The requirement of business leaders to manage remote teams has grown exponentially in the last few years due to the appealing nature of a remote workforce and even more so in recent months given the current state we find ourselves in. For both the employer and the employee there are many benefits that can be derived from remote working, including flexible working locations that increase employee satisfaction and a wider geographical remit for the company. Remote working has been proven to save companies thousands in employee costs as it removes the need for a physical office space, requiring far less initial investment from the business.
For all the benefits there are of remote working, it also presents several challenges to companies and the individuals responsible for managing within the business. Ensuring that people are working as productively as possible, that they are where they need to be, when they need to be there, and that they remain motivated are just some of the challenges that people who manage a remote workforce face. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the pros and cons of managing a remote workforce, offering my top tips on how to scale your workforce remotely.
Focus on your team
The first step you need to focus on, if you’re to successfully manage a remote workforce, will be around your recruitment process for the team you hire. You need to ensure the people you hire have the right attributes to work successfully remotely so that you can achieve your business objectives. As you would look for certain characteristics and values within the people you hire for a role based in your office, you need to look for specific attributes that would make them suitable for an at-home role. Here are some of the key characteristics people who suit remote working will demonstrate.
A key element of a successful workforce is one that can effectively communicate. Sharing information, whether that be via email, phone, video calling or through specific collaboration software, is imperative when scaling your remote team. You need to hire people who understand when and how to communicate with the other members of your team, ensuring they are able to send the key messages to push the objectives forward. Helping your remote team to see themselves as a small part of a wider team can be challenging, as they may irregularly, if ever, meet their other colleagues. Utilising a virtual PA to support your communication with each team member means you can send out consistent messages to your whole team regardless of where they work. The more consistent your communication is with each person in your remote team, the more effective their communication with each other will be.
You need to build trust
Another critical element of hiring the right people for your remote team is to hire people you can trust, and people who in turn will trust you. If you’re constantly wondering what the person you’ve hired is up to, whether they’ll meet the deadline you’ve set and so on, you will be distracted away from the other important responsibilities you have to complete. By hiring people you trust, you will be able to successfully manage your remote workforce, no matter how big it grows. You also need to ensure you demonstrate your trust to your team by not contacting them all day, instead asking for updates in a manner that shows you believe in their capabilities to fulfil their roles. Your team also needs to be able to trust you to fulfil their requests, for example if they need more information to be able to complete a task, or more detail to understand the strategic implications of work they’ve been asked to complete. Trust is a two-way street and once it’s broken, you will struggle to achieve your growth objectives with a remote workforce.
Keeping your team engaged and motivated is just as critical if they work remotely as if they work in the office with you. If you want to keep your remote workforce for a long time, you need to ensure they stay, grow, and develop with your company in the same way you would expect of members of staff who you see every day. Regular one-to-ones (fortnightly is often an appropriate time frame) with your remote staff is a great way to help them feel an important part of your company and a valued employee. By attending regular meetings with your remote team, even if the meeting is coordinated over the phone, or by video, you will understand the challenges faced by your employees. This will give you the ability to address anything that could potentially challenge your staff to fulfil their roles. It will help you to create solutions to obstacles they’re facing to help the person continue to succeed in their role.
It’s also your opportunity to support your employees through their own career development and goals with regular, committed input. You will be able to discuss contract expectations and skill developments you expect from the individual. By checking in every few weeks you’ll be able to track the person’s progress whilst both enjoying the more flexible benefits offered by remote working. Use tools like Slack to answer any day-to-day queries your team members have, so that productivity doesn’t falter, and use your regular one-to-one meetings to discuss what it is the employee wants to achieve in the forthcoming weeks and months.
Encouraging your remote workers to understand that they aren’t expected to know everything and if they need help with something that it is readily available is a great way to ensure productivity continues to develop when scaling your remote team. You actually have an advantage of managing a team of remote workers that, rather than turn to you as the line manager, can throw their question out to their virtual team who may be able to resolve the issue, without you having to get involved.
Build a culture
Just as with you would with a team who physically work in the same office space, you need to ensure you build a culture with your remote team that is collaborative and has personality. Encouraging chat unrelated to work for the first 5 minutes of a Google Hangout session, or greeting everyone in your Slack group chat on a daily basis, can be a great way to ensure communication is open amongst your team, regardless of their locations.
Get to know your employees, their interests, family lives, and events they’re attending so that your relationship isn’t just based on work. This will help you to understand more about your employees’ lives, so you are aware when are appropriate times to send them extra work, and when is not. Promoting the values of your business throughout your remote team will be key in empowering your team to produce work that will help the business grow in the strategic direction it’s meant to.
You also need to ensure you’re building a culture of accountability and recognition. Accountability in your remote team will ensure that tasks are undertaken with a desire by that individual to complete it to the best of their ability, and to ask for help if they’re struggling. Without being able to see each day what your employees are working on, you need to know they’re being accountable for the responsibility entrusted to them. Working remotely means it can be easy to let tasks slides, especially if information is lacking in order to complete the work. It can take a long time for you as the manager to recognise what issues have arisen as a result of the task being forgotten, by which point the consequences can be significant. Accountability often stems from a person who is proactive, who will think ahead to ensure a task can be completed and consider the information they will need in order to succeed.
Recognition also needs to be a key part of the culture you build in your remote team so that you ensure people are rewarded for their work. When your remote team feels their input is being acknowledged and recognised on a platform wider than just your meetings with them, they will feel more motivated to continue to create excellent work.
As your team grows you need a support system that can evolve with your evolving business needs. If you’re managing a remote team, you’ll want to continue enjoying the flexibility this offers ‘ so collaborating with a remote PA is a great way to maximise the benefits of a virtual workforce. You can continue to offer an excellent, considerate employer brand to your employees ‘ no matter how big your remote team grows ‘ with peace of mind that each of your employees is receiving the same service from your business.
Working with a remote PA when you’re managing a remote team will feel as comfortable for you as managing your team. You will understand the requirements of working with employees that you don’t have regular contact with, so will be able to utilise the service of a PA to help you scale your remote team effectively. From coordinating your team to creating and mailing out official documentation and arranging meetings, there are so many ways a remote PA can help you to effectively manage a remote team.
You cannot do everything yourself and if you do – you won’t be giving the best version of yourself to every task. Scaling a remote team is no small feat and as a leader, the most important thing to do is know when you need help.