technology and tools, companies can effectively manage a remote workforce and provide the necessary support to employees. 

7. Encourage culture and sharing of information. 

When your team is split up, having a clear plan for promoting culture, spreading knowledge, and conveying values is critical. Tools like an employee handbook and regular communications from executives can assist in communicating that knowledge. Facilitating regular meetings, company-wide debates, and forums is one example. 

Consider strategies to bring staff together for in-person interactions that mix professional growth and exposure to corporate culture on an as-needed basis. For example, an annual in-person retreat can be organised on a regional or national scale. Consider hosting an event once or twice a year to encourage remote workers who live nearby to connect. This can help to build teamwork and camaraderie. 

8. Cost Repayment for Remote Workers: 

Equitable expense reimbursements for remote workers are crucial, considering that their expenses differ from in-office workers. For example, a small stipend for home office expenses, like coffee or snacks, could be provided, but it’s important to be aware of reimbursement rules in different jurisdictions. 

9. Foster Employee Development and Growth

Providing feedback and follow-up on performance is crucial to ensure accountability and productivity among remote employees. Knowledge-sharing is also essential when explaining job evaluation key performance indicators. Additionally, remote workers must be provided opportunities for personal and professional development. Implementing a learning management system (LMS) is an ideal way to administer, track, and deliver educational resources and training programs. It enables employees to learn at their own pace and on their schedule while providing anytime, anywhere access on any device. This primarily benefits offsite workers, helping them stay engaged and up-to-date with the latest training and development opportunities. 

10. Boost remote employee morale with engaging team activities

Engaging and nurturing a sense of camaraderie among remote employees is crucial to maintaining their motivation and productivity. In addition, team-building activities and initiatives can be organised remotely to promote health and wellness and recognise employees’ successes and accomplishments.  

These activities can include team-based step-counting contests, physical and mental health challenges, and fun activities such as introducing pets or designated video social hours. In addition, ensuring recognition is inclusive and not overlooking employees with introverted personalities is essential. By establishing ways to celebrate and recognise employees, businesses can build stronger bonds and a more vibrant and happier workforce, regardless of location. 

The increasing prevalence of remote work means businesses must prioritise effective remote work management. Successful management can result in a more productive workforce with employees who are loyal, healthy, and have a lower rate of turnover.  

Employers and employees must develop new skills and approaches to manage a remote workforce effectively. Employers need to be willing to learn and adapt to the unique challenges of remote work, while employees need to be able to work independently and stay motivated without traditional office structures. Collaboration between employers and employees including sharing successes and insights is essential to realising the benefits of remote work. 

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