For most people, remote working has long since become a normal part of working life. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the start of the UK lockdowns in 2020, a good portion of the workforce once again finds itself working away from their traditional office spaces.
For some businesses, this could become a permanent way of working. Managing remote teams is perhaps the biggest challenge that employees have faced during enforced periods of working from home. Technology, both old and new, has come to the rescue for most, allowing for relatively seamless communication. We look at some of the benefits that home working can bring and look at how to effectively manage teams when remote working.
What are the benefits of remote working?
To understand how to manage remote teams, you must first understand the benefits that remote working can bring to both employees and companies.
Benefits of remote working for employers
It’s not just employees that get benefits. With employees potentially less stressed by a long and arduous commute, freed up from other home concerns and distractions in the office, companies can often get more out from their employees. One study showed that remote working upped productivity by 13%.
Plus, sick days can be reduced – those who would have otherwise felt too ill to travel into work, or want to avoid being contagious, might be still able to perform their duties from the comfort of home. Companies can also hire employees regardless of their geographical location, drastically widening their talent pool.
Benefits of remote working for employees
The most obvious benefit for employees is a lack of commuting. Not only does this save potentially huge amounts of money each year in travel costs but it also frees up time for employees in the morning and after work, meaning extra time with their families. This can be crucial for families with young children and important from a general health and wellbeing perspective. This goes hand in hand with an additional benefit of flexibility in hours worked. In some industries, starting earlier or finishing later can be beneficial for productivity.
How to effectively manage remote teams
Managing teams remotely can offer the biggest challenges. Fortunately, there is a lot of technology available to help this process along, and several tips that can make the process as seamless as possible:
Keeping track of colleague workload and activity, whether that be through meetings or software like Toggl or Trello, can allow managers to maintain the same level of visibility over what their teams are working on despite not being physically together.
Setting weekly targets can help managers set out their expectations for their teams and give their workforce a goal to make sure they’re not left floundering without direct contact with their team leader.
Maintaining clear and regular communication is essential in keeping team spirit up. It’s crucial to ensure that colleagues don’t feel isolated when working separately. Keep regular contact, via both email and video calls through Teams, Zoom or a similar platform. Make sure not all these conversations are work-related, too.
Struggling with equipment that isn’t fit for purpose can be incredibly frustrating and demoralising for everyone. Make sure everyone has the correct equipment to efficiently perform their responsibilities. Not only will your employees be happier and hence more productive, they’ll also be able to get more done purely by virtue of the efficiency of their tools.
The social side of working life is something that can suffer in remote team scenarios. Many people build lasting friendships through the workplaces and enjoy a social life connected to their employment – even just the traditional daily ‘water cooler’ conversations. While the remote pub quiz might have already entered the realms of repetitive and uninspiring, making sure to have some fun during the working week is key in keeping morale up and ensure teams feel united and connected.
Health and Wellbeing
Maintain work-life balance
One of the potentially tempting things about having a team that is working from home is assuming that their working hours will increase, as the physical line between ‘work time’ and ‘home life’ are blurred. While employees are actually more likely to work longer hours when they are working at home anyway, as a manager, it’s important to set the example of a healthy work-life balance. Sending emails at 11 pm on a Saturday night could set the expectation that you should be working across the weekend too.
Encourage all team members to take their regular breaks. It might be tempting to assume that lunch breaks become a thing of the past when colleagues are working from home, but making sure everyone has sufficient time away from their screens is vital for health and wellbeing. Set an example as a manager and take regular breaks.
Encourage fitness activities
Those who can perform their duties from home are often employees with more sedentary jobs. Encourage team members to take a walk at lunch time or take part in organisational health and wellbeing initiatives. This helps everyone feel healthy and motivated.
While working from home is new for a lot of businesses, making sure to adhere to the above rules can drastically improve productivity, morale and performance – therefore making remote working something that can be an effective working practice for your organisation.