As thousands of companies around the world move their business operations online, they discover many obstacles to remote management that they need to overcome.
Working as an online business is more than about setting up your software. While you first have to overcome barriers like getting video conferencing to work consistently, you soon find out that other things about your workplace change. Working as a team, remote management of employees and adjusting your schedule becomes harder to do while working remotely.
As a manager or team leader it’s your responsibility to make sure the transition to working remotely is smooth. After everyone’s set up, you’ll find that some changes need to happen to the workplace culture and your remote management style.
Below, you’ll find some great ways to bring awareness to the changing work environment and some awesome tips to manage your employees remotely. Doing so can smoothen transitions, boost productivity, increase employee satisfaction and set you up for lasting success while taking your workplace online.
While working remotely, your employees may feel pressured to show off to their managers and colleagues that they are actually performing their regular duties. Without being physically in the office, they may feel like their output is low or feel discouraged because of how long it takes to adjust to working remotely.
Some simple ways to reduce employee work-from-home anxiety is to develop a check-in system. Try setting up a policy whereby employees give a heads up when they start work, take lunches, or disconnect for the day. By giving them an outlet to be seen, your employees will be less stressed and able to focus on actually doing their work in a constructive way.
At first it may seem like a lot of notifications, but eventually you’ll develop a routine and you won’t rely on the constant updates.
You can’t just set up online working conditions without first creating expectations with your team. As a group, develop a common understanding about how the workday will unfold.
First, determine your regular working hours. Making sure that your employee working hours line up as much as possible helps to keep workflow continuous and creates consistency.
Second, figure out service standards. How long will it take to get back to customers? How long will it take to respond to internal emails, messages or voicemails?
Creating expectations around productivity are helpful for managing the pressures of your staff. If they understand that they don’t have to drop everything just to reply to a corporate memo, you’ll minimise supervision. It’ll also create happier employees since they won’t feel like someone is watching over their shoulder at all times.
Part of managing service standards is to monitor whether they are met. If employees get too relaxed and wait times add up, it could hurt your productivity. If that happens, it’s time to consider tightening up the standards.
Third, develop a system by which employees can signal their availability or out-of-office times. Working remotely offers great flexibility and freedom for employees to design their schedules, but it also means you need to track attendance in different ways.
By providing colleagues a platform to let their managers and colleagues know they need to take time off for daycare, medical appointments or vacation, you increase communication and it becomes easier to manage shifts and ensure proper coverage for your business.
One of the most common questions that new remote managers face is “how do I monitor my employees?”
Going remote means you’ll lose some of the ability to communicate regularly and meaningfully. It also means you won’t be able to simply pop in on your employees’ cubicles to see how they’re doing.
However, that doesn’t mean that you have to experience bottlenecks and lose out on productivity.
If all you care about is making sure that employees are focused and glued to their computer screens, you can check out remote monitoring software. It can be implemented company-wide and it logs employee actions on their computers to help set up an accountability system and keep them focused.
There are downsides to remote tracking software. It can come across as overbearing and you may experience push back during adoption. If you’re looking for a way to increase employee buy-in, try demonstrating the software by tracking your executive team. Showing the results to your employees shows transparency and can help make the process less scary for employees.
On the other hand, you don’t necessarily have to track every employee keystroke to know they are being productive. Another way is to set up a results-based culture or tracking system.
To do so, decide as a team what metrics you’ll use to monitor success. It could be anything from tracking customer communications to developing new modules of software code. It really depends on the business. Focusing on results rather than time can lessen fatigue and your employees might thank you for loosening up the micromanagement.
Manage environment and culture
Workplace environment and culture are elusive things to maintain with traditional business models. They become even more challenging as part of a remote working situation.
Going remote adds several challenging obstacles to the mix like communication delays and scheduling conflicts. It may be difficult to promote an active workplace culture under those conditions.
To encourage a good workplace culture, try setting up video calls over the lunch hour. Eating together has been a social interaction since the dawn of time and so bringing it into the workplace can be a valuable way to keep people connected and familiar with one another.
Or, if you’re used to taking your employees out for drinks after work, you’ll have to get creative while operating in the online world. One fun and rewarding thing you can do for your employees is to have an online games night or a party chat, using web technology. Some audio and video conferencing software have built-in games or you could try setting up a book club or playing trivia with your employees.
Having fun is just as important for remote workers as for traditional workplaces. Get creative to help build an engaging culture for your online business. Your efforts might not click with everyone, but most employees will appreciate your extra efforts to get people together even for non-business reasons.
Transitioning to the remote workplace
It’s important to manage your own expectations about managing remote employees. Switching to remote working is a gradual process and it has to happen deliberately. It’s not just something you can flick a switch to implement. Seek the advice of others who have been through the same, or you can work with a business coach to make sure the transition goes as smooth as possible.
By following some of these remote management guidelines, you’ll be able to transition to the new working environment as a team. Doing it together means better productivity in the long-term and happier employees.
For more tips on how your employees can set themselves up for success working from home, check out this blog. If you’re looking for information and helpful advice on remote management of online businesses and improving your leadership abilities we recommend this blog which covers best practice for running a successful business online. If you’re ready to speak to one of our coaches, book your 15-minute free introductory call with one of our business coaches today to find the right coach for your business.