22 Apr How to Keep your Remote Team Productive & Engaged
Reading time: 6 minutes
If you manage remote workers, you know that keeping your team inspired and motivated can be a challenge. With more people than ever working from home, this is a problem more and more managers are facing. Here are some tips and tools to ensure your remote team productive.
Communication is Vital
Remote work involves remote communication. This opens the door to potential misunderstandings. For managers, the issue is even bigger, because they have to stay on top of what everyone is doing from a distance. Encourage your team to communicate more than it thinks it needs to. Make sure any miscommunications are resolved quickly. Asking questions is vital, as it prevents a lot of trouble later.
On your side, as a manager, tell your team in detail what you want from them. Let them know you’re available if they have any questions. This holds true for whatever platforms you use to stay in touch, but especially for workflow management tools like Slack. These tools are great at keeping projects on track, but aren’t ideal for detailed work discussions, as I discuss below.
Optimize your Contact Channels
Nowadays, there are many ways to keep teams in touch from a distance. Nevertheless, some tools are better than others for certain purposes.
- Email: Best when you aren’t expecting an immediate response, email isn’t ideal for long conversations. For team updates, data dumps, or customer communication, however, it’s a very efficient tool.
- Video calls: Platforms like Zoom, which focus on cloud-based video conferencing, are good for both in-depth one-on-one discussions and for meetings. Two disadvantages are they require your full attention to use and teams can be overscheduled with meetings. Try not to overburden your colleagues with video calls.
- Chat: Workflow management tools like Slack can be great for managing tasks, but don’t help you manage people. They’re okay for quick conversations between team members or with managers, but there are better channels, like video calls, for detailed discussions and to help keep your team motivated. If conversations get too long or feel too impersonal, consider a video call.
Consider Employee Feedback on their Engagement
Knowing how effectively a company is promoting employee engagement requires empirical data. This is where employee feedback systems come in. Clarity Wave is an employee engagement solution with a proven track record of helping teams gel. It uses state-of-the-art software to gauge your workers’ satisfaction with the company and with their colleagues, and to promote engagement through detailed, actionable feedback.
While employee engagement solutions like Clarity Wave are useful for many industries in many situations, they have a special value for teams that work remotely. Remote work creates an environment in which people feel isolated and managers struggle to judge satisfaction, loyalty, engagement, and needs. By asking your teams to take a few minutes each week to answer a few questions, you can get honest feedback about their situations and opinions, and how they can be helped.
Collaboration Brings Results
In addition to effective communication, having the tools to efficiently collaborate is key to a remote team’s success. There are many available options for remote collaboration and project management, such as Asana, Gantt Pro, and Slack. Different tools are most appropriate for different industries and needs. In any case, it is important to make sure that each member of your team is fully familiar with the products you’re using.
In my experience, Asana is good for individual assignments by managers. It’s not too good at helping larger teams collaborate on bigger projects, which is where a platform like Gantt Pro shines.
Set Clear Goals and Expectations
One of the hardest parts of remote work for many employees is not knowing exactly what is expected of them, or how to ask for help. This is where managers should step in.
Set clear goals for your remote workers, with a deadline for achieving them. If that isn’t your management style, then at a minimum be sure to check in a little more often than usual to offer encouragement and feedback.
In addition, make sure your team knows who to contact when they need help. This can be you, but might be another person in the team. Make sure you’re responsive to your team’s outreach. Let your team know the best way to contact you, and when you’ll be online.
Have Frequent Training
Training is an important part of almost any company’s operations. For many, this includes not only initial onboarding, but also continuing training workshops throughout a team’s development.
For managers of remote teams, this becomes even more important. Collaborative learning doesn’t happen in a remote team as easily as in a team that shares an office. Some team members will know more than others; with no water cooler to congregate at, passing that information around is more difficult.
For this reason, it’s important for managers to organize training workshops on a regular basis. This will help keep team members on the same page. Although the training won’t be in person, hosting live webinars will earn you the same benefits. In fact, webinars have the additional benefit of greater interactivity. It can be more convenient to post a question in a webinar’s chat, for example, than to interrupt a trainer in person.
Encourage Schedule Flexibility
In most cases, remote workers don’t need to work 9 to 5. They likely won’t want to, either. One of the main benefits of working from home is flexibility, and your team will be happier if it can take advantage of that.
This might mean choosing to start in the very early morning and finishing at lunchtime, or simply taking an hour out during the day to pick up a child from school or to help with their home schooling. Whatever they choose, allowing your workers flexible work hours will make them more engaged and productive.
Have “fun” Chat Channels and Video Calls
Employees working from home often miss the occasional bit of fun with coworkers at the office. If your remote work is a permanent state for your team, there are things you can do to encourage office bonhomie from a distance.
Have a channel in your Slack (or other) group dedicated to off-topic, fun content. Make it okay to post in it even while working. This can work wonders for team morale. Another thing remote teams can do is have a daily short video call to catch up with each other and talk about what is going on in your lives. This will help your team members see each other as people, not just as authors of spreadsheets.
Promote your Team’s Exercise
Obviously, as a manager you can’t control your team’s workout schedule. Especially during the current worldwide lockdown, however, encouraging your workers to take the time to exercise at home can be great for morale. This ties in with the schedule flexibility I mentioned above. Taking an hour out of your workday for a workout can be rejuvenating. Managers should take the initiative to point it out as something team members are free to do.
Make fitness fun. Take a short video of yourself exercising, or a picture of the view you saw while hiking, or of the ridiculous cycling outfit you wear. Post that in the Slack channel dedicated for fun team content. Just make sure to keep it humble – if you’re an experienced marathon runner, for example, your team won’t appreciate having that rubbed in their face.
Fund Home Office Improvements
If your team will be working remotely permanently, it’s not a bad idea to set some funds aside to improve their home-office experience. Spending money on things as minor as free company-branded coffee cups will increase your team’s morale (as well as subtly encourage an “in-office” atmosphere when they’re working from home). Although the money might seem to have no obvious return, it will pay off in time.
Organize Rewards for your Remote Workforce
For remote workers, motivation can be an issue. Away from the office environment, they can often feel that their work is not being appreciated, and that they are not helping the company they work for in any real way. That’s why letting employees know they are valued is especially important for managers of remote workers. This can be as simple as publicly praising a top performer at the team Zoom meeting.
You could also organize fun activities when the team as a whole meets its goals. Even during the current lockdown, team-building sessions are still possible. Organizing a team video-gaming session or an online board game are two options
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In this article, I’ve shown you some ways you can keep your remote team productive. Comment below on your best and worst remote work experiences!