Managing a remote team for the first time can create a lot of unexpected obstacles. Whether you’ve been managing people for years or you just started your professional career, you have to take a different approach when your employees work from remote locations.
Take a Compassionate Stance as Your Employees Adjust to Remote Work
Some people enjoy working from home. Others find the adjustment challenging. Some common complaints from employees who suddenly find themselves working from home include:
- Problems finding IT solutions without help from a professional in the office.
- Distractions – children, pets, partners, etc. – that make it hard to stay productive.
- Isolation that leads to loneliness.
- Difficulty following schedules outside of traditional work environments.
- Challenges communicating clearly with coworkers, clients, and managers.
- An unstable work-life balance that can quickly lead to burnout.
In other words, several members of your team are struggling to work in a place that they have not designed for work. It feels unnatural and alien. They don’t know how to adjust to the new normal of working from home.
Take a compassionate stance with your employees as they go through the transition from the office to their homes. When you talk to them, remember that they’re dealing with emotional changes as well as they can. Adding to the stress could make the situation even worst for them.
Some times, your team members may need to vent or ask for additional resources. Practice active listening so they feel heard and understood. If you can help, offer to do what you can.
Focus on Getting Results Instead of Worrying too Much About Schedules
Managers need to make sure that their staff members complete tasks on time. When people start working from home, though, you should accept that you don’t have as much control over how they spend time. In fact, remote workers probably don’t feel like they have much control either, especially when they have to share child-rearing duties with their partners.
Don’t worry much about whether your people follow a schedule. Instead, focus on whether they accomplish their goals. Do you really need a report filed by noon, or are you just used to getting it before lunchtime? As long as taking a more flexible approach to schedules doesn’t hurt job performance, let people figure out their own schedules.
Make sure that you communicate your evolving priorities to everyone on your team. They need to know what you expect, especially during periods of unprecedented change.
Give Remote Workers Ample Opportunities to Connect With You
It’s easy to connect with employees when you see them around the office. When everyone works in the same building, you can drop by their cubicle or office to catch up, talk to them during meetings, and ask them to come to your office to discuss projects.
Too often, communication breaks down when people start to work remotely. As a manager, it’s up to you to create ample opportunities for employees to connect with each other and you. Some of the most successful strategies include:
- Using a variety of interactive communication tools such as video meetings and audio messages instead of always sending emails.
- Scheduling daily check-ins to acknowledge the work of your remote employees and give them feedback.
- Creating social media groups where your team members can contact each other casually.
- Including video in your calls (you may need to invest in hardware for employees that don’t have webcams).
- Setting aside time for fun conversations, such as holding a book club meeting or a happy hour get-together.
Video conferencing apps can make it much easier for you to communicate with your employees. Research options like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype to determine which option works best for you and your team.
Remember to ask remote workers if they have ideas that will help everyone feel more connected. They may have innovative ideas you haven’t considered.
Ask Your Superiors to Outsource HR Needs to a PEO
Remote work will probably affect you as well as your employees. You may discover that you can’t fulfill all of the duties that you didn’t mind while working in the office.
Since you don’t want your work or your team to suffer, ask your superiors to consider outsourcing some HR functions to a professional employer organization (PEO). An experienced PEO can perform tasks that feel impossible to you while managing a remote team. Some PEO services that could help you focus on the most essential parts of your job include:
- Onboarding new remote employees.
- Payroll processing services that make sure everyone gets paid the correct amount.
- Measuring employee performance and providing useful feedback.
- Complying with labor laws when you aren’t present.
- Tracking time and attendance so you know how much work your employees put in while away.
You can’t watch over your employees when they work remotely. In some ways, that makes your job as a manager even more important. Make sure you have the assistance that you need to keep workers motivated, paid, and in-line with company policies.
Some experts believe that remote working will stay popular even after people feel comfortable returning to their offices. Once employees get used to working from home, they may discover that they enjoy some of the benefits. Businesses may also find that they can save money by letting more people work remotely.
Whether your business uses remote working for a brief time or it becomes your new normal, you can make the transition easier by outsourcing some of your HR needs to a PEO like American’s Back Office. Schedule a consultation to learn more about how America’s Back Office can help your company thrive during turbulent times.