Many companies around the world have asked their employees to work remotely via the Internet. For business owners, shifting to a remote workforce can pose unique and difficult challenges, as they have had to quickly learn how to manage teams remotely with Internet as the only connecting force.
Fortunately, there are specific, research-based best practices that small business owners and managers can follow to help keep employees engaged and productive, even when there is little to no time to prepare.
Set expectations early and clearly.
Setting expectations is critical, whether your business is based in an office or virtually. Make sure to establish clear expectations early and clearly so your team members are all on the same page and can stay focused on achieving their goals. Schedule time with your team and walk through the expectations for work hours, communication systems, deadlines and availability to ensure that your team is aligned.
This can help your team members establish a healthy work-life balance, while also making sure that they respect the expectations that you have set for your small business. Internet connections being the only direct link that you have with employees can make for difficult communications, so it’s good to set expectations early on.
Have daily check-ins.
Many successful remote small business managers establish daily calls with their remote teams. Daily check-ins can be in the form of one-on-one or team calls, based on the nature of your work. It’s important that your check-ins are both regular and predictable. Make sure that during each check-in, you give your team time to share any concerns or questions that they may have. Having a daily voice or video call can help bridge the gap that may be caused by only interacting with your team via an Internet connection. For small business owners, having voice or face time with each employee will help keep them engaged and feel valued.
Provide several different communication technology options.
When managing remote teams, email alone is insufficient. Leveraging other communication tools, such as video conferencing, can help remote teams better connect with each other and get the same visual cues that they would have if they were face-to-face. Video conferencing has many advantages and can help reduce the sense of isolation amongst your team. However, there are other instances when time-sensitive communication is more important than a face-to-face conversation. Instant messaging tools, such as Slack and Skype, are great for these scenarios.
Once you choose the communication tools for your business, make sure to establish expectations for how and when to use each distinct tool. For instance, you may use video conferencing for daily check-ins, Instant Message for quick questions, and email for client communication. Also, make sure that your team members know the best way and time to reach you during the workday.
Provide opportunities for remote social interaction.
Because of social distancing measures, many employees may feel isolated. During this time of uncertainty, one of the most essential steps you can take is to structure ways for your team members to interact socially with each other and have informal conversations that don’t revolve around work topics. While this is true for all remote workers, this is especially true for those who have been quickly and unexpectedly transitioned out of the office.
One easy way to do this is to leave time at the beginning or end of check-in calls for catching up on non-work items. You can also think of creative and out of the box ways to connect socially. You may have a company-wide photo contest where each employee sends photos of the best meal they cooked or a creative home-office setup. You could even have a remote pizza party, where pizza is delivered to each employee at the same time as the video conference.
Even if these events sound forced, many experienced remote managers and workers have reported that these types of virtual events are helpful in keeping teams connected and reducing feelings of isolation.
With these simple tips, you will be moving in the right direction to successfully manage a remote workforce and creating a remote workplace where all employees feel valued.