The global pandemic forced nearly 70% of Americans to work from home. The flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance gained from remote work quickly increased in popularity, and many workers are now pushing back against returning to the office.
Research shows remote or hybrid environments lead to more loyal and happier employees overall. Many employers also see compelling benefits to remote work, such as overhead cost savings, higher retention rates, and a larger talent pool. These benefits are causing a shift in how employers think about the future of their business.
But with flexible work options comes new tasks and responsibilities for managers. As you may know through experience, eliminating daily face-to-face interactions can result in problems taking longer to solve, collaboration more complex, and added difficulties in tracking productivity.
Before you freak out and call all your employees back into the office on Monday, remember many successful businesses have been working fully remote for decades. There are strategies, processes, and technologies in place to support a high-performing and productive virtual work environment. Let’s take a look at four ways you can ensure success with your remote team.
1. Leverage Technology for Productivity, Collaboration, and Engagement
Implementing the right technology for your remote team is essential for nearly every industry. By now, your employees should have the basics: a computer or laptop, cellphone, strong internet, and anything else they need to boost productivity. Your team should have access to all their files and data as if they were in the office.
Beyond the basics, phone, text, and video conferencing may be enough to keep things running smoothly if you’re a smaller company. But mid-to-large companies find that platforms like Slack, Trello, or Microsoft Teams offer features that streamline multiple communication channels. These technologies make tasks and project tracking more manageable, and allow for real-time planning and monitoring of your team. Look into your options. There is an abundance of tools, programs, and platforms designed specifically to support high-functioning virtual teams.
2. Communicate Clearly and Often (and not just by email)
Communication is the highest priority and number one task of virtual team leaders. For remote teams, effective communication relies heavily on technology. The goal of a manager is to create an avenue for effortless communication that keeps employees engaged and accountable. You can do this through virtual chat interfaces or video calls. Try to avoid spamming your employees with emails. Managing an inbox is time-consuming and sifting through emails to find what applies to them is not productive.
Do you have one of those family members you talk to a few times a year, and those conversations last forever? Just picking up the phone to call feels like a tedious task in itself? Don’t let your employees be like that family member. Quick and frequent check-ins can release some of that built-up tension and can build trust with your team. Schedule check-in calls on Mondays and then weekly debriefing calls on a Friday. That way, you don’t have to question what they’re doing, they don’t have to question if you’re questioning what they’re doing, and the world is a happier place.
3. Manage Specific Objectives, Deliverables, and Goals
Communicate roles and responsibilities to your team. (See? Communication shows up everywhere). Employees should know what task they are focusing on at any given moment. Delegating tasks can be done during the weekly check-in calls or assigned regularly through your company’s platform to track projects. Keep your team accountable by developing measurable key performance indicators, such as meeting deadlines, hitting monthly goals, or positive engagement during meetings.
If each team member knows their personal goals and the overall goal of the organization, they are more likely to take ownership of their role. Your employee wants to know they matter and are appreciated.
4. Recognize Personal and Professional Achievements
A remote team doesn’t have the luxury of meeting for coffee or happy hour, let alone a casual conversation at the water cooler. The lack of in-person interaction between team members can cause employees to detach from co-workers and managers emotionally. This disconnection can negatively impact performance, trust, and overall employee satisfaction, particularly in a remote environment.
Managers can help cultivate relationships in the workplace by creating ways for employees to engage with each other virtually. Many virtual organizations host virtual birthday celebrations or baby showers. Others use technology like Slack to announce promotions, awards, or other achievements among their team.
If you want to go even further, plan a company retreat once a year. You might be surprised at how valuable a week of teambuilding and face-to-face socializing will build trust and accountability within your team.
Finally, encourage your employees to unplug after work and on the weekends. If possible, lead by example. Burnout is real but avoidable. Start by implementing the guidelines above and watch your remote team succeed!