7 Rules To Manage Remote Teams For Productivity & Happiness
So your company has recently transitioned to remote working (due to Covid-19).
“What now?” is the question that many companies are asking as their team members log into the workspace from home.
Prior to the circuit-breaker, some companies might have started slowly rolling out the occasional designated weekday for remote work, but it doesn’t prepare us enough for the reality of telecommuting every single weekday for over a month.
In the face of COVID-19 and the Singapore government’s curve-flattening circuit breaker, however, most companies have no choice but to adapt to remote working conditions.
Now, employees are separated from bosses and coworkers, for better or for worse—until the situation gets better.
Despite these strange and unusual circumstances we find ourselves under, it’s a great time to start rethinking how people work together when they’re apart, all while ensuring that they stay healthy and productive during this period of time.
Even though most of us would love to have helpful guidelines or policies for working remotely, most companies don’t have that system in place just yet.
Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to improve team productivity and happiness, even when you can’t see your remote team members.
Rule #1 Meet their digital needs
The first challenge that most businesses face is ensuring their staff has the ability to continue their day-to-day work at home.
More often than not, this means having a laptop or computer, and having the right software in place. Make sure that technology isn’t what’s holding your team back from performing to their full potential.
Equip your team with the right tools so that they can continue being productive at home.
- Are they still using outdated versions of Microsoft office? Time to upgrade.
- Are your employees used to sharing accounts on certain software that was possible in the office, but not at home? Time to buy additional user accounts.
Are you using a secure cloud storage solution like Dropbox, that allows your team to access work documents easily?
Investing in different types of management software that can make their lives easier will make yours easier, too.
Project and task management software like Basecamp, Asana, or Trello might make managing remote employees more effective.
It gives them a clearer picture of their work broken down into tasks. It helps them see deadlines and manages their workload.
But it’s not just about ensuring that they’ve got the right hardware and software for their day to day tasks.
Now is the time to explore different communication technology options apart from email, or even Skype. There are video conferencing software providers out there, such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams.
Rule #2 Clarity in document and file management
As for clarity in document and file management, this is a concept that is self-explanatory. Having neat folders and an established file management system will help in retrieval of documents relevant to the job at hand, which is especially relevant to remote working.
You can cut down on “where did you keep this file” or “where should I save this?” questions.
That’s why the team at Web Imp rely on Dropbox Business.
With Dropbox Business, you’ll get to bring all your files and cloud content together. Don’t worry about differing formats—let ancient Word 2004 documents and PowerPoint files sit side-by-side, next to your Google Docs and Trello boards.
Dropbox Business allows you to integrate whatever tools your team uses, which makes clarity in document and file management so much easier to achieve.
However, that’s not all. There’s a smart sync system where large files are kept in the cloud, and only download to local PCs when needed.
This way, older computers with less storage space can still access a huge library of large files with ease.
Dropbox Business even supports file and version recovery, which makes recovering deleted files easier than ever. You can even restore previous file versions if necessary.
All these features allow for clarity in file management systems, which will go a long way towards aiding in communication and information sharing.
Rule #3 Have clear communication channels
What do we mean by clarity comes first?
It means that you should be clear on all fronts when it comes to remote working: in communication, documents, and management.
Because remote working removes in-person connection, it also means that we lose the ability to read each other’s nonverbal cues. A message can sound very different when it is spoken aloud.
For clarity’s sake, double-check every message you send, and don’t forget to ask explicit questions.
For those who are feeling a little more informal, adding in a smiley or an emoji once in a while can turn a stiff comment into a friendly one.
It is also important to decide on the channels of communication.
Are you going to use enterprise chat tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Mattermost? Or will you continue to use personal chat apps like Whatsapp.
Most businesses have opted to use business chat tools as they offer integration with many other collaboration software, and it keeps work and personal lives separate.
Limiting communication to 1-2 apps is also advised. It reduces communication breakdowns across teams, and a centralised chat log is always helpful when they need to refer.
Rule #4 Maintaining structure and managing deadlines
This refers to making the rules of remote working clear to your team members, which gives them some semblance of the structure that they might miss at work, even while telecommuting.
Examples of this include daily check-ins, bi-weekly Work-In-Progress reviews, and setting clear agendas for video call meetings so that no one goes off-tangent and derails the call.
Should you invest in project management software like Basecamp, Asana, or Trello? Will your remote team members appreciate the structure, or find it too limiting?
These are questions that you need to ask your team, and get their honest feedback.
While all this might sound like unnecessary extra work, it helps to remember that many companies pushed back against remote working for a long time as they felt that it would lead to decreased productivity, weak team bonds, and communication issues.
Prove them wrong and sidestep these obstacles by simply being extra-clear when it comes to instructions and information!
Rule #5 Manage your expectations
There are two parts to managing your expectations when it comes to remote working.
If you’re reading this article, you’re likely a team leader who has recently transitioned to telecommuting. Team members are also looking to you as a guide, which adds pressure.
Start by helping your team figure out what they should do. Do their in-office roles carry over completely, or do they need to help pick up a couple extra duties, such as file management and rearrangement?
Are deadlines that were set before remote working still the same? Or should they be adjusted to new situations?
A part of managing your expectations is managing yourself. Sure, you’ve set tasks for everyone, but are you antsy about it? Don’t be.
Don’t focus on what your team members are up to every second of the day. Focus on the outcome and the results. Micromanaging in the office is ugly, and it’s even worse outside of it.
It’s not about the number of hours spent on a single project—it’s about the outcome of the project, about the amount and quality of work delivered.
Rule #6 Set realistic goals
Additionally, it is important to create realistic goals for their work.
Don’t pile extra work on just because they’ve shaved down on commute time—respect that a work-life balance still has to exist, even when your team members are working from home.
Clarity from the previous few points will help you out here: clearly define the scope of tasks that your team members have to do, the deadlines, and the deliverables.
Set S.M.A.R.T goals for your team.
S.M.A.R.T goals are:
- Time bound
This is so that they don’t feel overwhelmed by unrealistic targets, and they get a sense of accomplishment when they do hit them.
Trust your remote team to work on their tasks. By over managing remote teams, you might end up reducing their productivity.
Rule #7 Meet their social needs
You need to give your team time away from work. Some managers think just because their team is always near a computer, they can work longer hours. That’s a completely wrong way to manage a remote team.
Giving them their work life balance will make everyone happier.
Video calls are incredibly important. They contribute to clarity by allowing for remote employees to see each other’s faces, helping them convey messages through visual cues as well.
This is especially important if you have to have a difficult or sensitive conversation with someone, where the written word could come across as cold and unfeeling.
It also reduces the sense of isolation and loneliness that some remote workers experience, perking up their spirits and thereby increasing productivity.
That’s right, happy workers are better workers. A study has shown that remote workers are prepared to work longer hours than their office counterparts. (They are 43% more likely to work over 40 hours a week than in-office workers.)
As you can see, managing remote teams to retain their productivity even while telecommuting will take a little more effort than before.
However, the payoff is often very much worth the extra work—companies often report happier workers, lower turnover rates, and increased productivity and fewer distractions once they start allowing telecommuting.
Are you interested in seeing how Dropbox Business can help you to manage your recently remote working team? Simply drop us a message, and we can schedule a free demo with you.