With a vast majority of employees now expressing that they would like to work remotely at least part of the time, remote teams are becoming the norm in the modern workplace. Effective remote working can be challenging for managers, employees and the organisation and is heavily dependent on technology, with video conferencing, shared files and email used extensively.
Engage with workers regularly
The key to managing remote teams successfully is the effective use of technology to promote inclusivity and trust. Managers should treat remote workers as equals, making sure to engage and interact with them as much (if not more) than their local teams. Virtual meetings, partnerships and coaching are important tools in managing remote teams, which provide reassurance for both managers and employees that they are doing okay!
Where both virtual and local workers are within the same team or project, it can be particularly useful to get the whole team together at least once to encourage seamless teamwork.
Implement clear guidelines
There can be concerns about the productivity levels of telecommuters, which can be abated with clear work-from-home guidelines. These could include a set turnaround for email responses or a process for any urgent matters to be used team-wide. Communication expectations are also useful, which can be individualised for each employee's working style - some may like a to-do list at the beginning of the day or week with others preferring a trickle of questions and information.
Focus on goals rather than activity
This individual style depends on trusting employees who are working remotely. This can be difficult for managers; it can be useful to focus on goals rather than activity, to avoid trying to micro-manage when this is not possible and to keep a clear record of the successes of telecommuting. The focus on goals and targets, not how they are achieved, is even motivational in local teams.
Giving managers the skills to manage remote teams has added benefits in the ability to open recruitment to a wider, more tech-friendly workforce. Companies which specialise in recruiting remote workers, who are already used to this way of working, can make this particularly effective and provide greater talent solutions throughout the workforce.