Virtually commuting to the office is becoming more and more popular. Working remotely has advantages for both employees and employers, but it poses unique challenges for managers. Effectively managing a virtual team requires both traditional management skills as well as an appreciation for long-distance professional relationships. If you’re a manager in a company that’s transitioning from a physical office to a remote setup, here are five tips for managing a mobile workforce.
Set SMART Goals
SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-oriented, are used in many managing situations (including traditional offices). They’re especially useful in virtual settings, when you aren’t able to physically monitor employees’ work. As your immediate oversight diminishes, the role goals have increases.
As your team transitions to a remote setup, adjust by relying on quantifiable goals more. Focus more on project completion and meeting deadlines, and less on how a project was done.
Insist on a Schedule
One of the primary reasons employees want to work remotely is so they can integrate their professional and personal lives. Having flexibility to arrange professional work around personal interests is a significant benefit, but it also is a potential danger. Some employees struggle to stop working and enjoy their free time, which can lead to burnout. Other employees have the opposite struggle: They procrastinate and have a hard time working, which leads to rushed work and missed deadlines.
As a manager, you have a duty to make sure your employees don’t burn out and meet their deadlines. Insisting on a schedule can help guard against the two risks. Give your employees the freedom to create their own schedule, but insist that they stick to the schedule they create.
Check In Often
Virtual environments aren’t conducive to two-minute conversations that often happen at the water cooler or on the way to the restroom in a traditional office. While most of these conversations revolve around insignificant small talk, they also provide you, as a manager, with an opportunity to address minor issues. Without these short conversations, small issues can balloon over time into major problems.
In order to address small things before they grow to be serious problems, schedule regular check-ins with your employees. You might try:
- having a weekly team meeting
- seeing how each employee is doing weekly
- switching from annual reviews to shorter monthly reviews
Pick Up the Phone
Working remotely is primarily done online, using computers and tablets. Phones can also play an important role in your management strategy, though. Phones let you communicate more efficiently, and they make it easier to express yourself. Whenever a deadline is pressing or a message could be misconstrued, call your employees instead of emailing or texting them.
When you don’t see your employees every day, it can be easy to forget that they’re your colleagues. While the stereotypical virtual employee might be a young 20-year-old sipping lattes in a local cafe or a stay-at-home parent still in their pajamas, your employees don’t fit this stereotype. They’re the same professionals that worked in your office, and they deserve to be treated professionally. All communication should be sent in a professional tone.
As your company transitions to a virtual office, you’ll face unique management challenges. Use the techniques you’re familiar with, like SMART goals, but adapt your knowledge for the virtual world. In time, you’ll come up with creative solutions, like these tips, that address the challenges you face and help you effectively manage your team remotely.
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