You greet your guys on Zoom, many of whom are a plane ride away.
Technology has enabled people to work anywhere and has given rise to “remote teams.” These are groups distributed around the world, where some team members might be waking up and gearing for the day as their colleagues several time zones away are turning in for the night.
Remote teams deal not only with time and distance issues, but also have to contend with different first languages, communication styles, work expectations, ideas and values.
Imagine being the guy or gal who conducts this whole orchestra. How does one manage such an eclectic mix and turn it into a well-oiled machine?
Here are the 4 best practices you need in order to successfully run your remote team.
The 4 Best Practices Of Remote Team Managers
#1 Establish the rules of the game.
There are million-and-one remote teams, and million-and-one ways to run them.
The question is: What would your team be like?
You need to establish this at the very outset.
What are your expectations of the group? You have to go down to the individual level and identify roles and tasks.
For example, for a graphic designer, you need to clarify the kind, quality, quantity and consistency expected. Is content expected each week? What type of content and quality level is acceptable? Who will receive and review the output?
When establishing rules, let people know precisely where the thresholds are. Where are the “lines,” and what do they need to do when they cross them? (Thresholds trigger actions.)
Working remotely gives employees a fair level of independence, with the set-up implicitly trusting them to make decisions. But what decisions should be referred upstairs?
In a budgeting context, for example, you can set a threshold where spends that are above $500 should be cleared first with you.
Set the threshold for communication so your guys don’t have to run and ask your opinion about every little thing about their jobs. (“Should this be in blue or light blue?”) They need to understand thresholds and triggers to go ahead and make the decisions you’ve empowered them to make.
(Note: After deciding on your “rules.” Collect them into a compendium or handbook and upload it online to serve as a reference.)
#2 Communicate simply and clearly.
A setting that lacks the full impact of non-verbal cues, intonations and inflections, like a spotty Zoom meeting or a torturous email, is ripe for miscommunications.
It will steal productive time through re-dos, edits and the needless volley of clarificatory emails. You waste all that time trying to clear the fog when you could’ve just communicated clearly in the first place.
So leave no room for misinterpretation, miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Speak or write as clearly, as simply and as effectively as possible. Here are 10 quick tips:
- Do not use jargon and acronyms. Unless you know everybody understands them.
- Minimize the use of native-speaker idioms. (eg. “I’m gonna hit the hay guys.”)
- Use short sentences in the active voice.
- Don’t assume. Add context and rationale to your communications so your readers or hearers can follow the thinking process.
- Use repetition and recap to emphasize your points.
- Avoid vague, ambiguous, or hedging phrases (eg. “several,” “a lot,” “it seems,” “kind of…”)
- Be specific. Put numbers, dates, names and details to actions, expectations and processes. (eg. “I want Johnny to do 3 mock-ups and submit the PDFs to Jane on or before Friday, the 24th.”)
- Invite questions and clarifications.
- Avoid using meaningless euphemisms. (eg. “cost containment,” “strategic realignment” and “synergy”)
- Avoid pop culture references. (eg. “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”)
#3 Let go!
Remote working is one of the most innovative collaborative setups we have to date. And it brings with it a host of competitive advantages. Leaders and managers need to adopt and adapt to it if they want their organizations to be competitive in this decade.
This means leaders have to let go of micromanaging tendencies. It’ll prove counterproductive in this setup and negate all the advantages and leverage of remote work.
Leaders must accept that the expectations or outcomes they’ve built in their heads rarely come exactly as imagined. This is not a bug of remote work, but a feature of employees being different persons and therefore having different minds. (This happens even when teams work in an office.)
To leaders deciding if they should go remote, here are three things that should bring comfort:
- Letting go doesn’t mean running a ship blind. There’s a full suite of software products and project management tools that provide you with different levels of control and oversight so you can “see” the work done by the team. Yes, you still have control of the process and the finished product.
- By focusing on results and measuring performance, you can answer the question, “Are my guys working? Or are they on TikTok?” Producing the agreed-upon outcomes should be comfort enough.
- If you have done the homework of vetting the candidate and have clearly established the rules of the game, there’s really no reason to lose sleep over your remote hires. If you know you’ve landed a competent remote professional, it should help you sleep at night instead.
#4 Push for work-life balance.
Short-sighted employers have the tendency to squeeze the last drop of will from their teams, making them work long hours and on holidays and weekends. Don’t fall for this productivity trap. It will backfire in ways that are counterproductive in the long run.
Push them to take breaks and vacations instead. Give them permission to have a great life outside work. Give them the space and time to deal with their mental health and a work-life balance that’d make OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) giddy with pride.
Do this not because you are a good person (you are), but because in the long run, this is for the better of your business. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace (2022), the cost of loss in productivity due to burnout is around $322 billion.
Poor employee well-being represents 75% of the accrued medical costs, in what can be considered preventable medical conditions.
When you’re not putting the welfare of your team first, their performance suffers. Productivity and work quality dips. People walk around with short fuses and ultimately, it is your own profitability that takes the hit.
Watch out for the following because they are signs that your guys are about to burnout:
- missed deadlines
- declining work quality
- an increasing number of errors
- increasing absenteeism and tardiness
- increasing reported stress and anxiety
- reduced engagement and motivation
- deteriorating communications with colleagues and social withdrawal
- physical symptoms: fatigue, headaches, and muscle tension
- psychological symptoms: lack of focus, negativity and cynicism
“Work-life balance” and “mental health” are not just buzzwords. They are a long-overdue realization that when the business takes good care of its people, the people take good care of the business.
Pushing your employees too hard may look good in the short run. You’ll have the numbers. But the long-term consequences might make it not worth it.
But take these 4 principles to heart and your remote team will soar to new heights.
Successfully leading a remote team requires a long-term perspective…as well as hiring the best remote professionals.
We at Kinetic Innovative Staffing know a thing or two about high-performing remote professionals because it is our job to look for them.
Kinetic helps companies around the world hire seasoned and savvy remote workers. Landing the ideal remote employee has its challenges and pitfalls. Kinetic comes in by properly vetting the top candidates and thoroughly assessing their competence.
This ensures that our clients not only save time and effort but also land the best individuals for the role. If your organization is looking to add remote workers to your teams, let Kinetic be your guide.
We’ll show you how to save 70% on your labour costs, without breaking a sweat.
So you can continue watching your favourite Netflix show…
Kinetic Innovative Staffing has been providing hundreds of companies in the Asia Pacific, North America, the Middle East, and Europe with professionals working remotely from the Philippines since 2013. Get in touch to know more.