The world is going through turbulent times. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic citizens have been asked to isolate themselves and maintain social distancing.
In these pressing times, a huge number of organizations have moved their resident workforce to a remote working setup in the shortest span of time.
While the initial struggle to manage the Infrastructure and Connectivity did take time, but the swiftness and efficiency of the IT departments seem to have done a magnificent job all over.
Whether rigid organizations accept it or not, having a distributed workforce is the future of the global IT Industry. The organizations that had comprehended and exercised this fact, had an easier time making this transition.
Most offices are also going remote to reduce their infrastructure costs drastically and to empower businesses to keep running even in case of any regional calamities. A distributed workforce gives you access to Global talent; you can identify and hire the right people who are the best fit for the job.
Due to the current unanticipated scenario, companies have started operating in a distributed fashion, but building a Culture that upholds and fuels a remote workforce is easier said than done.
The primary question that most managers have is “How is it going to work out?”.
To address these preliminary hurdles that you face while managing a remote team, below are a few tips on working with a remote workforce.
1. Set Expectations
As the project adapts to this style of working, provide your team appropriate time to settle into this changed scenario. Do not expect 100% productivity from the first day.
Gradually work towards setting expectations. What is to be done by the employee should be clear to him. Hence at the beginning of the project, the final goal to be achieved should be discussed in detail. Further, as the tasks are divided amongst team members, it should be easy for them to visualize, what is to be created.
For this, individual goals assigned to team members should follow the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound) rule. Hence, you need to be clear on the deliverables of each task and the time needed to achieve it.
This further helps in evaluating the performance of the team members and empowering him/her with the right tools to achieve the goal.
2. Communicate Effectively
In a distributed workforce situation, Communication is a major barrier that needs to be overcome.
When working together, people are used to walking up to colleagues and briefing them on the progress or the situation at hand. But in case of a remote workforce, you need to rely completely on tools.
There are multiple tools available that make this communication seamless. Slack, Flock, Zoom Video, Skype, Microsoft Teams are some of the most popular tools that can be used for daily communication between Team members. Specific tools address your specific requirements of communication and effective project management.
Establish norms of communication, for e.g. an email can be answered between 2-4 hours, a message on Slack or Skype needs immediate action, and phones should be used only in high-priority situations.
This helps maintain the responsiveness of the team and does not leave you anticipating a response.
3. Have a Daily meeting
Routine sets into an autopilot mode in each project, once members are assigned their tasks. Until we foresee any issues in the near future, we sit back, assuming that things are operating as per plan.
But this might not be the case at all. Most of the critical issues do get identified at the very last minute, causing the project plan to deviate and incurring additional costs. Hence, it is mandatory to stay updated with the status of each task daily. A daily meeting with the virtual presence of all employees will address the problem. A group meeting sustains teamwork and removes the feeling of isolation.
This will align the team in the direction of the project and the progress of each team member. It will give you an update on what is going right and what style of working is not aligned with the Remote culture. Heavy interdependency between teammates is a detrimental attribute and needs to be handled in the project plan.
Associating a face to a name and understanding the person behind it helps generate team bonding, the feeling of purpose and a common cause that they are working towards.
4. Avoid Micromanaging
Trust your Team. It is apparent, you will not have visibility into what the team members are doing on a constant basis. After assigning them the tasks to be completed, give them the freedom to get work done as per their schedule. Trust is a crucial factor when dealing with remote teams. Trying to manage every aspect of how the goals are being achieved, turns into micromanaging.
Instead, you should be focusing on the outcomes and not the activities. If the product being delivered matches the quality that you need that should be enough reason to let your team function independently.
5. Employee engagement
When working remotely, it is easy to feel isolated. Even though your team is working remotely, plan to keep the employee engagement alive. A mass celebration of birthdays, anniversaries over a video call, helps build team spirit.
Allocate a certain time slot in a week where all members can plan a gaming session. A new game each week that builds team morale and facilitates social communication. Encourage teams to take virtual coffee breaks wherein the entire team can have random discussions online over a coffee. This helps groom collaboration among team members.
6. Appreciate Performance
Recognition is a way of delivering a message that you are doing a great job. It not only helps build employee motivation but keeps the team competitive in terms of their performance. This Employee Recognition gradually gets on a back seat in case of Remote working. You tend to assume that employees are doing fine at their as they deliver consistently.
On the other hand, remote working induces a feeling of seclusion more strongly. An insight into the work that you are doing fruitful is gradually lost due to a lack of feedback. This needs to be consistently reaffirmed by the thanking colleagues and highlighting achievements over daily calls.
Projects can plan to have employee recognition rewards to be delivered at their residence
Consistent, precise and fruitful Communication is the key aspect while working with a distributed workforce. Written communication can sometimes feel limiting and can cause misunderstandings. Having clarity and sharing that clarity with team members using all the relevant tools available is the foundation of successful remote working experience.
We would like to hear your recent encounters while managing remote teams. The technological and cultural hurdles that you faced which could add to the above points. Please provide your experiences in the comments below that the other teams can learn from.