There are many advantages to allowing employees work remotely. Cost savings; access to a broader talent pool without concern for geographic location; and granting workers the flexibility, convenience, and comfort of working from home are just a few.
However, a remote team that doesn’t have the online remote management tools necessary to communicate, organize, structure, and track work will soon leave you wondering how much easier they would be to manage if you could just get them all into one office and make them work there. To really capitalize on the advantages of working remotely, your team needs to have a full arsenal of versatile resources, specifically designed to facilitate remote work and built to address its particular requirements and challenges.
Having the right tools can make remote management more motivating and productive, and can enable you to:
1. Increase Accountability
Constant monitoring and micromanaging your remote employees can be a counterproductive remote management strategy, defeating the purpose of allowing them the space and freedom to work independently. However, keeping projects on track does require some level of accountability. Project management apps like Asana, Trello, and Basecamp provide platforms that allow you to keep an eye on how work is progressing, without explicitly requiring your employees to check in with you.
Using a project management app can help you manage assets and keep your team practicing good habits like these:
- Post updates. Team members can post quick status updates about what they’re working on and where they’re at with it, helpful for giving you a quick overview of where everyone’s time and effort is going on any given day.
- Share work in progress. Putting drafts and incomplete work out there lets you keep tabs on how things are developing and what pace they’re progressing at.
- Run a daily scrum. A daily scrum is a quick meeting where each team member shares what they worked on yesterday, what they’re working on today, and what problems or obstacles they’re facing. This can be a great way to keep everybody in the loop of what’s going on and get potential problems on your radar early on.
2. Provide Reviews and Feedback
Too much creative design work done in isolation can become a problem, when it strays from the original plan or vision and undergoes lengthy development, without a course correction. Tools that allow workers to quickly and easily share drafts and updates of the work they are doing will allow you to review and provide regular feedback, so you can help keep them within the necessary parameters to prevent their time and efforts from being wasted.
Apps like Dropbox make it easy for remote workers to share files and solicit immediate, real-time feedback on their design projects. Design-driven project management apps, like InVision, have been specifically created with collaboration in mind. These can take the feedback process even further, by allowing other team members to add and share ideas, as well as providing ways to categorize and sort feedback from various sources (like coworkers, supervisors, clients, and more).
Worthwhile project management software will provide you nail remote management with a number of ways to gather, prioritize, and respond to feedback in the following ways:
- Solicit immediate feedback. Putting files up on a shared hosting site like Dropbox makes it easy for you and your team to provide instant comments, critiques, and questions.
- Collaborate. Design-driven project management apps like InVision can take the feedback process even further by allowing your team to add and share ideas, track changes, and work together no matter where they’re located.
- Sort and categorize feedback. Too much feedback from team members, supervisors, clients, and anyone else involved in the process can be overwhelming, but good project management tools will allow you to organize feedback by source, type, and other criteria and allow you to curate and emphasize the most important comments you want your team to address.
3. Build in Face-To-Face Meetings
For your team to really feel like they’re a team, they’re going to need some human contact and connection. This aspect pf remote management can be hard to foster when they’re spread out across different geographic locations. Finding social and game apps that your team can use together can help create some of the human bonding moments that help them really feel like teammates. Even if hundreds of miles separate them, one thing that’s absolutely necessary for getting your team to see and understand each other as real people is to make sure they’re regularly communicating face-to-face.
Some teams might be able to gather together in person for regularly scheduled meetings, but for teams where that isn’t feasible, chat and video calling apps like Slack and Skype can facilitate virtual meetings where your team can see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices.
An all-hands video meeting, held on a monthly or quarterly basis, is a great way to utilize video conferencing apps. Here are some other ways video chats can benefit your team:
- Host the daily scrum. You can get all of your remote team members involved in quick daily check-in meetings via video chat. As noted above, this is a great way to keep your team accountable to each other and identify problems before they derail the project.
- Hold a Q&A. When team leaders make themselves available to answer questions in a group setting, it helps to educate all team members present, and can generate useful and informative follow-up questions.
- Reconnect with each other. Team members that work remotely and don’t interact in person very often may feel disconnected or alienated from time to time. The more you can put names to faces and get your employees seeing the people behind the titles, the more they’ll feel like they’re part of a cohesive whole.
4. Set Up Office Hours
One of the most important things you can do as the leader or supervisor of a remote team is to make yourself available via whatever platforms your team works on. Working remotely can lead to feelings of disconnection from the company, from coworkers, and from the big-picture goals of the project at hand. Making some time to personally connect with your far-flung workers—to see how they’re doing, provide feedback, and make sure any concerns or uncertainties they have are being addressed—can go a long way toward keeping them motivated and focused.
Maintaining regular, predictable “office hours” when you are available online is a great way to encourage remote team members to check in and feel like they have a reliable way to be heard by remote management. Different employees will have different preferred methods of long-distance communication, so be willing to meet your workers where they’re comfortable on the various platforms they’re using to work remotely:
- Chat or post. Team members who prefer written communication and texting will appreciate knowing there’s a regular time of day when they can reach you on a Slack channel or bulletin board-style forum and get a prompt response.
- Voice. Remote workers shouldn’t have to deal with the added hassle of playing phone tag when they need to communicate verbally. Voice calling apps and calendar reminders can help you reserve a block of time when you can be reached by phone.
- Video conferencing. Don’t just reserve video chat for regularly scheduled group meetings. Allow your team members to reserve some time to talk via video if they need to, so that they can present visual as well as verbal information when necessary to explain a complicated problem or demonstrate something they’re working on.
We no longer live in an era when working together means sitting next to each other, in rows of desks, in the same building. There are many ways to use modern, digital tools to make working remotely as powerful, dynamic, and effective as working in a shared physical space… but finding the right tools for your team is key to unlocking its potential.
What are your favorite remote management tips? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @unitoio!