With the availability of online collaboration tools and the progressive advancement of technology, various industries have caught up with the trend of having a remote workforce. According to recent studies, 43% of employees in the United States work remotely at least some time every week — and the numbers have been growing year after year.
Remote work has a number of perks, both for the employee and for the business itself. In a recent survey, 45% telecommuting workers are actually happier and more satisfied with their jobs; consequently, this leads to higher productivity. For businesses, having a distributed workforce provides the primary benefit of cutting overhead costs and lowering employee turnover rates.
However, managing remote workers presents a unique set of challenges too. Miscommunication is among the top challenges, as it’s entirely different to be able to communicate with an employee that you can speak directly to and work side by side with every day. If your company has remote workers, here are a few tips to help you manage your virtual team more efficiently:
1. Establish a communication schedule
Communication is crucial when handling remote workers. Too often, remote workers feel out of touch from the rest of the team and tend to communicate less than they need to. Encourage them to collaborate and communicate by establishing a schedule for when communication is expected. Set aside certain times of the day, or certain days of the week, for a quick meeting or a status report on the employee’s work progress.
2. Choose appropriate communication styles
The way communication is carried out greatly affects how a message is relayed, interpreted, and received. Choose appropriate communication styles that work best on certain scenarios. For example, chats are best for quick questions and informal conversations. Phone calls or video calls are best reserved for lengthy meetings and sensitive topics such as performance reviews. Emails are the all-encompassing mode of communication for formal business correspondence.
3. Set up a project management system
Setting up a project management system is essential to establish organization and easier collaboration with virtual teams. Tools like Basecamp and Asana help you keep project-related conversations, notes, and documents all in one nifty place for easier management. A project management system also helps everyone in the team, both virtual and office-based, to keep tabs on the progress of the project at any given time.
4. Build rapport
While formal business communication is essential for virtual teams, building rapport with every remote worker is just as important. Rapport does not come from communicating about work; it comes from getting to know your employee and genuinely building friendships. Take time for small talk, whether through chat or during phone conferences — ask them how they’re doing, about their family, and anything that’s outside of work. Most importantly, listen to what they have to say and remember it. This demonstrates that you truly care for them not just as an employee, but as a person.
Aside from communication, trust is the second most important aspect in managing a remote team. Without trust, remote workers won’t feel connected to your company and the crucial role that they play in reaching your business goals. With all that’s been said, remember to trust the abilities and dedication of your employees, no matter where they choose to work.
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