How to Manage Remote Workers

By: | Updated: April 2, 2021

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There are many benefits to managing an in-person team. You spend meaningful time with others and learn each other’s work habits. Managers and team leaders have clear oversight in this setting. But, this situation will not always be the case when overseeing a remote team.

Managing a remote team poses a new challenge for company leaders. You must change the way you communicate, lead, and track your team’s performance. We examine key leadership attributes and behaviors in a remote working style. The article also explains how to transition to the new normal.

Managing an In-Person vs. Remote Team

Physical distance is the main difference between the in-person and remote team. But, in-person vs. remote teams have three key distinctions between them:

  • Culture
  • Space
  • Time

Remote managers must focus their time and energy on cultural differences. These elements will include any of the following:

  • Comprehending messages in an effective manner
  • Breaking down language barriers
  • Finding commonality among many cultural backgrounds in a remote team
  • Knowing the context of cultural frameworks
  • Knowing how culture relates to each of your remote team members

Cultural recognition, messaging, and understanding can get lost in a remote environment. Managers can install cultural training sessions to understand each person’s unique background.

Physical distance is the main difference because it impacts communication. When you work in an office setting, it is simple to stop by someone’s desk and have a face-to-face conversation. Managing a remote team requires teleconferencing, written communication, and periodic check-ins.

Time will also play a factor when comparing in-person vs. remote teams. A telecommuting group will most likely have employees with varying time zones. Managing a remote team means scheduling meetings to accommodate all time zones. A team with east and west coast employees or global members will need to be more mindful of this.

Different Types of Remote Work Arrangements

You can encourage many flexible remote work arrangements for team success. Choose options that help your employees be more productive and passionate. As a manager, you need to understand each arrangement and how it impacts your group.

Setups will vary, and not everyone on the team will experience the same working situation. Some team members might work from a different country. Others could also perform their work abroad. The three remote work arrangements include split, hybrid, and remote teams.

Split teams will work in an equal manner, but they will get work done from two separate locations. Split teams are common at companies in one country and trying to expand into another. These split teams work in different areas, but they progress toward a universal goal.

A hybrid team is when most of the team’s employees work from a fixed location or office. Less than half of the team members work outside the office. The remote employees may work within the office to partner with other team members. This flexible setup is more common and accommodates different types of preferences.

Hybrid teams form when the manager struggles to maximize talents. This setup also allows for more visibility and rotational schedules.

Remote teams perform the exact way you think. All team members will work in a remote setting at the same time. There is no fixed location, office, or in-person meetings. It takes a lot of effort and energy to make the remote setup successful. But, it is one of the most dynamic work arrangements.

Different Types of Remote Work Lifestyles

Remote work gives people the opportunity to set the tone with their work lifestyle. Employees have complete autonomy of the surroundings while they work for a company. You must understand these lifestyles and how you can accommodate them.

Another vital thing to understand is everyone’s home environment is different. One employee may have three kids. Another team member might live alone. Working from home comes with distractions. Everyone must adjust to different home office setups.

A good manager understands the varying lifestyles. It will help you connect with team members better. Your team members may also cope with stress in different ways while working from home. You should encourage your employees to take walks outside. Listening to music or self-educating are also excellent activities.

You should also create boundaries between your work and your relaxation time. Your remote team members will have different lunch hours. Each member will also start at different times in the morning. You must always understand that everyone enjoys a varying work from home lifestyle.

What Does it Take to Manage Different Combinations?

The best remote leadership style considers two things: communication and empathy.

Communication involves setting expectations, building trust, and monitoring performance. First, you need to learn how to accommodate the different communication styles. Next, ensure successful progression on projects and initiatives. You can do this  through videoconferencing, instant messaging, and clear written communication via email.

Create an open environment for your team. Everyone should feel welcome to ask questions and seek feedback. Messages can get lost in a remote environment. You should encourage team members to seek help if they do not understand a project or need help in a given area.

Tracking personal growth is also critical in managing a remote group. Be proactive about scheduling regular “check-in” meetings with your team. Use the time to understand what your employees are feeling and what skills they need to improve.

Good In-Person Workers Aren’t Always Good Remote Workers

Not everyone’s transition to the remote work environment will be smooth. Empathy is critical in the transition to the remote work environment. Employees who feel understood will value this change. You can do this by remaining patient while workers develop the necessary skills. It is also vital to understand which team members are struggling.

Be Patient While Workers Develop the Required Skills

There are a few ways you can remain patient while your team members adjust. Each employee has a different learning curve, and there are a few things you can do to keep them on the right track.

Allow Flexible Schedules

Each team member has a different working style. But employees also operate on different productivity schedules. You might also have workers in different time zones. This situation makes flexible schedules even more important.

