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Remote work or telecommuting is a rapidly growing trend worldwide. India and USA rank as the topmost countries for remote teams and of course, remote workers. This isn’t surprising when we consider the large area these countries cover on the world map. There are other reasons, too, such as easy availability of high-speed Internet and other latest technologies.
This brings us to the question, how does one manage a remote team effectively?
That’s quite a valid question. Because remote teams can be spread throughout a country or even across the globe. And this brings with us a plethora of issues such as dealing with people of different cultures, coordinating sometimes between different time zones of the world and of course, language barriers.
However, it’s fairly easy to manage your remote team effectively, if you follow some basic tips and tweaks. These include a blend of technology and your personal managerial & entrepreneurial skills.
Therefore, let’s look at these tips and tweaks to manage your remote team effectively.
Some of these tips and tweaks I’ll be speaking about can also help you manage team members that are away from the office for some duration of time for work. These can include attending conferences or training, participating at expo’s, exploring new markets or any other reason. Even if these team members are away for say a week or two, you can use my tips and tweaks.
The Internet makes it possible to remain connected with your remote team ‘round the clock. Of course, that doesn’t mean you neglect your own work or rest & recreation. Staying connected using technology provides an assurance of sorts to your remote team members that they have 24/7 support from their manager or employer.
Such connectivity enables remote team members to stay in contact with one another and exchange notes if necessary, or to contact others when they need to troubleshoot a problem. It enables you to manage your remote time through a single channel and ensures transparent communications.
It helps you build a community, not only a remote team of employees.
This is something I would emphasize. Members of a remote team would usually hail from diverse cultures either within your country or outside. Therefore, you might end up offending a top performing remote team member merely because of some off-the-cuff remark that you believe is innocuous.
Understanding local sensitivities and customs of your remote team members and interacting with them accordingly helps develop that instant and highly desirable bond between you and your remote co-workers.
It’s common human psychology that people will respect you a lot more when you appreciate them for their differences rather than mere tolerance. At the same time, it’s also essential for your remote team to know basic etiquette when dealing with colleagues. This also helps foster a sense of camaraderie among remote team members and benefits you as a team leader or manager.
There’s a small flip side of having a remote team. You won’t know who’s whiling away time and who’s slogging away. This is something that most managers, entrepreneurs and Human Resources/Administration managers worry about.
Obviously, nobody can ask remote team members to carry trackers or other such devices to know their location, neither is it feasible to track movements of every remote co-worker. Every online job focuses on productivity only. Online jobs are known to pay much higher than regular office-based jobs.
Therefore, the best approach in such cases is to focus on the quality of work rather than quantity.
You need to comprehend that remote work also involves performing tasks in flexible hours.
Work reports and performance of your remote team members will clearly point out who’s productive and who’s unproductive. If someone shows dismal performance, extend more assistance to ensure they achieve targets. At the same time, encourage high performers to excel.
A remote team will usually have ample skills to manage and execute their duties in their respective geographical areas. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough nowadays. As technologies evolve, the world around us changes rapidly, and your remote team might find itself short of the latest skills that are necessary to effectively counter any competition or excel at their jobs.
Inability or reluctance to train staff ranks among the top five reasons for employee attrition.
Furthermore, online training programs for your remote teams also help bring a high degree of consistency in work patterns. You will find it easier to manage your remote team effectively when you and your team members have the same level of skills.
Nowadays, countless online training programs that will effectively meet the needs of your organization and remote team are available at very reasonable rates. And some of these training courses are offered by world-renowned tutors, too.
If you have a remote team, communicating daily and implementing best practice for managing them effectively, works great. However, a lot of managers and entrepreneurs who hire remote teams often tend to neglect the human factor.
They don’t think it’s necessary to visit the remote locations, because everything appears to be fine on the surface: the remote team member gets the job done and is fulfilling the organization’s objectives.
This kind of thinking can prove suicidal to any organization, entrepreneur or manager who handles remote teams. The human touch is very necessary to ensure that members of your remote team know you personally. It’s equally important for you to comprehend the ground realities that exist at a remote location.
Therefore, it’s imperative for you to visit the remote locations where your remote team members work. Remote managing is only really effective when you have first-hand knowledge of an area and the co-workers who are based there.
Before concluding, I’ll reiterate that it’s not difficult to manage your remote team effectively. However, you need to strike an astute balance between use of technology, personal touch, traditions, corporate culture and lots of other things that are of value to the organization.
These should ensure that remote team members aren’t lost to competitors. In fact, remote teams can even help you gain the best talent from various locations around the world.
Natasha Shetty is a passionate blogger whose career revolves around writing, which she fondly calls “the art of words”. Writing about career and business is what she enjoys the most.