The concept of remote team management is certainly not new. Indeed, remote working has been around in one form or another for decades – and for several valid reasons. For example, research has shown that:
What’s more, employees and organizations are not the only beneficiaries of remote working — the planet wins, too. The remote working policies of Dell, Aetna and Xerox together saved 95,294 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions in just one year, which is equal to removing 20,000 passenger vehicles off of the road.
However, what is certainly new and noteworthy is that COVID-19 has transformed remote work from an optional nice-to-have into a mandatory need-to-have. In fact, a recent survey revealed that 34 percent of workers would rather quit than lose the freedom and flexibility of remote work once the pandemic is over!
To help organizations attract and retain the talent they need to compete and grow on the post-pandemic landscape, below are five strategic, efficient, and frankly essential remote team management best practices:
A recent survey has revealed that most remote workers have spent more time working during the pandemic compared to before it erupted. And while this in itself is not necessarily a red flag – for example, some remote workers enthusiastically welcome the opportunity to spend more time getting things done vs. wasting time on a tedious commute – it is still something that managers need to keep an eye on now, and into the future since remote working is not a fad: it’s a fact.
Managers should not believe that “no news is good news.” That is, they should not assume that simply because they do not receive a call for help from a team member, that they are doing fine both professionally and personally. Reaching out at least once a day for a brief, but friendly and focused check-in (think of “stand-up meetings” that are used in Agile project management) is a practical and effective remote team management tactic. Managers should also continuously remind team members – as a group and individually – that just because they are working in different locations, they are not isolated.
Managers need to verify that all of their colleagues have the tools and resources they need to succeed. While there is no one-size-fits-all checklist since every team and organization is different, generally here is what most remote workers need:
Gartner points out that during periods of transition and uncertainty – and this certainly qualifies – employees can become confused and anxious about their roles and responsibilities. As such, managers should lean forward, provide clarity, and if necessary make adjustments.
With this in mind, there may be some situations where providing clarity at the current time is simply not possible. In these cases, managers should be open, transparent and honest about changes that are occurring, as well as those that are on the horizon (or likely to be on the way). Research has found that employees do not necessarily need to agree with change in order to support it. What matters most to them is that they understand why change is happening.
Many managers need to re-invent their paradigm and focus on outputs (what team members are doing) instead of process (how or when they are doing them). Yet at the same time, managers also need to establish team cohesion, as well as enforce standards and best practices. Neglecting this can lead to interpersonal conflict and quality issues.
Last but certainly not least, even if the worst of the pandemic is behind us (and we all earnestly hope this is the case) the fact remains that managers and their team members have come through an extremely stressful, and for some tragic and traumatic period. While there are many ways to have fun and boost morale, inviting team members to attend virtual happy hours is one of the simplest and most effective methods.
As McKinsey & Company noted: “remote working was gaining currency before the crisis, but the pandemic has shown that telecommuting is here to stay.” Managers who embrace and apply the remote team management best practices discussed above – and add a few more customized strategies and tactics of their own – will play a pivotal role in making the new normal more successful for their colleagues, their organizations and, indeed, themselves.