Before the COVID-19 outbreak, remote work was already becoming mainstream – now it’s truly in play. Given WORK180 is a completely remote business, we asked some of our leaders to share their advice on managing telecommuting employees.
The remote work revolution is coming, with some of the world’s leading research institutions finding that flexible work is positive for the bottom line, boosting productivity, performance, engagement, retention and profitability.
While in a recent remote working study conducted by GitLab, 86% of respondents believe remote work is the future and 62% said they would consider leaving a co-located company for a remote role.
But managers of remote workers have a unique challenge in that they need to lead and influence people they don’t have regular face-to-face contact with. But it’s not a challenge that’s insurmountable – it just requires a different way of thinking and doing things.
We share six tips on how to successfully manage telecommuting employees, including while coronavirus self isolation measures are in place and beyond:
1. Use video, not phone
While you may not be in the same office as your telecommuting employees, you can still replicate that face-to-face connection by using video conferencing technologies such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. It will also help you pick up on nonverbal cues.
WORK180 Chief Marketing Officer, Alex Lasry, encourages any remote manager to ditch the phone in favor of video communication.
“Video enables better interaction and helps you build stronger rapport than an ordinary phone call,” he says.
2. Respect your employees’ flexible work hours
Flexible working gives your team the ability to work more flexible hours, and everyone will approach this differently. Some do their best work in the morning, others in the late evening. And then there might be different time zones to factor in. As a manager of remote employees, you need to understand and respect these different flexible work schedules.
“Be aware of the hours your team are working and ensure you’re holding team meetings or workshops at times that work for everyone,” advises Alex.
3. Establish personal connections
Without the natural office bump-in, you need to make an effort to build trust, camaraderie and familiarity with your direct reports and extended colleagues. Reserve some time during each meeting for a casual conversation that helps you get to know your team members on a personal level, and also share what makes you who you are.
“Utilize all your channels to build culture and keep people connected,” recommends Alex. “I like tools such as Donut, which facilitates random introductions to other colleagues your team may not directly work with, and helps you build relationships outside of your normal sphere of work.”
4. Encourage open communication
It’s important to check-in with your remote workers regularly and make sure they have an avenue to be heard.
“It can be harder to pick up on cues when the team is working remotely, so you need to facilitate open lines of communications,” says Alex.
5. Use the tools and experiment
For Marika Andrews, Head of User Experience at WORK180, one of the challenges for her has been conducting ideation and sketching sessions, which typically happen in a room with whiteboards, plenty of sticky notes and people bouncing ideas around.
“Recreating these with online collaboration tools has been a challenge, but I’ve spent a lot of time testing out different ones and asking for feedback from the team to see what they’ve found works for them,” she says.
Marika’s new favorite tool to use is Mural
“There’s heaps of tools out there, but you have to find the ones that work for your particular team.”
6. Trust your team
Finally, a successful remote manager-employee relationship is built on trust, and managing by performance not presenteeism.
“You need to trust your people to do the work based on the expectations you’ve set,” says Alex. “After all, simply seeing someone sitting at their desk is no measure of their effectiveness.”