Companies are shifting at startling speeds to offer remote work options. Recognizing advantages from cost savings to employee retention, these benefits bring competitive advantages if leadership can harness the skill sets required to manage virtual offices effectively.
This has left many experimenting with different policies and models in order to strike the right balance for their teams. With no “one size fits all,” this article lays a baseline for best practices when managing remote workers, but first reviews an understanding of the advantages to opening your company up to this type of work environment. It gives leadership and organizations the opportunity to pilot different models in order to refine their remote work practices for the long term and ensure that companies, functions, and employees work the most effectively.
Benefits of Remote Working
Before we dive into best practices for managing a remote team, let’s understand the advantages of taking the time to finely tune your virtual business environment.
- Increased Productivity: By creating a successful virtual working environment that thrives on communication and productivity many businesses report seeing higher productivity. Cisco’s Internet Business Services Group reported a savings of $277 million annually in productivity because of remote employees (and this was back in 2009). This is in large part due to more flexibility, less distractions, and no work commute.
- Improved Employee Autonomy: Data continually shows that encouraging employee autonomy with remote working options leads to improved structure and higher productivity. A recent McKinsey survey reported that flexible working options are now the third most popular reason for job seekers to leave their current place of employment. When managing a remote team you will notice those employees with greater autonomy will show improved responsibility. Matt Seeberg, Senior Customer Solutions Manager at Amazon Web Services tells us that, “when workers are able to establish that healthy work-life balance working remotely, the team makes for a very productive team that is ultimately more focused and satisfied.”
- Less Interruptions: Still up for debate, but ultimately working from home is still reported as less distracting than being in-office. Even during pandemic stay-at-home orders with everyone from kids to roommates under the same roof, remote working still provided less interruptions than a normal work day. Remote workers generally report accomplishing more in less time, being more willing to work longer hours, and taking less time off because they get to work in the comfort of their home.
“When workers are able to establish that healthy work-life balance working remotely, the team makes for a very productive team that is ultimately more focused and satisfied.” - Matt Seeberg, Senior Customer Solutions Manager at Amazon Web Services
Best Practices of Managing Remote Workers
First, start by considering your remote Leader Workspace. While a Leader Workspace is much like the Individual Workspace (discussed in article 1), it also needs to serve the people. A private space to connect with employees, coaching them through tough situations or providing them affirmation on a job well done. The Leader’s Workspace is a place of honesty and candid discussion, for growth and mentorship to build future leaders.
Consider 3 factors:
- Strategic direction: A big concern around remote working, is the connection leadership has with its teams. With lack of leadership communication, team members are more likely to drop the ball on projects or get wires crossed and continue a halted project. It is frustrating for everyone and could increase their desire to find another job with better direction and communication. Lead by example and review and restate goals consistently. This will help align teams on objectives and set the foundation you expect for working remotely. Use video broadcast (live or recorded) to communicate larger group major changes, impact, commitment, and strategy.
- Tactical support: In a remote setting, body language can’t be seen and bosses aren’t always a known presence. Kasey Hall, Global Vice President of Marketing at Quartz Network explains how challenges around accountability, especially for more entry/junior level employees happen all too often. Hall says, “young employees are having to self manage, and that’s not always an easy feat.” One way to combat this concern, ensuring accountability and personal success, is as their leader to make your presence known daily. Greet team members as you would in office hallways and put emphasis on the day’s work at hand early. This allows time to clarify expectations and to respond promptly. At the same token, people need to know they are doing a good job and are appreciated. It is easy to forget that when you’re not in an in-office environment as you’re unaware of social cues throughout a workday. Organize virtual calls “war rooms” to quickly focus or refocus teams attention. But also be mindful that if as a leader you are simply clocking face-to-face time, remote workers will get frustrated, and that frustration costs money. Make sure your virtual calls have purpose and an agenda. At day's end, provide a short recap and farewell greeting allowing everyone to create a remote work/life balance.
- Professional development: Assure members your full support and confidence in their ability to adapt and excel by making regular time to meet for that connection. It is also important that you clarify the expectations of working virtually and support the development of these new skills.
“Young employees are having to self manage, and that’s not always an easy feat.” - Kasey Hall, Global Vice President of Marketing at Quartz Network
Create a regular cadence with team members to address concerns, discuss expectations, and show support. This will also allow for teams to convey concerns about work productivity that you can address head on and build trust, flourishing responsibility of working at home, and maintaining company culture.
Harness the Advantages of Remote Working
Remote working is here to stay. And while it comes with risks, it can also bring a huge competitive advantage. With the right pragmatism, companies can confront concerns and design a deliberate, custom approach to match their overall mission and goals.
If your company or team is looking for additional guidance on managing remote teams effectively contact the experts at Van Allen Strategy to start a discussion.
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