You also want to avoid overwhelming your employees. This is critical while they adjust to the new remote schedule. Set weekly meetings to catch up on projects and professional development items. As you plan out your calendar for the week, make sure you allow ample flex time between meetings. That way, you can make the most out of each interaction.

Encourage Good Meeting Etiquette

The remote work learning curve also extends to meetings, video conferencing, and technology. Excellent meeting etiquette helps make communication clearer, which can elevate productivity and morale. Here is a shortlist of meeting etiquette items you can talk through with your team:

  • Join meetings early – ensure that the camera and microphone are working
  • Dress in an appropriate manner – put yourself in the right mindset, and it starts with your attire
  • Mute your microphone – avoid distractions while other attendees speak by muting your microphone
  • Be cognizant of your environment –  your background should be professional, organized, and appropriate
  • Remain seated and attentive – keep good posture, remain engaged, and avoid unnecessary movements

Build Healthy Habits

Optimal meeting etiquette is a good starting point. Building healthy habits is also a key to remote work success. Mental health and professional development are the top priorities. Here are some quality habits you can instill in your team:

  • Set healthy working hours – establish work-life balance and hold yourself accountable
  • Establish “do not disturb” rules – block out time on the schedule. This allows you to focus on projects, personal development, and more
  • Move around and take mental breaks – go for a walk outside, listen to music, or call a friend
  • Stay consistent with exercise – make time to meditate, lift weights, or go for a run
  • Remain productive during the morning hours – start the day right and cut distractions

Who Struggles in a Remote Environment

Certain personality types may struggle more within the work-from-home environment. Managers should keep an eye on those who value face-to-face interaction. Those who prefer close collaboration should also be a focal point.

To maintain team chemistry, team leaders should use technology and video conferencing. These tools will keep the team close. Schedule weekly happy hours, 1-on-1 checkups, and other meetings. Use these times to highlight individual or team goals.

Manager Habits for Remote Work

Managers should already own the habits they teach. But there are also several things they can do to grow as leaders.

In-Person Session and Events

Technology is vital in overcoming geographic barriers. You now have tools  like Zoom and Slack. Screen sharing and project management systems also connect your team. Schedule weekly lunches, happy hours, and other information sessions. Keep your team engaged and in the loop throughout the week.

Daily Stand-Ups

Your body can get fatigued if you sit for long hours at a time. Managers should encourage the team to take regular walks. Performing work at a standing desk can help increase blood flow. By moving your body, you increase blood circulation and boost your energy.

Over-communicate

Outlining your team’s communication strategy is essential. Form clear expectations with each employee to establish transparency. Set a standard about which issues or questions warrant a quick message, email, or video call.

The first time is aligning with your team on the strategy. Then, adhere to the system and communicate as much as possible. Remote work creates gaps in productivity and goals without a reliable communication process. Block off your schedule for your administrative work to cut distractions. But, you should try to over-communicate with your team. You can do this through the different tools we have available.

Importance of Fighting Loneliness and Communication Issues

You must first outline clear communication channels. Then, a skilled manager knows that mental health is the root of someone’s success or failure. It takes emotional intelligence to notice that a team disengaged member.

If you detect that an employee is lonely, it would be best to reach out and open a discussion. Sometimes a tiny bit of support and understanding can make a massive difference.

Encouraging Small Talk and Side Meetings

Building rapport with each employee is critical for the team’s success. You might feel the need to dedicate an entire meeting to business and project talk. But, it is always good to budget time at the beginning or end for small talk. When you ask how someone’s life is going, it can go a long way for employee morale.

Connect and Share on Social Media

Your team members have a personality and life outside of work. It is important to learn about their lives and stay connected in different ways. Connecting and sharing moments through social media can improve team chemistry. It also allows you to understand more about the motivations of your team.

Remote Work Can Be Impossible to Reverse

Remote work is becoming the new norm. It is critical to stay consistent with the communication strategies discussed here. As a manager, you must check how your current leadership style is helping or hurting your remote team. As remote work appears to be here to stay, you want your team to succeed in the new era.

Continue to be transparent with your team on what meaningful communication looks like. Use tools like email, instant messaging, and video conferencing. Doing this helps oversee group and individual performance. Remote work is going to be a part of the future, so you should adapt your leadership style for the long run.

Final Wrap-Up

Guiding a remote team can elevate your leadership to whole new levels. It starts with communicating and empathizing with your team and understanding the different personality types and strengths of your team members. Setting expectations, accommodating schedules, and developing your employees is the answer.

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by Brett Helling
Brett has been starting, growing, and monetizing websites since 2014. While in college, he began to learn about digital marketing. After graduating, he continued to build a diverse portfolio of websites while working a full time job. After years of building the portfolio on the side, he made the jump to run his websites full time.