With the rise of video conferencing, many Australian businesses have now implemented policies and supporting technologies to enable remote working, and as a result they are reaping the benefits.
This is particularly true for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). A recent MYOB study found that teleworking benefits not only the bottom line by increasing efficiencies and productivity and reducing overheads, but is also being viewed favourably by employees.
However, this new trend can be daunting for managers who are now tasked with managing teams who may be working not only from home but in different geographical locations.
To help navigate this new working environment, outlined below are some tips on how to better manage a remote team:
1. Communication is key
Don’t leave remote workers trying to read your mind. Distance amplifies uncertainty and it is the role of the remote manager to provide a sense of structure, precise objectives and performance measures. If there’s anything you need to do more of, it is communication.
It is useful to set up a team meeting at least once a week, month or quarter to bring everyone together on video. This helps foster a closer bond among the team members.
2. Set up regular 1-on-1 catch ups with your team
Even if it’s for just 10 or 15 minutes, it is always good to have some airtime to catch up. Your team will appreciate you for taking time to speak with them and to hear their challenges or concerns.
3. Set up your instant messaging (IM)
Instant messaging (IM) tools such as Microsoft Lync are very useful when you want to get a quick response. It is not as intrusive as a phone call and less formal than an email.
Explore the different functionalities of the IM client you’re using. Chances are, the client you’re using supports “group chat”. This is very useful if you want to pull a small group of people together for a quick chat.
Further, IM also allows everyone in the team to see each other’s presence. For example, users can set up their own status to “available”, “busy” or “away”. Being able to see each other online gives the team a sense of “virtual presence”.
4. Update and share your calendar
It is very likely that you and your team are working across different time zones. Coupled with the fact that you don’t get to physically see each other, this can cause difficulties in trying to locate and catch hold of each other; especially when the day’s packed with back-to-back meetings.
This can be extremely frustrating for people when they have urgent or time critical issues to resolve. Consequently, having an updated calendar and sharing it can help solve some of these issues. Further, if you are going to be engaged for the whole day, make use of the “out of office” notice to inform others that you will take some time to respond to their emails.
5. Watch your language
Unless you’re going to be having a “face-to-face” conversation via video with your remote team, communicating via other channels may deprive you of expressing vital body language.
Subsequently, it would be wise to keep to the safe side and not try to be too “humorous”. The intent may come across very differently, which may have a less than desired effect.
For example, you should avoid asking your staff the question “where are you?” the moment he or she answers the phone. I’m sure the intent is to ask if this is a convenient time to have a conversation, but by asking where the person is, it could come across as though you are checking on their whereabouts.
While managing a remote team may seem daunting, ensuring employees are productive, efficient and feel part of a wider team is critical for long-term success of the individual and team as a whole. By implementing these simple steps, you can make managing your remote team easier and more effective.
Eric Wong is the head of talent acquisition & development, APAC at Polycom.