If you’ve ever managed an in-office team before, you know that it’s fairly different from managing a remote one. But if you want to get the most out of your telecommuting staff, here are five remote team leadership best practices to follow.
Be realistic—and respectful.
By its very nature, having a remote staff means that your workers have greater autonomy and control over their schedules. And because they are able to balance their work needs with their personal ones, they have more time to take care of the things that truly matter. At FlexJobs, we’ve seen people work from hospital rooms while a family member recovers from major surgery and from hotel rooms while searching for a loved one who has disappeared. We’ve even had a director working from bed as she recovered from a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. The ability to keep working actually helped them get through difficult times and situations. Knowing that your workers will use their time off to take care of personal matters or pursue their interests—and still get their work done—can help reinforce a strong bond between managers and their teams.
Focus on talent, not location.
One of the biggest benefits of having a remote team is the ability to hire top-tier talent no matter where they are located. So even if you’d ideally like to hire someone who lives somewhat near your company’s headquarters (if you still have a brick-and-mortar one) or if you’re looking for workers who live near each other, it’s best to focus on hiring the best worker for the position with no geographical boundaries. And once you hire remote workers, encourage them to get out into the world! We’ve had people working from the beaches in Hawaii, on summer-long road trips across the United States, and in the mountains of Germany. We really encourage people to take advantage of the fact that they can work from any location with Internet access.
Sure, without a proverbial water cooler to hang around or the ability to physically swing into an employee’s office, it can be tricky to gauge how a remote worker might be doing. That’s why it’s critical to set up certain protocols to ensure that your workers are doing well, both professionally and personally. FlexJobs is results-oriented by necessity; we’ve identified key metrics for most of our teams that allow us to see results. We also have team meetings that focus on progress, plans, and problems. It allows individuals to update on projects that are in motion, what is coming next, and any blockers that might be slowing them down. It’s actually a lot easier than leaders in brick-and-mortar environments expect it to be; it simply requires managers to be focused on the tangibles instead of who is physically present.
Create communication channels.
Communication is the cornerstone for the overall success of a remote company. After all, without crystal clear communication, there are many potential pitfalls that can occur, from missed deadlines to a loss of employee engagement. There are a plethora of possible communication tools that companies can use to keep their employees in constant contact with each other, from emails to IMs, phone calls to video conferencing. FlexJobs favors platforms like Sococo, which functions as our virtual office. With person-to-person and group chats, as well as the ability to talk or have a video call with people, it has allowed for more natural and impromptu conversations. We also use Yammer as a knowledge database and a virtual water cooler of sorts. We ask questions designed to spark conversation.
Learn something new.
If you thought that setting up a remote work policy was a one-and-done deal, think again. The world of remote work keeps continuing to grow, and remote companies know that in order to stay competitive it’s a smart idea to focus on education—for both employees and managers. Top management needs to be aware of changes in flexible work and one way to do that is by attending webinars, meetings, and yes, conferences. The TRaD Conference (Telecommuting, Remote, and Distributed) is designed as a community event to bring companies together that are already remote, as well as offer insight to those who are looking to bring their workforce into a more modern way of conducting business.
Remote companies can help achieve the best leadership practices by implementing some of the above-mentioned ideas. It will help ensure that their company stays at the cutting edge of its field and boasts a remote workforce that is productive, engaged, and most of all, happy.