By Tina Morris
One lasting legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic is an increase in flexible remote or hybrid work opportunities worldwide. While some companies hope to force employees to return to a traditional office environment, others are embracing the trend – and the benefits that come with it.
Because hybrid and remote work are here to stay, it is important that you build specific management skills now to continue to lead your team successfully.
These include training employees to use the tools they need to work remotely, setting a good example in developing new ways of communicating, managing effectively at a distance, and fomenting a healthy team environment.
Effective management of a hybrid or remote team isn’t just a filler for the skills section of your resume. It can help your career thrive.
Below, we will discuss these specific ways in which you can build your remote management competencies.
Hybrid and remote workers require the same “toolbox” as their in-person counterparts. Generally, this includes computers, printers, fax and copy machines, phones, headphones, software, and internet access, as well as any job-specific specialty tools.
Traditionally, all of these components were available in the office. But how can access be assured on work-from-home days?
The good news is that most households already have the basics – internet, computers, printers, and a desk to work from.
Still, some employees have chosen to provide laptops or a stipend to ensure that remote workers have the necessary up-to-date devices and software, as well as ergonomic remote working furniture.
Those with a hybrid schedule can use other necessary tools on their in-office days. Managers can assist by scheduling in-office and at-home tasks accordingly.
What about remote workers at a great geographic distance? Managers can research and rent coworking spaces near the worker’s location.
Amenities may include desk space, computers, higher internet speeds, meeting rooms, secure storage spaces, presentation equipment such as screens and projectors, and kitchen spaces. Some may also have fabrication technologies such as kilns or 3-D printers.
Finally, consider providing perks similar to those enjoyed by your in-person staff. If your company offers a workout room or childcare, consider providing the same to your remote workers in the form of a childcare stipend or gym membership. Substitute the office party or luncheon with a GrubHub delivery or a coffee shop gift card.
Your remote workers will feel appreciated and team cohesion will increase.
When it comes to dating, long-distance relationships are considered difficult. The same can be true for remote workers. When you’re not around your team members every workday—interacting in person, even socializing during breaks—good communication can be the first thing to falter.
Managers should set an example in communicating regularly. Phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages are convenient ways to convey information and facilitate an open channel.
Be available to answer questions or assist with challenges during working hours.
Technology can be used to get the whole team together – both in-office and remote members. Video conference software like Zoom can enable “face-to-face” interaction.
There are also virtual coworking spaces like Basecamp and Asana that provide collaboration tools, allow the sharing of files and other information, and automatically alert team members to new activities. Cloud storage like Dropbox or Sharepoint can also be used.
Regular meetings and shared updates are also beneficial. Choose a frequency that is right for your team – weekly or monthly meetings are recommended.
Be careful not to hinder productivity by wasting time at unnecessary team meetings. There are also a few other communication pitfalls to avoid, which we will discuss below.
Communication is vital, but over-communication can be just as damaging as under-communication.
We previously mentioned the pitfall of too many team meetings – workloads can suffer when employees are forced to spend hours in meetings rather than working on their assigned tasks.
But during the COVID-19 pandemic, some employers micromanaged their teams by requiring cameras on Zoom meetings throughout the entire workday or using mouse tracking software.
Micromanaging harms productivity rather than improving it. Why? These methods increased employee stress, which affected overall energy levels.
They also reported feeling doubt, lack of motivation, hesitation, and dependency. Some even spent valuable time and energy devising ways to “outsmart” the methods of observation.
A better approach is to trust your team members and let the results speak for themselves. If remote workers are able to accomplish tasks as readily as their in-office counterparts, there is no need to worry that they are slacking off at home. In fact, when employees feel trusted, their attitude toward their work and, in turn, their productivity, can improve.
If a drop in productivity is observed, be empathetic and try to find out why. Is additional training needed? Does the worker’s software or hardware need an upgrade? Could the work schedule be revised to avoid interruptions by family responsibilities?
Teambuilding has been referred to as “enforced fun.” Some employees love such events, while others loathe them, finding an evening out for drinks or a weekend retreat extremely stressful.
Working with a remote or hybrid team adds another complication. Will you require team members to meet at the business’s physical location or some other retreat location? This may place a financial burden on remote workers located far from headquarters – especially if your team is international.
If you do require in-person attendance for orientation or teambuilding events, give team members plenty of advance notice. Also, it is wise to cover transportation costs. If the event includes team members’ normal workdays, offer them paid leave for those days.
What about video conferencing events, such as a coffee break or games on Zoom? These can be an effective means of making sure remote team members get to know one another.
As with team meetings, however, be sure to provide such events sparingly. Too many meet-ups may lead to Zoom fatigue or the feeling that one’s work/life balance is being micromanaged. Moreover, consider confining such events to working hours. Requiring socialization in their free time may breed resentment among employees.
Remote or hybrid team managers can empower their teams in the following ways:
When you take these steps, you are well on your way to having a productive remote team that respects and appreciates you, and works well together too.
PS: The ResumeCoach team is made up of resume-writing experts, career coaches, and contributing authors dedicated to helping you land the job of your dreams. Every article is reviewed by Certified Professional Resume Experts: Lauren Hamer, Greg Faherty, Nikki Vivian, Margaret Buj.