Remote work isn’t the future of work anymore, it is the present now. Remote employees tend to be more productive and engaged, they have a better work-life balance, and they also help organizations save up on infrastructure costs.
But while being on a remote team may sound empowering and fun, the truth is, managing remote teams to ensure everyone is coordinated and aligned with each other can be a huge challenge.
Since managers cannot see or interact with their team members face to face, you may never know when the remote employees are dissatisfied or unhappy with their work unless you follow remote work best practices. In this article, we will discuss the tips and tools that managers can use to keep their remote team happier.
Top tips for happy and successful remote teams
1. Establish clear working hours for the team
One of the biggest benefits of working from home is the ability to establish a flexible work schedule that aligns with your productivity levels. But when you allow all the remote employees to work according to their own remote work schedule, it can make collaboration a challenge.
That is why for a happy and collaborative remote team, organizations need to create a more balanced remote work policy that includes both flexible working hours and fixed working hours.
You can set a daily fixed work hour window during which all the team members are expected to be available. These common hours can be used to schedule meetings and for teams to have direct conversations.
It’s also a good idea to create a shared team calendar where everyone’s working hours and time zones are clearly mentioned so team members know when to expect a response. All the discussions that don’t require real-time response should be conducted through asynchronous communication channels.
2. Encourage non-work related conversations
Sitting in front of the laptop all day with no one around you can quickly get alienating. With no way to share evening coffees, water cooler conversations, or after-work dinners with colleagues, it’s easy for remote employees to feel distanced from their team members.
Lack of organic team building activities and conversations can significantly decrease team camaraderie and directly affect team performance.
Keeping this in mind, organizations need to create more opportunities for remote team members to interact and have casual non-work conversations. The more opportunities they get, the better.
A good way to start is by scheduling virtual happy hours where team members can have friendly conversations with each other. You can also conduct remote team building activities or gaming contests to build team rapport.
3. Show empathy to remote teams
If your team is relatively new to remote work, it is crucial to remember that there will be a learning curve and it can take some time for employees to get comfortable with it.
You can make the entire learning curve less painful for employees by showing them some much-needed sympathy. Assure your remote employees that the organization is ready to back them up with anything that they need. At the same time, create an open work environment where employees feel confident enough to voice their concerns and questions.
Remote work can seem stressful and isolating at first, but opening dialogue with your employees can go a long way in improving employee experience and happiness.
4. Say good morning to your team
The lack of structure and the lack of human interaction can eventually burnout remote employees and severely affect their work efficiency. To help employees feel more connected with others on the team even when they are apart, you can start by encouraging them to talk to their team members in the same way as they would if they were in a physical office space.
Exchanging morning pleasantries is a good way for engaging remote teams. It can help your remote employees feel a little less remote and remind them that their colleagues are just a message away.
5. Manage expectations
It’s imperative for organizations to provide guidelines, set boundaries, and review basics when creating a project for a remote team. Any questions that remote teams have about performance goals, milestones, and priorities should be clarified well in advance to avoid any confusion or miscommunication later.
Instead of assuming that the remote team understands exactly where they need to focus their energy, take some time out to get their feedback about project expectations, deadlines, or goals to better align it with the rest of the team. You should focus on objectives over the processes in order to create more clarity and drive higher engagement levels.
6. Focus on outcomes
Remote team managers should pay less attention to processes and instead focus more on outcomes to drive higher engagement levels. Companies need to stop fixating on the number of hours that remote employees spend working, instead, they focus on the outputs that the employees are able to deliver.
7- Remember to listen to your remote employees
The biggest trait of successful remote team managers is their ability to be good listeners while fostering respect and trust in their team.
You need to listen to your employees to understand their everyday problems and challenges. Organize regular 1:1 with employees in order to communicate directly with them and give them space to air out their issues. Conducting routine surveys can also help in understanding the improvements that employees would like to see in the company.
Just remember — If you are going to be asking for feedback, you have to follow through on it and do something about the feedback received.
Use the right tools for your remote team
Remote work hinges on technology. Without the right tools to back you up, it wouldn’t even be possible for remote teams to collaborate. This is exactly why it is important for organizations to use the right remote working tools that can align with their team requirements and support their employees.
Here are some of the common types of applications or tools that you will need to manage remote teams:
- Document repository tools to store, access, and collaborate on company-wide documents
- Project and task management tools to manage and plan the day to day work of the team
- Instant messaging tools to communicate with the team members and start discussions
- Meeting tools to conduct audio and video meetings with the entire team
- Collaboration tools to create communication channels for work and non-work related discussions
As it is clear to see, remote teams need numerous tools in order to streamline their work. On average, companies use 16 SaaS apps every day, and this number only increases for remote teams. Too many applications can not only overwhelm employees but also lower their productivity since they would have to constantly toggle between different applications.
Instead of dozens of disparate tools, you can introduce a centralized digital workplace platform in your organization that offers document storage, project management, process management, customized workflows, dedicated communication channels, and streamlined collaboration — all through one dashboard.
Keep your focus on employee wellness
Remote employees are undoubtedly happier than their in-office counterparts but working from home can bring problems of its own. Employees can feel disconnected and disengaged from their team, they may work for longer hours, and often feel left out — all of which can affect their performance. As a result, it is important to constantly check up on your remote team members to ensure they have all the support and tools that they need to perform their best work.