Remote work is not a novel concept.
It goes hand in hand with digital-first companies, the “opening” of the international labor market, and globalization. And for a couple of years before the pandemic, digital nomads around the world presented the idea of remote work as exciting and alluring.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many employees were forced to work remotely.
It wasn’t a lifestyle or a talent choice, but a necessity.
Two and a half years later, remote work is the norm. According to McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey, 58% of Americans have the opportunity to work remotely, and 87% would WFH if they had a chance. And for 21%, flexible working arrangements are among the top three reasons to seek a new job.
This data depicts the requirements of the modern working force.
Thus, we’re no longer debating the benefits, but the best way to manage the remote working process.
With the internationalization of employment and offshoring working from different locations in different time zones became the standard for many companies.
That’s why almost all processes are drafted and conducted virtually, and most of them are tailored for individual input and output.
The goal for managers is to provide employees with the tools and strategies they need to perform their daily tasks anywhere and anytime.
Challenges of Managing Remote Teams
- Ineffective Communication
For remote teams, communication is the key to success.
The lack of conversation is often the main contributor to a tense working environment, which can cause problems with employee engagement and productivity. Fostering open two-fold communication can be a tad more challenging with remote teams, but possible.
Dedicated platforms for sharing ideas and discussing projects, such as Skype, or Microsoft teams, can significantly help improve the gap.
Moreover, it is crucial to encourage managers to spend more time providing feedback and ensuring that the team members understand their assignments. Direct and honest communication is a must with remote teams.
Employees shouldn’t guess what is required of them in the workplace.
- Tracking Performance
When everyone is working outside the office, it might be more challenging to track how much work employees are doing and at what rate it gets done. And this is vital for a manager to identify, so they know whether someone is not pulling their weight.
Performance management software enables managers to monitor and evaluate employees’ work. In fact, companies with established effective performance management perform 92 times better than their competitors.
- Building Trust
Building trust among managers and workers is crucial in remote work culture.
Thus, communicating transparently leads to a respectful workplace. Any issues from either side should be addressed openly to build a stronger and more trusting relationship.
What is Workflow Management?
Managing a workflow entails creating, documenting, monitoring, and improving the working process.
Workflow management lets companies identify issues with their workflow processes and optimize them to ensure correct and consistent results. An efficient way to manage workflows is by digitalizing them. A workflow management system can help create automated workflow processes.
Workflow Management Tips for Remote Teams
Only 26% of teams believe that they work seamlessly together. However, collaboration and coordination are necessary for a team to complete its KPIs.
Developing a smooth workflow is even more complex with a remote team, and managing it might be complicated. Some of the most common workflow challenges include poor communication (30%), repetitive errors (24%), and delays in project deployment (23%).
However, with good strategies and tools, managers and leadership can successfully build a remote team that works coherently and jointly to achieve its goals.
- Clearly Defined Roles
Just like in on-site teams, remote teams must have clearly defined roles. Members must understand what tasks they are responsible for and how they fit into the process to facilitate smooth workflow and avoid confusion and conflicts.
According to a Harvard Business Review study, clearly defined roles might be more important than clearly defined work. The study shows that team members perform better when they know their responsibilities and can do at least a portion of their work independently instead of relying on others.
Still, autonomous work doesn’t have a negative impact on teamwork. In fact, according to the study, when each member knows their job but has the freedom to create their approach to completing their tasks, it encourages them to share ideas and collaborate with others.
- Utilizing New Digital Tools
One of the most critical aspects of remote work is having the right tools since everything happens digitally. Besides business tools such as CRMs, companies must invest in tools for managing remote teams.
- Communication tools
Since communication is the backbone of successful remote work, choosing the right tool is vital. These include email clients, chats, video conferencing, and others.
Depending on the nature of the work, some remote teams can use only one tool. Others will need to combine multiple communication channels to achieve efficient workflow.
- Task management tools
Task management tools are efficient in managing and tracking each member’s tasks. In addition, they enable clear visualization of the project’s progress, goals, objectives, and deadlines.
- Collaboration tools
Collaboration tools can allow team members to contribute to the same document, review each other’s work and leave comments and suggestions about workflow processes. Collaboration is inevitable and vital to improving workflow.
- Project management tools
Project management tools enhance the workflows’ visibility, allowing employees to see the complete path of the process and better understand how the workflow works.
Moreover, they can significantly assist in identifying any possible errors, pinpointing where they happen, and help prevent them from happening again.
- Keeping Members Connected
Working remotely can be very isolating, so team members must stay connected and engaged. 77% of employees put relationships with co-workers as a top driver of engagement at work.
Even though it’s much easier to build rapport in person, growing a positive remote work culture is still possible. Many different ideas support connections between remote co-workers, including:
- Having regular coffee or lunch catch-ups
- Holding informal, friendly online meetings
- Creating virtual spaces for members to communicate and collaborate
- Organizing team-building events (online or offline)
- Feedback and Recognition at the Focus
Employees want to be seen and valued for their work, especially by leadership and management. This kind of acknowledgment makes them more motivated and engaged in their work.
However, as much as workers value leadership’s recognition, they also put merit in their colleagues’ approval. In fact, peer-to-peer recognition can boost engagement almost as much as a raise, but it is 95% less expensive.
Since remote teams rarely meet face-to-face, it is up to management to create a unique recognition plan for them. Organizing virtual meetings or sending out company emails to congratulate remote employees on their excellent work can be as effective as in-person praise.
Yet, approval is not the only way to boost a team’s workflow. A Harvard Business Report study found that 57% of employees prefer constructive feedback over praise if given the option. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, employees want to know how their managers feel about their work.
Employees who are given constructive performance feedback are more motivated to improve their performance and achieve better results, thus, enhancing the team’s workflow.
- Supporting Employees in Creating Workspaces
Helping employees build a comfortable and productive working environment at home can support workflow. In fact, research shows that effective workplace design can have a significant impact on performance.
Companies should allocate a budget that would otherwise be spent on offices for the remote team to support employees in creating an at-home office. Presently, 14% of businesses already distribute funds for at-home office furniture, and nearly a third of companies reimburse employees for their laptops.
- Regular Check-Ins
Since a communication gap is one of the biggest challenges of working remotely, managers must regularly check in with their employees to keep on top of their work progress and offer support whenever necessary.
At the same time, they should inquire if the members are facing any problems with their work and ask for their feedback on things that can be improved.
In addition, if there is a need to allocate additional tasks to employees, these meetings are the perfect opportunity to distribute the tasks accordingly so as not to disturb an employee’s workflow.
It’s good practice to set fixed times for meeting daily or weekly at a convenient time, being especially mindful if the members work in different time zones.
- Offering Career Growth Opportunities
Career growth opportunities are a great initiative to keep employees engaged. As with in-office employees, remote workers should also be provided the possibility to advance in their positions.
Visually mapping a development path for each member can be an excellent motivator. To support their growth, leaders should set up remote-specific training to enable team members to learn and develop skills to help them climb the career ladder.
Building effective workflow for remote teams takes time and effort, but it is worth it in the long run. It helps everyone tackle their work more efficiently and quickly and keeps them happy and satisfied with their jobs.