6 Hacks for Effectively Managing a Remote Team in Achieving Full Productivity
An increasing trend towards digital entrepreneurship has given rise to the need for teams that can work remotely. While still not mainstream among large corporations, remote team work is very much the need of the hour for many small to medium enterprises, especially those that focus on digital goods or services. Large tech companies are also increasingly allowing their teams to work from remote locations around the world.
While this is an attractive work model for employees and managers alike, it comes with its own set of challenges – collaboration and collective productivity chief among them. How to hire team members that can deliver on time without supervision? Can team collaboration be kept up for a remote team? How to monitor and track remote team progress? These are the many variables in this equation, any of which can cause inefficiencies and cost your organization valuable time and, consequently, business opportunities.
The key to managing remote teams effectively is to keep this equation balanced. In this article, we will discuss some approaches for virtual team building and managing remote teams effectively.
1. Hiring right
Hiring the right people is key to the success of a remote team. Not everyone has the right attitude for working remotely. Some people work best in an office environment under supervision, while others thrive while in the comfort of their living room where there’s no micromanagement. A high performer at a workplace may not work effectively when working remotely, and vice versa. It is important to hire the right people for remote work.
When hiring, conduct rigorous interviews that look beyond a person’s skill set in the relevant field, and focus on their personality and attitude as well. Once you make sure they have the qualification or technical know-how of how to get the job done, concentrate on their strengths and weaknesses. It is generally a good idea to give candidates a hiring test and see how effectively they communicate during their task. Also, how good is their capacity to understand problems and can come up with solutions of their own. When shortlisting potential candidates, prefer those who have experience working as a freelance.
2. Organize tasks
In our experience, a lot of remote teams fail to be productive due to a lack of organization of data. When managers are assigning tasks manually and files are being shared in private messages alone, you can be sure that’s a recipe for disaster. Have all your data organized; upload essential files to a shared directory, set up groups (Slack channels) according to tasks or projects, maintain spreadsheets for work logs and task distributions, and have employees put everything in its correct place.
3. Use time tracking and team collaboration tools
Time management and collaboration are some of the most challenging aspects of working remotely. Managing time effectively can be achieved through the use of time tracking and task automation tools, which are also great ways to increase throughput and productivity when working with remote teams. Time tracking tools such as TimeDoctor or TimeSheet Reporter allow employees to keep track of the time they have worked. This also allows managers to view the amount of effort put in by each employee. Useful metrics such as average time worked by an employee can be used to determine which employees are most productive. Time tracking also forces employees to spend less time on non-productive tasks (checking social media) and focus on work, thus increasing throughput.
Similarly, team collaboration and project management tools such as Orgzit provide a consolidated system where tasks can be assigned and automated, and all organization data can be stored. Leverage these tools to maximize the productivity of your remote team.
4. Work on team morale
Remote employees can often feel disconnected or disinterested when not communicating with their teammates often. In most cases, it can be harder to diagnose a decrease in morale for remote employees as compared to full-time on-site members of the team. Subsequently, it is also harder to work on morale-building for remote teams. They’re not physically present, and managers can’t employ conventional tactics such as team building exercises and games to encourage collaboration and improve motivation.
Instead, a much more proactive approach is needed to keep a check on employee morale. Organizations should be able to provide adequate help to any employee suffering from a lack of motivation. Is a team member lagging behind on their work? Provide them with the proper counseling and have a pep talk with them regularly to keep their morale up. Is an employee not doing their tasks correctly? Provide adequate and extensive training material to get them up to speed. Are team members disinterested in their work, or do they feel disenfranchised? Provide monetary incentives and reward employees for doing good work.
5. Provide effective feedback
Passive feedback is something employees use to improve themselves in a work environment. However, passive feedback is often not available when working in a remote team. Instead, active feedback from a supervisor or manager becomes necessary. If you have remote employees working for you, make sure to regularly provide them with feedback so they can improve themselves professionally as well as personally.
Granted, feedback conversations aren’t always easy. But they are an integral part of team management. Teach your employees to use criticism constructively, and encourage them to provide feedback on you as well. This way, you can figure out what you are doing wrong, if at all. This feedback process should help resolve most issues on both sides.
6. Transparency and responsibility
Transparency is a basic value that needs to be promoted in any organization, especially one that works with remote teams. As a business owner or manager, promote values of trust and ownership instead of micromanaging employees at each turn. Create a strong company culture, and instill a sense of responsibility in each team member. Instead of checking up on them regularly, have them provide you or the rest of the team with regular progress updates at their own convenience. Have meetings (conference calls) frequently, but try to keep them as short as possible. It is important for employees to have a sense of responsibility and ownership of their work, and this can only be achieved through a correctly implemented proactive leadership as compared to a reactive leadership.
Managing remote teams can be challenging, but through the right business practices and just the right amount of micromanagement, having remote teams can be very beneficial and cost-effective. Here is a summarised checklist of things to do when managing remote teams.
- Hire the right people
- Keep communication open and collaborative
- Focus on personnel development and provide adequate training
- Have an organized work structure that is easy to follow for everyone
- Leverage software tools such as time trackers and project management tools to keep on track
- Promote values of ownership and responsibility over micromanagement