Across the globe, remote work has become the single most accessible way to run a team. Many businesses have found reasons to continue working remotely or adapt to a hybrid model after the great remote migration. Some people work better at home where they are able to focus without the distractions of a shared office and can realize a better work-life balance than ever before. Remote work has also unlocked the freedom to travel, the ability to hire team members across the globe, and yet-unseen levels of accommodation for the disabled.
However, managing a remote team effectively is easier said than done. One of the greatest challenges faced by remote team managers is keeping your remote employees engaged. Working from home can have an isolating effect, and without a shared office, it can be more difficult for a remote team to cohere into a well-organized group. With the proper tools and techniques, you can help your remote team develop an environment of trust, creativity, and productivity - no matter the geographical distances involved.
The best way to get started is to socialize during one meeting a week. Monday mornings over coffee, Friday afternoons as everyone unwinds, or mid-week touching base; the timing matters less than the ritual. Set aside 30-90 minutes a week where everyone is encouraged to swap personal updates and connect as friends.
This is your water cooler time, where your team has a moment to connect like coworkers and friends, not just remote assets building a project together. Encourage everyone to show their pets, talk about their hobbies, share their weekend plans, or just trade pleasantries and get to know each other. This will bring warmth to your remote environment and build rapport between remote team members. It can also work wonders in reducing the risk of remote work isolation.
The second most important way to engage your remote employees is to respect their space. It sounds counter-intuitive until you've seen the micromanaging statistics. 71% of professionals report micromanaging damages productivity and 69% consider changing jobs over it.
In contrast, one of the greatest advantages of remote work is that employees can work independently without distraction in the ways that work best for them. The pandemic actually saw an increase in productivity when professionals moved to remote work and were given the freedom to focus.
So make sure that your idea of productivity is based on performance and deliverables, rather than constantly checking in on whether everyone appears to be working actively.
In remote work, collaboration is key. Because everyone is bringing independent work to the table, the tools for collaboration need to be top-notch. Use interactive platforms, task assignment tools, and project programs capable of multi-user collaboration.
While the right tools will depend on your industry and task list, cloud documents and projects will be at the core. Some softwares can also help you work better with distributed time zones. Don't be shy about trying several tools, and listen to your team on what works and what doesn't.
If you are onboarding a new team member to a remote team, put extra effort into the introduction process. Be prepared to help new hires get started, especially if this is their first fully remote position. Some professionals have their remote routine down to a T, but will need a little guidance on how to integrate their style with the team collaboration tools and methods. Others may need some encouragement before they are confident in reaching out and becoming an engaged member of the team.
If you are hiring remote employees across the globe, it's important to make sure that they have resources in their country. The best way to do this is with an Employer of Record. An EOR allows you to work through another company to provide the necessary and compliant payroll, benefits, and local support that your global remote employees need so that they are not isolated when your company is located in another country. An EOR is also a great way to scale your business globally in places where you don’t have an entity.
You may have heard that swag and care packages play a big role in engaging remote employees. This can be true. What really matters, however, is bringing the team together by building onto their home office. At first, many people needed a home office stipend for basics like desks and wifi routers. Today, however, what most remote team members need are streaming supplies: a ring light, a decent web camera, mounting arms, and the like.
However, even sending a coffee tumbler that appears in every team member's hands during weekly meetings can play a role in bringing the team together. And, of course, sending packages will always make a remote team feel more physically connected to each other and their shared employer. :)
How can you recreate that free and easy flow of conversation that occurs between employees who share an office? While no one wants to be in live meetings 24/7, a chat channel is the perfect middle ground. Whether you use Slack, Google, or a solution hooked to your internal software, leave one chat channel open to the entire team for casual chat.
This channel is where your team will tell jokes, share pictures of their pet, and ask casual questions that build trust and rapport throughout the work week. The asynchronous yet instant style can include everyone, waits for work to be done, and encourages that casual communication similar to water cooler chat without the pressure of being on-cam or on-mic.
If your team benefits from a certain amount of live conversation, consider no-cam-obligation policies so that everyone can focus just on communication and not how they appear on camera while working.
Recognition and rewards matter just as much to remote workers as to those who work on-site. Recognition from managers and colleagues can significantly reduce feelings of isolation or being unappreciated. Just a few comments, thank-you's, or performance review notes can make a big difference to remote employees.
Rewards provide employees with both the glow of being awarded and the motivation to keep working hard. Rewards might be additional perks, small trophies or gifts, a badge on their profile, a recommendation in their performance review, and/or formal recognition in front of higher ups during live events or shared virtual meetings.
One of the most important ways that companies must adapt to remote teams is remote-ready perks. Many standard employee perks are wrapped around being in the office or leaving the home. However, shared meals and gym memberships were - understandably - phased out during the great remote migration, and many people are simply unable to take advantage of these perks when working remotely today.
This leaves a remote manager with two obligations. First, make sure your perks are welcoming and rewarding to people working at home - especially those who may be out-of-state or those who cannot easily leave the house. Offer a fitness stipend instead of a local gym membership. Send care packages instead of in-office meals. Then encourage your team members to use their perks. Do care package unboxings during the weekly social meeting, and ask for tips on which fitness program each team member chose - just as a few examples.
Get your team involved in their perks to make sure they are getting the full value of their remote employment packages.
The sign of a great remote manager is someone who can help team members handle their workload and notice whether someone is being assigned too much -- or too little.
Everyone has a different set of talents, and works at a different pace. Being able to recognize when someone is struggling to keep up is more challenging in a remote team, but possible if you pay close attention and ask the right questions. The same is true if you notice a team member who may regularly be coming in ahead of schedule - and may be in line for a little professional development with that extra free time.
Remote work can often create the risk of dead-end development, as remote employees are removed from the usual office politics that lead to promotions referrals and approvals. This means, as team manager, it is your job to create paths of professional development and recommend your best remote team members for promotion into more advanced or managerial positions.
You can engage remote employees through opportunities to build their skills and take on more responsibility, while also building on your company culture's policies on inclusive professional development for all team members.
Last but never least, be sure to listen to feedback and find ways to make improvements to your process based on what your team has to say. Every professional team typically keeps an eye out for ways to improve collaboration, use better tools, or improve on challenges they faced in the past. Listening to feedback can help you to become a better remote team manager and to better engage remote employees in the future.
Engaging your remote employees and providing the resources they need to thrive is an important part of any remote and hybrid business. However, first you must find great remote employees to join the team. Here are some of the best tactics to help you find your next great wave of remote talent:
Remofirst can help you manage remote employees across the globe, providing local support along with the legal structure you need to empower your remote team, no matter where they are located. Request a demo today and start building your global team tomorrow.